In the summer of 2011, when I left the University of Kansas history department for Quebec, my dearest friends there gave me a leather bound, two-volume edition of François-Xavier Garneau’s Histoire du Canada. It had the inspiring, incomparable smell of dusty bookshelf. I was brought to tears, bowled over by their thoughtfulness. And I had no idea just how special this gift really was.
François-Xavier Garneau is considered to have been the first French-Canadian historian. Writing at a time when the English ‘occupation’ of Quebec was at its zenith, he wrote from the point of view of the French-speaking majority. He gave agency and eloquence to the people he considered to be his own. His monument stands guard just outside of Quebec City’s St. Louis Gate. He has a quill pen in his hand, ready to defend his country again.
Thank you so much, my friends.