Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blasphemy in New France

My research on the history of blasphemous libel in Canada has led me to some interesting finds in the Quebec National Archives. I've come across several prosecutions for blasphemy in both military and civil contexts in New France as early as the late 1600s. Reading the documents isn't easy (I've often had to rely on the archivists' written descriptions), not just because French isn't my first language but because the writing is an older form of French, is often faded, and is in difficult-to-decipher handwriting. Still, it provides the earliest examples of blasphemy prosecutions I've yet found in (what would become) Canada. The only odd thing is that my electronic keyword searches in the archives brought these very old examples up, but didn't bring up any blasphemy prosecutions after the 1700s; this is doubtless an artifact of the archive's record-keeping system, but I've now got to figure out whether/how I can access more recent prosecutions.

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