book report: A Great and Noble Scheme by Faragher

A Great and Noble Scheme is the ironic title of the history of the expulsion of the French Acadian population from present day Nova Scotia around 1750 by the English and their New England subjects. The author, John Mack Faragher, is a history professor at Yale University, not too far from my home. The subtitle is "The tragic story of the expulsion of the French Acadians from their American homeland." Faragher contends this episode, a great and noble scheme" in the letters of an English subject, follows other English uses of ethnic cleansing in their expansion of the United Kingdom. I've written about examples in Ireland and New England before. The French and English warred more often than they were at peace. So the Acadians were at risk from ethnic hatred by the English. They further complicated their ethnicity by their intermarriage, métissage, with Native Americans, see an earlier blog, which the English did not practice as much in New England.
In part, métissage is explained by demographic realities. The emigrations of unmarried Frenchmen, as well as the maintenance of a small French garrison, meant that colonist men outnumbered colonist women by about three to two throughout the seventeenth century, while among the Míkmaq, perhaps because of the toll of intertribal warfare, marriageable women outnumbered marriageable men. Compare that with New England, where the number of men and women was much closer to parity. But demographics alone cannot explain the sympathy and sociability that prevailed among newcomers and natives in l'Acadie. The French colonists, writes the historian Emile Lauvrière, established amiable relations withe the Míkmaq, "approaching them with sympathetic curiosity, pleasing them by the gentleness of their manner, conquering them through good nature and trust, justice and religion, in brief, making of them loyal friends and good neighbors." This description is a bit romantic, but certainly the record of friendly interethnic relations is l'Acadie contrast sharply with the dismal history of violence and dispossession in neighboring New England. p.47
I have many quotes to pull from this book, so this will be a blog-a-book series.


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