Power and Subsistence
The Political Economy of Grain in New France
A lively exploration of the nature of power in New France, as enacted within the grain economy.
Subsistence crops ? the grains and other food items necessary to a people’s survival ? were a central preoccupation of the early modern state. In New France, the principal crop in question was wheat, and its production, consumption, exchange, and regulation were matters to which the government devoted sustained attention. Power and Subsistence examines the official measures taken to regulate the grain economy in New France, the frequency and nature of state interventions in the system, and the responses these actions provoked. Drawing on social and political perspectives and methodologies, this book brings rural and agricultural history into conversation with colonial political economy. Louise Dechêne shows that unlike in early eighteenth-century France, where the marketplace dominated and trade was transparent, the grain economy in New France was hypercentralized and government measures were increasingly harsh. Attentive to the conflicts arising between producers, merchants, consumers, and colonial administrators over the allocation of the harvest, Dechêne offers a revealing perspective on the operation of political power in a colonial setting. Lively, elegant, and wry, Power and Subsistence provides insight into the last era of French rule in North America ? and, in part, how that era came to an end.
"Le partage des subsistances au Canada sous le Régime français, a pioneering work on the regulation of grain supply and distribution in New France, shaped the field in its original form. This translation – an important addition to English-language historiography in New France – is crucial to understanding the evolution of state-society relations and forms of authority in Canada over time. " Helen Dewar, Université de Montréal