Canada's Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage

Marcel Trudel
Translated by George Tombs

Shortlisted for the 2013 Governor General's Literary Award for Translation

Canada's Forgotten Slaves is a ground-breaking work by one of French Canada's leading historians, available for the first time in English. This book reveals that slavery was not just something that happened in the United States. Quite the contrary! Slavery was very much a part of everyday life in colonial Canada under the French regime starting in 1629, and then under the British regime right up to its official abolition throughout the British empire in 1834.

By painstakingly combing through unpublished archival records of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Marcel Trudel gives a human face to the over 4,000 Aboriginal and Black slaves bought, sold and exploited in colonial Canada. He reveals the identities of the slave owners, who ranged from governors, seigneurs, and military officers to bishops, priests, nuns, judges, and merchants. Trudel describes the plight of slaves-the joys and sorrows of their daily existence. Trudel also recounts how some slaves struggled to gain their liberty. He documents Canadian politicians, historians and ecclesiastics who deliberately falsified the record, glorifying their own colonial-era heroes, in order to remove any trace of the thousands of Aboriginal and Black slaves held in bondage for two centuries in Canada.

History 2013


George Tombs' translation of Trudel's book is well done. The numerous graphs and charts are uncomplicated and easy to digest. All in all, it's a rare find — an academic work, translated from another language, that sparkles with clarity and is absorbing to read. — Nelle Oosterom, Canada’s History

"This book provides the only available outline of the contours of the slave system … in seventeenth and eighteenth-century New France." –Canadian Historical Review

"A major and controversial work." –Le Devoir

Finally now, more than half a century after Trudel’s ground-breaking work was first brought out in French, it has been capably translated by George Tombs –Literary Review of Canada

The shocking details are all laid out in a book by Quebec historian Marcel Trudel that has just appeared in an English-language paperback as Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage.–The Globe and Mail

Trudel’s work will be invaluable to future historians hoping to further reveal the institutional peculiarities of Canadian slavery.–British Association for Canadian Studies

This is a story worth learning about.–

Marcel Trudel was an eminent Canadian historian and a respected authority on the history of New France. A fervent advocate of the secular society, he was blacklisted by the Catholic Church from teaching at Laval University in the early 1960s, then taught for several decades at the University of Ottawa. He was an award-winning author of more than 40 books, many of them translated into other languages. Trudel died in 2011.
George Tombs is a Montreal-based author, film-maker, award-winning journalist and translator.

Other books by Marcel Trudel: Memoirs of a Less Travelled Road: A Historian’s Life
Trade paperback
255 pp 9" x 6"
ISBN13: 9781550653274

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