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Québec History

The Iroquoian village of Stadacona occupied the site of Québec when French explorer Jacques Cartier visited the area in 1535. Finding the village abandoned in 1608, fellow Frenchman Samuel de Champlain built a fur-trading post there. This was the first permanent European settlement in the region called Canada, although the French had had summer trading and fishing camps at Tadoussac and elsewhere for 50 years or more. Despite a small population, Québec became the administrative, military, and religious center of the French empire in North America, as well as a major transfer point for trade and immigration. When the colonies of Canada, Acadia, and Newfoundland were formed into the royal province of New France in 1663, Québec was made its capital.

Québec was attacked several times over the years by forces of Great Britain, the chief rival of France in North America. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, in which the British captured the city for the last time, was the decisive event of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Four years later France formally ceded all of its mainland territories in North America to Great Britain.

Québec (city), capital of the province of Québec, Canada, in Québec County, located at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Saint Charles rivers in the southern part of the province. Québec is dominated by a dramatic promontory, Cap Diamant (Cape Diamond), situated 98 m (320 ft) above a narrowing of the Saint Lawrence River; the city's name is from an Algonquian word meaning where the river narrows. It is the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico and was chosen as a world heritage site by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Québec has long, cold winters and short, mild summers. The average daily temperature range is -8° C (18° F) to -17° C (1° F) in January and 25° C (77° F) to 13° C (56° F) in July.

Québec retained its importance under the British, who found a highly developed and stable social order in the city and introduced few changes. The Québec Act of 1774 permitted freedom of worship and recognized many of the French customs and laws.

During the American Revolution (1775-1783), American troops failed to take the city in a campaign of 1775 and 1776. Although American general Richard Montgomery swore to eat his Christmas dinner in Québec or in Hell, neither he nor his second in command, Colonel Benedict Arnold, could take the ramparts where the Citadel now stands. Montgomery was killed in the attack. Thus Canada remained in British hands after the colonies to the south won their independence.

In 1791 the British divided the colony into Upper Canada and Lower Canada, and from 1791 to 1841 Québec was the capital of Lower Canada and the seat of its legislature. In the early 19th century the city prospered as a result of the timber trade: Squared timber from Canadian forests was sent to Britain on ships built in the city's own shipyards. Incorporated in 1833, Québec was the capital of the United Province of Canada from 1851 to 1855 and from 1859 to 1866. In 1867, when the Dominion of Canada was formed, the city became the capital of the province of Québec. In the late 19th century, however, it entered a long period of stagnation as the timber trade with Britain declined. Despite the growth of shoe manufacturing and other industries in the early 20th century, Québec fell far behind its upriver rival, Montréal.

© Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
1998 to Present

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