Marcel Trudel

Marcel Trudel, CC GOQ (May 29, 1917 January 11, 2011) [1] was a Canadian historian, university professor (1947–1982) and author who published more than 40 books on the history of New France, scientifically re-written. Trudel's work has been honored with major awards.

Marcel Trudel
Born(1917-05-29)May 29, 1917
DiedJanuary 11, 2011(2011-01-11) (aged 93)
Longueuil, near Montreal, Quebec
Known for"Re-writing" the history of New France
AwardsOrder of Canada
National Order of Quebec

Early life and education

Marcel Trudel was born in Saint-Narcisse-de-Champlain, Quebec, northeast of Trois-Rivières, the son of Hermyle Trudel and Antoinette Cossette. He earned a B.A. in 1941 and a Doctorate in 1945 from Université Laval.


In 1945, Trudel began postdoctoral studies for two years at Harvard University, and then returned to Université Laval to teach in its newly founded Institute of History. He went on to become head of the History department. From 1955 to 1960, he published on many subjects that the Catholic hierarchy controlling the university found scandalous, such as: "Chiniquy" (the first French Catholic priest who became a Presbyterian minister), "The Canadian Catholic Church under the English Military Government, in 1759-1764", and "The Slaves in New France" (most of them being Amerindian and belonging even to the Catholic Church masters). As of 1962, Trudel was also president of the For Laïcité Movement in Quebec City. It was too much: in 1962, under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church, Laval University demoted him from his position as head of the History department.

In 1961, Laval University Press joined with the University of Toronto Press in establishing the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB). Trudel served as the Associate General Editor from 1961 to 1965, working with the General Editor, George Williams Brown, a historian at the University of Toronto. They collaborated both in organizing the over-all project, which has published 15 volumes and is on-going, and in editing the first volume, which covered the period from 1000-1700 and was published in 1966. The DCB is published simultaneously in English and French and has been widely recognized as one of the most important scholarly undertakings in Canada.

In 1965, Trudel left Laval University and Quebec City to live near Ottawa and taught at Carleton University. The next year, he began teaching at the University of Ottawa after the Ontario government took over the university from the Catholic Oblate Fathers. Having reached age 65 in 1982, he was relieved of his lecturing duties, but he continued to write from his home near Montreal until the year he died; half of his books were published in retirement. In 1993, he also began lecturing at a university to seniors' groups.

Trudel's life's work was the history of New France, in particular his monumental and authoritative Histoire de la Nouvelle-France.[2] Trudel meticulously reviewed the primary sources and criticized previous accounts in his effort to tell the colony's story without what he viewed as pious or nationalist bias.

Marcel Trudel died at the age of 93 on January 11, 2011, of generalized cancer.[3] He left his 3 children, plus six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Selected works (in English)

  • 1954: The Jumonville Affair, published in 1953, Pennsylvania History Quarterly Journal, vol. 21, no. 4, 34 pages.[4]
  • 1956: The Seigneurial Regime, a brochure published by the Canadian Historical Society.
  • 1967: Canada: Unity and Diversity (with P.G. Cornell, J. Hamelin, F. Ouellet), Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Toronto, 530 pages.
  • 1968: Introduction to New France, Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, 300 pages (From his first books of « Histoire de la Nouvelle-France »: Le comptoir, 1604-1627, winner of the 1966 Governor General's Awards, etc.)
  • 1970: Canadian History Textbooks - A Comparative Study (with Genevieve Jain), within Studies of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Queen's Printer for Canada, 150 pages.
  • 1973: The Beginnings of New France 1524-1663. Translation by Patricia Claxton. McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 324 pages, ISBN 0-7710-8610-5.
  • 2002: Memoirs of a Less Traveled Road: A Historian's Life, translation of his autobiography (Mémoire d'un autre siècle, winner of the 1987 Governor General's Awards) by Jane Brierley, winner of the 2003 Governor General's Awards, Véhicule Press, 248 p., ISBN 1-55065-156-0.[5]
  • 2013: Canada's Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage. Translation by George Tombs. Vehicule Press, ISBN 978-1550653274. Originally published under title: Deux siècles d'esclavage au Québec.[6]

Selected Honours


  1. Emeritus professor Marcel Trudel dies Archived 2011-01-18 at the Wayback Machine, University of Ottawa, retrieved 12th Jan 2011.
  2. seven of an anticipated ten volumes Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine were published from 1963 to 1999; Guy Frégault wrote volume IX, La Guerre de la Conquête 1754-1760.
  3. Headlines of his life Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine, listed on his site.
  4. His books in English (1954-2002) Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine, listed on his site.
  5. Memoirs of a Less Travelled Road: A Historian's Life, Vehicule Press, retrieved 12th Jan 2011.
  6. Canada's Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage, Vehicule Press, retrieved 20th Feb 2013.
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