"The Honorable Title of Squatters": Quebecois Land Tenure and the Fiction of Legal Pluralism in British Canada

van Bastelaer, Sebastian, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Sessions, Jennifer, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia

This thesis explores the persistence and ultimate demise of the Quebecois land tenure system known as seigneurialism. Relying on overlooked records from an 1843 government commission, it argues that seigneurialism was materially different from European feudalism in its design and execution. The system created a mutually enforceable set of rights and obligations that ensured balance between lord and tenant. The system ultimately declined not only because of socio-political and economic trends, but because the legal relationship between the parties deteriorated. The British imperial administrators tasked with upholding seigneurialism maintained a fiction of legal pluralism, nominally retaining French law while in reality leaving the seigneurs free to exploit the tenants. The records produced by the peasants themselves demonstrate that widespread popular discontent, and the resulting abolition of the system in the 1850s, stemmed from these legal changes.

MA (Master of Arts)
Quebec, Legal pluralism
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