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How Life in New France Used to Be and How it is Today

Prashant Magar Oct 5, 2019
New France was big administrative division in colonial Canada and lifestyle also differed from present.
Canada was unknown to the world until the advent of the French and British colonial powers in the North American continent. About 450 years ago, French settlers first established their foothold in present day Canada. Gradually the region flourished with the advent of a sizable French population.
Very soon the region was bustling with activity and saw the emergence of farmlands and small townships. New France was formed as a part of the Quebec administrative region. Life in a colony was lived in a very different manner than in the mother country, France.
Although, the social order was similar to France, it wasn't a privilege-based categorization. Unlike France, anybody in New France could rise through the social hierarchy, based on his merits. The basis of birth was not the determinant of one's social position.
This is evident from some of the most successful people of New France, who came from a very humble background. This practice promoted a feeling of solidarity, comradeship, and harmony in the contemporary society.
The civic life had all the ingredients of an ideal social system featuring a dominant country life along with the small number of modern townships.

Dwellings and Routine Life

In the early 1700s, about 17,000 people lived in this area with a very small concentration of about 3000 living in the three main city settlements.

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Houses in the villages were mainly scattered along the coast of river St. Lawrence. The houses were bunched together in 'cotes', with a seigneur house or the manor present in each of the hamlets.
Homes were mainly built of stone and timber. People earned their livelihood working hard on the fields owned by them or on the seigneur's land. Families were often very young because men and women were encouraged to marry young. Families with 10 children received a grant of about 300 pounds, whereas those with 12 or more children got 400 pounds.
In a typical family, men (or boys) usually toiled hard on the fields and hunted for food. It was their responsibility to feed the entire family and take care of its members. The women folk in a typical household would cook for the family, look after the children (usually numbering between 10-15) and sew clothes for everybody.
Small children in the house, especially girls, would assist with trivial tasks like bringing firewood, cleaning, and cooking. Boys above the age of twelve, were considered fit to help their fathers in the fields. Very few of them got the opportunity to attend school as these were located far off in the cities.
Boys who became priests were sent to school and they in turn took the initiative to educate their brothers and sisters. Only children belonging to the higher classes, sons and daughters of merchants and rich citizens, were able to attend school.
Women wore a combination of skirts and shirts made of hemp, cotton or linen. A typical man's attire was pants with knots on the knees and jerkins along with wide-brimmed hats.
In winters, they wore boots of moose skin and mittens, complete with stripes of beaver fur and fur coats. They wore snow boots and traveled on toboggans, sliding on the snow.
Life in urban New France was also very prosperous. Towns were abuzz with trade, businesses,skilled labor and religious fervor. The city-dwellers were mostly of the political and religious class, along with the merchants.
Quebec, Montreal and Trois-Rivières were the local governing seats, with Quebec being the center of administration over the entire territory. The Catholic clergy formed a dominant and influential part of the social setup.
Later on, the English conquest of the region ended the reign of peace and harmony in New France. The daily life although marred with daily problems was filled with hope, care and the willingness to create a prosperous society.