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“The history of a country is the narrative or story of the character and conduct of its prominent citizens or inhabitants.” J. L. Gourlay, History of the Ottawa Valley, 1896.

This, most decidedly, is not only the narrative of the prominent citizens in the history of Hull. Rather, it is the story of thousands of virtually unknown men, women, and children of the working class of Hull, Quebec. It’s the story of James McConnell, a worker from Nova Scotia, hired by Philemon Wright in Quebec City in 1801. It’s the story of Luther Colton, a carpenter from New York, who came to Hull in 1802. It’s the story of Joseph Delorme, one of the first French Canadians to be hired by Philemon Wright.This study of the ordinary people of Hull reflects an agenda that emerged in the last half of the 20th century when historians came to see that “the real task of history in our time is to re-create, appreciate and analyze the full spectrum of past societies; that means, pre-eminently to attempt to understand the lives of the working people, the great mass of any society,”[i] rather than merely the politicians and elites that governed past societies.

This book is also the study of the many workers who led the workers of Hull and helped them forge an awareness of themselves as a class in a self-conscious attempt to improve the lot of ordinary working people. Thus, this book is the story of Cuthbert Bordeleau, a shoemaker who founded the most important mutual benefit society for Hull workers in 1863; of Napoléon Fauteux, the mill hand who led the 1891 strike of lumber millworkers at the Chaudière; of Napoléon Pagé, the journalist who led the Knights of Labour in Hull during the 1890’s; of Achille Morin, the machinist who led the Catholic unions in Hull during the second decade of the 20th century; of Donalda Charron, who led the 1924 strike of the women match workers in Hull, the first strike by women in Quebec. Thus, this study describes the bottom of Hull society but also the militant minority who attempted to give form to the effort by workers to improve their lives. This effort often clashed with the interests of other classes, especially the bourgeoisie and petite-bourgeoisie, thus this book also describes the relationship of workers with other classes and necessarily, how the other classes also developed in Hull.

(i) Michael Cross, editor, The Workingmen in the Nineteenth Century, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1974, p. 1.For the complete book by Michael Martin (2006), click here: