N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 26, 1994
Discipline / contribution: history - Canadian ; historiography
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate. I present to you Femand Ouellet.Degree received: Doctor of Letters
Dr. Ouellet is professor of history at York University. Toronto, having previously held positions at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and Universite Laval. His “Economic and Social History of Quebec, 1760-1850” published in French in 1966 and in English in 1980 stimulated vigorous debate and marked a new epoch in the writing of our history. Old and simplistic nationalist assumptions among Quebec historians were challenged. Perhaps more important, was the challenge to the narrative historical method as practiced by most Canadian historians.
Dr. Ouellet was one of a handful of historians who introduced into Canadian scholarship the historical method that is associated with the Paris-based periodical ‘Annales: Economies, Societes, Civilisations.’ This "total history" approach seeks, often with statistical methods, to delineate the interlocking structures of past societies—economic, social, political, and so on: to examine how these structures interact with long-term changes such as, for example, price rises or declining birth rates: and to relate historical events to this complex interplay of inertia and change. It was fundamental to the social history revolution of the 1970s, particularly in French Canada.
Professor Ouellet's work has been recognized by many awards. The Royal Society of Canada presented him with the Tyrell Medal for his “Economic and Social History of Quebec” mentioned above. His “Lower Canada, 1791-1840” (published in French in 1976 and in English in 1980') received a number of awards including the Governor General's award for non-fiction and the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize of the Canadian Historical Association. It was recently named by the Social Science Research Council as one of the ten best works in French in the field of social science published with their support. In 1977 Dr. Ouellet was named to the Royal Society of Canada and in 1978 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Dr. Ouellet continues to be an active scholar. His recent book, “Economy, Class, and
Nation in Quebec: Interpretive Essays,” (1991) illustrates his continuing ability to move into new areas of scholarship and to ask new and fruitful questions. If I can be permitted one personal reminiscence, I wish to share with you my memory of over twenty-five years ago: being a young student and prevailing upon Professor Ouellet to explain the mysteries of historical method. He suggested books and then proffered the advice, which in an heraldic age I am sure would have been the motto beneath his coat of arms: "Rien n'est impossible en histoire" (For history, nothing is impossible).
Eminent Chancellor. I present to you Femand Quellet and ask that you will confer on him the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: Dale Miquelon
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