Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

History General

The Pauper's Freedom

Crime and Poverty in Nineteenth-Century Quebec

by (author) Jean-Marie Fecteau

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2017
General, Criminology
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2017
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


At the turn of the nineteenth century, the recognition that individual and collective freedom lay at the foundation of the social order held out the hope for a more or less definitive solution to the problems of poverty and crime. But, in Quebec as elsewhere, the aspirations associated with the transition to democracy and “liberalism” rapidly gave way to a bourgeois ideology where the poor were held personally responsible for their sad plight – since they were free, their poverty was allegedly their own fault. Jean-Marie Fecteau analyzes this complex history and the ways in which it was influenced by both the specific conditions of Quebec’s political context and the overarching issues raised by the transition to liberal democracy in the West. The Pauper’s Freedom is a connected history that offers a profound renewal of the sociopolitical history of the nineteenth century. Fecteau takes an original approach to the role played by the province’s institutions – including the state and the Catholic Church – and details the liberal mode of regulation that was then spreading throughout the western world. In addition to offering a penetrating discussion of the history of the regulation of crime and poverty, The Pauper’s Freedom also engages in an ambitious consideration of the global history of liberalism as a new relationship to the world – a relationship that continues to shape our lives.

About the author

Jean-Marie Fecteau (1949–2012) was the director of the Centre d’histoire des régulations sociales and an emeritus professor in the Department of History at Université du Québec à Montréal. Peter Feldstein is a translator who won the Governor General’s Award for Translation for Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography. He lives in Montreal. Martin Petitclerc is director of the Centre d’histoire des régulations sociales and professor in the Department of History at Université du Québec à Montréal.

Jean-Marie Fecteau's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The work of a leading public intellectual and major scholar of social control, institutions, and legal history, is finally accessible to an English readership. Its originality, its forceful argument on the nature of liberalism and individualism, its situating of the treatment of poverty into a liberal framework, and its damning interpretation of institutional Catholicism, make this book a major contribution to Quebec historiography." Brian Young, McGill University

“Feldstein’s translation distinguishes itself on multiple counts. First, he renders Fecteau’s idiosyncratic and sometimes abstruse French prose into readable English. Feldstein is able to find comprehensible equivalents for technical terms and academic ja