The Plains of Abraham

Battlefield 1759 and 1760

Reviewed by M.C. Reid

Posted March 10, 2023

Looking back with the benefit of twenty-first century hindsight, it seems inevitable that New France would have fallen, sooner or later. The French faced insurmountable problems of distance and population.

Its colonies centred around Quebec, Acadia, and Louisiana were too far apart to easily support or protect each other. And, while New France had forged alliances with several Indigenous nations, it was still terribly outnumbered: Its total combined population of about sixty-nine thousand French settlers paled in comparison to the more than 1.2 million British colonists living in the Thirteen Colonies. The French settlers were neither supported nor appreciated by French King Louis XV and his court.

Years of battles and skirmishes between the forces of France and Britain culminated in the 1759 siege of Quebec. The British spent the summer trying, and failing, to take the crown jewel of New France. Only a last-ditch stealth mission — and the surprise appearance of the British army on the Plains of Abraham outside Fortress Quebec — managed to turn the tide of battle against the French.

With The Plains of Abraham: Battlefield 1759 and 1760, the National Battlefields Commission, a federal-government agency, has created a detailed and well-illustrated guide to this turning point in world history. Created in collaboration with historian Hélène Quimper, The Plains of Abraham is a great starting point for readers wishing to know more about a crucial battle that decided the fate of eighteenth-century North America.

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This article originally appeared in the April-May 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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