Ruling by Schooling Quebec provides a rich and detailed account of colonial politics from 1760 to 1841 by following repeated attempts to school the people. This first book since the 1950s to investigate an unusually complex period in Quebec’s educational history extends the sophisticated method used in author Bruce Curtis’s double-award-winning Politics of Population.

Drawing on a mass of archival material, the study shows that although attempts to govern Quebec by educating its population consumed huge amounts of public money, they had little impact on rural ignorance: while near-universal literacy reigned in New England by the 1820s, at best one in three French-speaking peasant men in Quebec could sign his name in the insurrectionary decade of the 1830s. Curtis documents educational conditions on the ground, but also shows how imperial attempts to govern a tumultuous colony propelled the early development of Canadian social science. He provides a revisionist account of the pioneering investigations of Lord Gosford and Lord Durham. (Publisher summary)