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The Jesuit Relations
Page Title

Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. 


Edited with an introduction by Allan Greer


Review by John P. Rodriguez

       I think that Alan Greer has done an admirable job compiling this collection of primary sources.  He has created a book that is a resource for both historians conducting research and people who would like to learn more about Jesuit missionary activities in North America.  There were also several aspects of the organization of the book that were also very effective in painting a coherent picture of Jesuit-Indian relations during this period.  Finally, Greer’s introductions are very helpful in understanding the context in which these Relations are written.

         I think that Greer’s choice to organize the various excerpts by topic rather than chronology, as they are in the Jesuit Relations, was a very sound decision.  It allows the reader to focus on one aspect of Indian culture at a time which is very helpful given the complex nature of these societies.  The choice of topics also helps to narrow the focus of the Jesuit Relations which in their entirety run for seventy-three volumes.  The topics range from religion and medicine to martyrs and war.  Although it cannot be said that Greer manages to cover ever topic, he does hit the most important ones. Greer also narrowed the scope of his work to focus solely on the Montagnais, the Huron, and the Mohawks.  These are the Indian nations Greer himself is most familiar with

         The length of the chosen excerpts and the consistent authors was also valuable.  The passages are typically several pages long, and this allows the reader to become fully immersed in the scene rather than only receiving a fleeting glimpse.  These longer texts allow the reader to get a feel for the Jesuit Relations and understand what the missionaries thought and felt about the Indians.  Greer also chooses to go back to the same Jesuit missionaries for various excerpts.  This is very effective at engrossing us as well.  By reading various accounts by the same Jesuits we are able to get a deep understanding of not only the Indian community that Jesuit worked in but also of the Jesuit himself.

         I found that the introductions provided by Greer were very helpful in understanding the passages.  Greer provides a detailed introduction to the book itself, as well as smaller introductions to each chapter and individual selections. The initial introduction provides an explanation about what the Society of Jesus is as well as a description of the colonization and missionary activity in New France.  The chapter introductions provide some brief initial remarks on the specific topic.  Greer also describes the specific situations surrounding individual passages.  These typically involve an account of the activities of the Jesuit who is writing the passage.

         In conclusion, I would recommend Greer’s text to both historians performing research and individuals interested in Jesuit missionary activities in 17th Century North America.  This text is useful for historians because of the valuable primary sources that it contains.  It is especially useful for someone investigating activities among the Montagnais, the Huron, and the Mohawks.  The book is good for people simply interested in the topic because it provides a start point for learning about the Jesuits in New France.  Greer covers many of the most important subjects relating to their missionary activities.  He also selects very interesting and captivating passages.  Greer’s introduction is also especially helpful to individuals new to the subject area.  However, the best factor for new readers is the length of the book.  Greer is able to distill a seventy-three volume work to a very readable two hundred twenty-six pages which makes reading this work both feasible and fun.


John Rodriguez

HIST 202 (A) Jesuits in New France

Mount Saint Mary's University

27 September 2004   



Jesuits in War