New France Social Hierarchy

New France is made up of an interesting mix of cultures and people from multiple places. Although the ancient people prefer to stay in the rural areas, recently there is a huge shift towards cities as part of trade and business. Combined with French and American culture, the life in New France has got a distinct character.

Religion plays a significant role in the daily life of people here and churches are found everywhere. Given below are the diverse classes in the social hierarchy of New France:

new france social hierarchySeigneurs

The Seigneurs formed the top layer of the social hierarchy, who were the French Lords and got grants as land from the king in Canada. These land grants were named as Seigneurie,s which were further divided by the Seigneurs to distribute it  among the habitants, who were farming in these lands.

In this feudal system, the land usually was divided into thin strips near to a water body, so that each land and farmer will have irrigation facility and conveyance means. In order to gain the land grant, the Siegneur had to fulfil certain pre-requirements such as, building a mansion house, a fort, a mill and a church.

Habitants

The Habitants come after the Seigneurs in the social class, and these were the farmers who operated the Seigneurs lands. In order to pay back the debt towards the land rented from the Seigneur, the habitants had a ‘corvée’ or work duty, which obligated them to pay a portion of his yield along with working in the Seigneurs land for three days every year.

The habitant had to pay two different types of taxes: the inheritance tax or ‘lods et ventes’ which is to pay a percentage of land to the landlord while selling the property, and the ‘cens’ which was paid for the maintenance the public community organisations. Although the habitants lived a hard life, due to the class mobility in New France they had the option of becoming a Seigneur themselves or to leave farming for trading.

Couriers De Bois

The Couriers de bois or traders came after the habitants and these fur traders could form associations with Indian tribes to enable business. These traders usually supplied foreign good in exchange of furs from Indians. They also went hunting for fur from animals. There   was another type of trader called the ‘voyager’ who was licenced to do fur trading, whereas the couriers de bois did unlicensed trading of fur.

Women

Women were considered equals with their male counterparts, who used to work in the farms and did trading along with men. Usually the women undertook the home roles of housekeeper, wife and mother. In New France their women were allowed to become Seignuers as well, since most of their men were either fur traders or in the military service and often died before the wives who inherited their property and titles. Owing to the uneven ratio of male and female here, the Government initiated to send their women to Canada to be married off to the traders or habitants there.