Locke Surveys New France


  • James Farr Northwestern University




Locke, Canada, Sagard, Galinée, Bernou


This essay explores John Locke’s survey of New France between 1678 and 1680 – especially the spring of 1679 – in book, map, correspondence, and personal contacts with the travel literati of France. Canada was a place of great importance in the geopolitics of early colonial America; and Locke was curious, to say the least, about its people, places, and territorial reach. The centerpieces of Locke’s survey at that time – and of this essay – were two ethnographic volumes on the Huron by Gabriel Sagard; the first map of the lower great lakes by René de Bréhant de Galinée; and – it will be suggested – a series of maps of all the great lakes and environs by Claude Bernou. While some mystery remains about Locke’s sources, it is hoped the essay sheds further light on the vastness and perhaps the political motivations of Locke’s intrigue with the literature of travel and geography of the new world.