Nova Scotia Archives

Acadian Heartland

The Records of British Government at Annapolis Royal, 1713-1749


Introduction

These are published versions of much earlier handwritten records — in fact, the earliest surviving records of British government in Nova Scotia. The original record-books held by Nova Scotia Archives and selected pages from them have been digitized and linked to the printed pages featured here, so that Website visitors can experience what the original documents look like. As well, a selection of digitized maps and nineteenth-century engravings has been added, to enhance visual content on the site.

Until now these records have been little-known and not easily accessible. Together, they provide a snapshot of everyday life in Nova Scotia in the years after Acadia became a British possession in 1713, leading up to the Deportation of the Acadians / Le Grand Dérangement after 1755. The records focus on the Annapolis-Minas corridor — the 'heartland' of Acadia — but there is also solid coverage for the other French settlements scattered throughout mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island.

Tedious, repetitive, and frequently written in bureaucratic shorthand with old-fashioned English wording, these records are nevertheless a rich primary source for Acadian studies. Researchers interested in genealogy, community history, economic history, land tenure, administration of justice, trade and commerce, natural resources, relations with the Mi'kmaq — and above all, interaction between Acadians and British authorities — will find much to interest them here.

This is the story of how a small group of army officers entrusted with the civil government of Nova Scotia after 1713, discharged their responsibilities in virtual isolation during an obscure period in the province's history. Stationed at Annapolis Royal — previously the old French capital of Port-Royal — they carried out what was essentially an 'experiment [in] governing a French population by a handful of Englishmen.' But these were not enlightened times and they were not progressive leaders.

Three centuries ago, people viewed the world around them and expressed themselves very differently from the way we do today-and so the wording of these documents frequently seems biased or offensive to our modern sensibilities. The role of the archivist, however, is not to change history or to interpret its evidence, but merely to make the records available — in this case, so that those interested in exploring the Acadian experience in colonial Nova Scotia can do so and form their own opinions as to what happened so long ago.