L'Action nationale was a continuation of the monthly magazine L'Action française (1917-28) and L'Action canadienne-française (1928) which represented the "Quebec-first" clerico-nationalist doctrine of Lionel Groulx. L'Action nationale has always fought for Quebec's autonomy, notably against the centralizing thrust of the Canadian federal government into fiscal and cultural matters (see Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations and Massey Commission).
In the 1930s to 1950s, L’Action nationale attracted nationalist youth, including editor André Laurendeau (1937-42, 1948-54). In the 1960s, the journal progressively radicalized its stance on constitutional matters between Canada and Quebec. It moved from advocating Quebec’s provincial autonomy to associate-state to outright independence. Managed by Esdras Minville and François-Albert Angers, the magazine highlighted economic issues, the continuity of French language and culture, the Catholic church and Laurentian history. It was also critical of certain reforms brought about during the Quiet Revolution, especially in education. In the 1990s, the journal embraced a new territorial, civic and secular approach to Quebec nationalism.
Although it has declined somewhat in influence, L’Action nationale remains committed to the goal of Quebec independence and continues to publish regularly. The journal is still a source of intellectual essays that address a range of cultural, political and economic issues.