Gustave Lanctot | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gustave Lanctot

Gustave Lanctot, OC, archivist, historian (born 5 July 1883 in Saint-Constant, QC; died 2 February 1975 in Montreal, QC). Gustave Lanctot was an eminent historian who specialized in the history of New France. He served as Dominion Archivist from 1937 to 1948.


Gustave Lanctot studied law at the Université de Montréal and was called to the Quebec Bar in 1907. After working briefly as a journalist, Lanctot embarked on graduate studies. He was accepted to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, where he studied history and political science from 1909 to 1911. During his time in Oxford, he played for the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club. After Oxford, Lanctot studied literature at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1911 before returning to Canada the following year.

Archival Career

In 1912, Gustave Lanctot began to work for the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada). In 1916, during the First World War, Lanctot enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was assigned to the Canadian Special Mission in charge of collecting war archives. He served until 1918.

After the war, Lanctot received a doctorate from the Université de Paris for his dissertation L'administration de la Nouvelle-France. After his return to Canada, Lanctot resumed work with the Public Archives, working in positions as associate archivist, deputy director of war trophies and head of French archives. During this time, he also taught at the University of Ottawa.

In 1937, Lanctot was appointed deputy minister and Dominion Archivist, a position he held until he retired in 1948.

Works Published

Gustave Lanctot’s abundant historical work was spread over some 40 years. His main works include François-Xavier Garneau (1926), Histoire du Canada (published in volumes from 1959 to 1964) and Montréal sous Maisonneuve (1966).

A specialist in the history of New France, he wanted to write a scrupulously accurate history that was free from the racism he felt marred the school of Lionel Groulx and the tendency to present New France in unduly heroic terms. His ideas weakened his prestige with traditionalists and nationalist intellectuals.

In 1941, Lanctot served as president of the Canadian Historical Association. In 1948–49, he served as president of the Royal Society of Canada.

Honours and Awards

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1926)
  • J. B. Tyrrell Historical Medal, Royal Society of Canada (1943)
  • Prix Champlain (1961)
  • Prix Montcalm (1962)
  • Governor General’s Literary Award (1963)
  • Officer of the Order of Canada (1967)