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Peer Review

Torture and the Truth: Angélique and the Burning of Montreal

by Léon Robichaud , Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Team , Denyse Beaugrand-Champagne


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Feb 16, 2010 by Criminal Justice Editorial Board
Overview: This Website is an on-line library of source documents and some interpretive material that presents information on the 1734 fire that occurred in Montréal and that destroyed a hospital and 45 houses on rue Saint-Paul. Criminal proceedings were eventually brought against Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique, a Black slave, and her White lover, Claude Thibault. Angélique would be found guilty of setting the fire in an attempt to escape her life as a slave and would later confess to setting the fire while being tortured and then executed. The website presents an introduction to the fire and fire scene and then highlights information in three segments; first the context of the fire, next the trial of Angélique, and finally a look at the aftermath of the incident. The website also offers a significant view into archived material related to the fire incident. This site includes a diverse collection of transcripts of historical documents and images, and one animation, related to the story of the 1734 burning of Montreal. A black slave was convicted of setting the fire to cover an escape with her white lover. She confessed but only after torture. She was hanged and then burnt for the crime, but questions about her motive and guilt remain unanswered to this day. The primary sources provided shed light on the social environment of the day and the impact slavery, torture and law in early Canada may have had on the case. Users are encouraged to come up with their own interpretations of primary documents and compare them with the analysis of experts. Educators have access to a Teachers' Guide and experts’ interpretations of the mystery. The site is available in English and French.
Type of Material: Case Study
Recommended Uses: In class activities to support teacher/instructor presentations, homework, and team assignments/projects
Technical Requirements: Browser, Java, Flash player
Identify Major Learning Goals: This site will take you back to the Montréal of 1734 and its daily way of life. You will discover how a colonial city functioned, its people, its housing and its constant fear of fires. Additionally, through the presentation of historical information including court and other documents, photographs, and miscellaneous material one is able to learn not only about an historical event but one in which the judicial system at the time had a significant impact.
Target Student Population: High school and undergraduate students. General populations interested in historical justice-related events will find the site informative.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic computer skills

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The presentation of the historical accounts of the 1734 fire is outstanding as is the extensive archive of historical documents, photographs, and miscellaneous material.
Concerns: For those viewing the site in English, the material is translated from the original French, limiting the visitor full access to the historical accounts. The site is also available in French which offers additional perspectives on the material.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The site provides opportunities for assessing the authority, scope, and appropriateness of primary documents and allows students to develop their critical thinking skills.
Concerns: Since the documents have been transcribed, students must assume accuracy and completeness and cannot assess the possible bias of the transcriber.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The site is extremely easy to navigate and limited, if any, computer skills are necessary to benefit from the richness of the material presented.
Concerns: None

Other Issues and Comments: None