Land Lease Dispute Document, Nogent-sur-Oise, France, June 25, 1693: This is a legal document drawn up by Nicolas Godot, principal notary in Nogent-sur-Oise, on 25 June 1693. It concerns a farmer, Thomas Bellay of Ormoy, whose landlords, Louis and Nicolas Offroy, seized his harvest of wheat and rye because he was in arrears on his rent for 18 arpents of land. He arranged to have another farmer, Pierre Lecomte of Vacheresse, take over the lease, which was for 576 livres, paid in grains.
The 17th-century history of this fertile, grain-growing area to the northeast of Paris has been intensely studied by historian Pierre Goubert. Its rural population was highly stratified, with a class of lords (seigneurs) reaping most of the benefits. Non-noble lords like the two brothers in this documents were often the most rapacious. The two “plowmen” (labourers) in the document represent the upper stratum of the peasantry, but they leased their land from the lords and were vulnerable to economic downturns. 1693 is a notorious year in French rural history. The harvest failed due to severe winter weather, causing actual starvation. Historian Marcel Lachiver has written a definitive study of these 17th-century subsistence crises.
The specific places mentioned in this document did not send immigrants to New France, although the Department of Oise where they are located sent at least 76, some 22 of them women. Migration to Canada was not, however, a response to rural crisis. Instead it reflected state efforts to settle the colony and the migrants’ search for opportunity.
The French Institute would like to acknowledge the generosity of John Bullard for his donation of this document.
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