Updated Dec 1, 2013

The French Colonial Period In the Illinois Country, 1673-1765: A Select Bibliography

By B. Pierre Lebeau, Professor of History Emeritus, North Central College

The purpose of this bibliography is to help the serious reader get started in exploring the French colonial period in the Illinois Country. It provides a list of basic, sometimes picturesque works that are accessible through public and academic libraries. Several of the works are out of print and may be obtained through interlibrary loans. The books published by the CFCS are not included and can be seen under the tab Books.



Alvord, Clarence W., and Carter Clarence E., eds. The Critical Period, 1763-1765. Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. Vol. X, British Series,Vol. I. Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1915. French and British documents illustrate the difficult transition from French to British sovereignty and include the banishment of the Jesuits, the tensions between the British and the Indians, and descriptions of the Illinois Country at that time.

Beckwith, H. W., ed. Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. Vol. I. Springfield: The H.W. Rokker Company, 1903. This work contains major portions of Father Marquette’s journal, various papers regarding La Salle, Hennepin’s narrative, Tonti’s memoir of 1693, Aubry’s report concerning the building of Fort Massac, the account of George Rogers Clark’s conquest of Illinois, and a number of letters from the Canadian Archives covering the English period.

Brown, Margaret F., and Dean, Lawrie C., eds. The Village of Chartres in Colonial Illinois 1720-1765. Published for La Compagnie des Amis de Fort de Chartres. New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1977. Selected documents relating to the village of Fort de Chartres. Ste. Anne church records, records of the Chapel of the Visitation, land and notarial records from Randolph County Archives. A large number of the documents are presented in the original French. All documents are in English translation.

Finiels, Nicholas de. An Account of Upper Louisiana. Edited by Carl J. Ekberg and William E. Foley. Translated by Carl J. Ekberg. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989. Written by an expatriate French engineer who served the Spanish monarchy in Louisiana during the late colonial era, this memoir “provides important information about Upper Louisiana in the late 1790′s on subjects ranging from great issues of geopolitics to details of domestic life.”

The Kaskaskia Manuscripts, 1714-1816. Microform: civil documents of colonial Illinois in Randolph County Archives, Chester, Illinois. Compiled with introduction by Laurie Cena Dean, Margaret Kimball Brown. Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Archives. Documents of the French settlements on the banks of the Mississippi. Mostly manuscripts of notarial transactions, wills and other legal documents. Calendar is included.

Pease, Theodore C., ed. Anglo-French Boundary Disputes in the West 1749-1763. Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. Vol. XXVII, French Series, Vol. II. Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1936. In addition to the selected British and French documents, the lengthy introduction by T. C. Pease analyses the diplomatic struggles between England and France for dominance in North America. This volume is useful for the understanding of France’s policy towards her possessions in the Mississippi valley.

— and Jenison, Ernestine, eds. Illinois on the Eve of the Seven Years; War, 1747-1755. Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. Vol. XXIX, French Series, Vol. III. Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library,1940. This volume presents a fairly complete description of the political and commercial scene in Illinois for the period going from the end of the War of the Austrian Succession to the eve of the French and Indian War.

— and Werner, Raymond C. eds. The French Foundations,1680-1693. Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. Vol.XXIII, French Series, Vol. I. Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1934. Most of the documents pertain to the commercial and financial affairs of La Salle and Tonti. The volume also includes the so-called “De Gannes Memoir”, actually an account by Pierre Liette of his experiences in the Chicago area between 1698 and 1702. The period between 1693 and 1747 is not covered in the French Series.

Peyser, Joseph L., trans. and ed. On the Eve of the Conquest: The Chevalier de Raymond’s Critique of New France in 1754. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1997. A critical view by an officer of the Troupes de la Marine of French trade practices, relations with the native Americans, and French social customs.

Schultz, James, ed. Father Marquette’s Journal. Lansing, Michigan: Bureau of History, Michigan Department of State, 1990. A first-hand account of Father Jacques Marquette’s missionary explorations between 1673 and 1675. Short, but instructive introduction. Maps.



Allain, Mathé. “Not Worth a Straw” French Colonial Policy and the Early Years of Louisiana. Lafayette: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1988. Well documented, compact and clearly written account of French official policies with regard to Louisiana from its founding to 1831. Useful for the understanding of the political and economic background of early Louisiana.

Alvord, Clarence Walworth. The Illinois Country 1673-1818. The Centennial History of Illinois, Vol. I. Springfield: The Illinois Centennial Commission,1920; reprint ed., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987. Although dated, this is still the best introduction to the early history of Illinois. Treatment of the subject is broad and generally accurate. Although presented in a scholarly form, the work is easily read and should appeal to the general reader.

Arnold, Morris S. Unequal Laws unto a Savage Race: European Legal Traditions in Arkansas, 1686-1836. Fayetteville, Arkansas: The University of Arkansas Press, 1985. The first chapter describes the French legal system and practices in use in the Mississippi Valley. The important role of notaries is explained.

________. Colonial Arkansas, 1686-1804. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 1991. This well researched and elegantly told social history of French Arkansas is very useful to understand the lifestyle of the French and their social and governmental structures in the whole Mississippi Valley.

Balesi, Charles J. The Time of the French in the Heart of North America. Rev. ed.  Chicago: Alliance Française Chicago, 1996. This survey of French Colonial Illinois, from the French viewpoint, is well documented and makes use of recent scholarship. It includes interesting chapters on the French habitants, their Black slaves, and their relations with the Indians.

Beers, Henry Putney. The French & British in the Old Northwest: A Bibliographical Guide to Archive and Manuscript Sources. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1964. Describes records of the French Regime available in the U.S., Canada, and France. Of importance to any one interested in local, social, and religious history.

Belting, Natalia Maree. Kaskaskia under the French Regime. 1948. Reprint, Shawnee Classics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003. This work describes the daily life in Kaskaskia. Based on the Kaskaskia Manuscripts and Parish Registers, it reconstructs the social structure, activities, and customs of the French. Includes extracts from the Parish Registers and notes on the 1752 census.

Briggs, Winstanley. “The Forgotten Colony: Le Pays des Illinois.” Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Chicago, 1985. A comparison of the social structure, economy, government and mentalité of French Illinois with the societies of early Canada, colonial New England and Ancien Regime France.

________. “Slavery in French Colonial Illinois.” Chicago History 18 (Winter 1989-90): 66-81.

Brown, Margaret Kimball. “Allons, Cowboys.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 76 (1983): 273-282. Cattle and horse drive from Illinois to Fort St. Francis, Arkansas River, 1739.

________. History As They Lived It. A Social History of Prairie du Rocher, Ill. Tucson: The Patrice Press, 2005. The author examines over a period of some two hundred years the long and unusual persistence of the French cultural identity and the integration of early American arrivals in this small town of southern Illinois.

Clark, John G. La Rochelle and the Atlantic Economy during the Eighteenth Century. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981. This work is essential for persons interested in the trade between France and the American colonies..