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n. (plural of habitant English)


Habitants were French settlers and the inhabitants of French origin who farmed the land along the two shores of the St. Lawrence Gulf and River in what is the present-day Province of Quebec in Canada. The term was used by the inhabitants themselves and the other classes of French Canadian society from the 17th century up until the early 20th century when the usage of the word declined in favour of the more modern agriculteur (farmer) or producteur agricole (agricultural producer).

Habitants in New France were largely defined by their relationship to a seigneur. Seigneurs were primarily nobles or clergy members from France who were given large pieces of land that were referred to as fiefs or seigneuries. Such a system created a traditional peasant-lord relationship by establishing a landed elite. The habitant-seigneurial relationship that emerged in New France, however, had a few key differences from its old one. The wealth of the land was primarily built through its development by the habitants. King Louis XIII instituted a condition on the land, stating that it could be forfeited unless it was cleared within a certain period of time. This condition kept the land from being sold by the seigneur, leading instead to its being sub-granted to peasant farmers, the habitants. When a habitant was granted the title deed to a lot, he had to agree to accept a variety of annual charges and restrictions. Rent was the most important of these and could be set in money, produce or labour. Once this rent was set, it could not be altered, neither due to inflation or time. A habitant was essentially free to develop his land as he wished, with only a few obligations to his seigneur.

Likewise, a seigneur did not have many responsibilities towards his habitants. The seigneur was obligated to build a gristmill for his tenants, and they in turn were required to grind their grain there and provide the seigneur with one sack of flour out of every 14. The seigneur also had the right to a specific number of days of forced labour by the habitants and could claim rights over fishing, timber and common pastures.

Though the demands of the seigneurs became more significant at the end of French rule, they could never obtain enough resources from the habitants to become truly wealthy, nor leave their tenants in poverty. Habitants were free individuals; seigneurs simply owned a "bundle of specific and limited rights over productive activity within that territory". The seigneur–habitant relationship was one where both parties were owners of the land who split the attributes of ownership between them.

Usage examples of "habitants".

Every habitat in space has its nightwalkers, invisible habitants who cannot afford to remain in space but who evade being returned to Earth.

Some public relations “expert” had decided that habitants would feel more at home if surrounded by place names familiar from dirtside.

The habitants have gotten together and demand access to Holy Lake till the drought’s over.

However, they fear the habitants will refuse, will take the proposal as a deadly threat.