Throughout his career, he used techniques imported from economics and psychology undermine the foundations of Quebec nationalism. His contributions to the historiographical debates over the British Conquest and the 1837 Rebellion have been especially controversial. In particular, he drew attention to the negative role played by women in Quebec society. More recently, he has accused fellow historians of trying to "normalize" Quebec's past, so as to provide a stronger justification of sovereignty In response, French-speaking historians have been hostile to his suggestion that French-Canadians are the agents of their own difficulties. These historians, instead of dwelling on economic shortcomings, have stressed the deep roots of modernity, a position that Ouellet strongly rejected. In a nutshell, Ouellet insisted that Québec's history offers "more support for the thesis of backwardness and for that of modernization."
Ouellet has received numerous prizes, awards, and honors, including the J. B. Tyrrell Historical Medal of the Royal Society of Canada in 1969, the Governor General's Award for non-fiction in 1977, the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize of the Canadian Historical Association in 1977, and others. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, serving as honorary secretary from 1977 to 1980.
Ouellet served as President of the Canadian Historical Association in 1970, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979. He was also the editor of Histoire Sociale (Social History) from 1971 to 1988. Ouellet is the author of several works on the history of nineteenth-century French Canada including Histoire économique et sociale du Québec, 1760–1850, published 1966, Le Bas-Canada, 1791–1840, and Louis Joseph Papineau, un être divisé, published 1960.
- Rudin, Ronald. "Ouellet, Fernand." in Kelly Boyd, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing, vol. 2. Taylor & Francis. pp. 896–97.
- Fernand Ouellet entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Ronald Rudin, Making History in Twentieth Century Quebec (1997)
- 1991 statement quoted in Ronald Rudin, "Ouellet, Fernand." in Kelly Boyd, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing, vol. 2. p. 8997.
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