Champlain's Dream

Champlain's Dream

Book - 2008
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In this sweeping, enthralling biography, acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winner David Hackett Fischer magnificently brings to life the visionary adventurer who has straddled our history for 400 years. Champlain's Dream reveals, with rare immediacy and drama, the story of a remarkable man: a leader who dreamed of humanity and peace in a world riven by violence; a man of his own time who nevertheless strove to build a settlement in Canada that would be founded on harmony and respect.

With consummate narrative skill and comprehensive scholarship, Fischer unfolds a life shrouded in mystery, a complex, elusive man among many colorful characters. Born on France's Atlantic coast, Samuel de Champlain grew up in a country bitterly divided by religious wars. But, like Henry IV, one of France's greatest kings whose illegitimate son he may have been and who supported his travels from the Spanish Empire in Mexico to the St. Lawrence and the unknown territories, Champlain was religiously tolerant in an age of murderous sectarianism. Soldier, spy, master mariner, explorer, cartographer, and artist, he maneuvered his way through court intrigues in Paris, supported by Henri IV and, later, Louis XIII, though bitterly opposed by the Queen Regent Marie de Medici and the wily Cardinal Richelieu. But his astonishing dedication and stamina triumphed....

Champlain was an excellent navigator. He went to sea as a boy, acquiring the skills that allowed him to make 27 Atlantic crossings between France and Canada, enduring raging storms without losing a ship, and finally bringing with him into the wilderness his young wife, whom he had married in middle age. In the place he called Quebec, on the beautiful north shore of the St. Lawrence, he founded the first European settlement in Canada, where he dreamed that Europeans and First Nations would cooperate for mutual benefit. There he played a role in starting the growth of three populations -- Qu#65533;b#65533;cois, Acadian, and M#65533;tis -- from which millions descend.

Through three decades, on foot and by ship and canoe, Champlain traveled through what are now six Canadian provinces and five American states, negotiating with more than a dozen Indian nations, encouraging intermarriage among the French colonists and the natives, and insisting, as a Catholic, on tolerance for Protestants. A brilliant politician as well as a soldier, he tried constantly to maintain a balance of power among the Indian nations and his Indian allies, but, when he had to, he took up arms with them and against them, proving himself a formidable strategist and warrior in ferocious wars.

Drawing on Champlain's own diaries and accounts, as well as his exquisite drawings and maps, Fischer shows him to have been a keen observer of a vanished world: an artist and cartographer who drew and wrote vividly, publishing four invaluable books on the life he saw around him.

This superb biography (the first full-scale biography in decades) by a great historian is as dramatic and richly exciting as the life it portrays. Deeply researched, it is illustrated throughout with 110 contemporary images and 37 maps, including several drawn by Champlain himself.
Publisher: Toronto : A.A. Knopf Canada, 2008.
ISBN: 9780307397669
0307397661

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Eil_1
Dec 31, 2013

I cannot imagine how many hundreds of hours Hackett devoted to creating this great historical work. Champlain should truly be named "the Father and Founding Leader" of Canada. His ability to interact with the original people of this land would put to shame most of those who followed after his death. The indigent people who were "sauvages" meaning forest dwellers was misconstrued to mean savages - those without any humanity! I don't know what is being taught in schools today about early Canada - the 17th century, but I learned nothing of their greatness - only isolated incidences of brutality towards the Invaders of their country. Shame on us! The English, Spaniards and Portugese treated the indigenous people throughout North America without respect for their cultures or lives. Champlain lived his life in such a way that he accepted all people as equals. Jacques Cartier was an adventurer who desecrated these people, took them captive, etc., etc. Without Champlain, the world of New France would have been an entirely different place. He enabled the French immigrants and Indians to live in peace for decades. The ethics of Champlain have long been lost to the goals of avarice, pursuit of power and intrigues that hurt everyone. This is the same world-wide. A truly enlightening book!

arbolito Feb 14, 2013

I had no idea until I read this book what a remarkable person Champlain really was. Brave to the point of reckless and oh so lucky to have survived so many perils. Why is this guy not better known?

s
spacecat
Oct 16, 2012

Wow. There is a reason why Champlain is called the Father of Canada and I had no idea how much he deserves this. I have read Cartier's Voyages, and I think we should tear down every monument to Jacques Cartier, who was deplorable to the indigenous people of Canada, and replace them with ones to Champlain. Champlain was amazing and although this book is long and full of detailed references (of which I had to look at every one), I loved it. And I am not a lover of Canadian history books as a rule. Thank you Mr. Fischer, of Mount Desert Island in Maine, for telling us our early Canadian story in such a fascinating way, and with such panache (sorry, ha!) arquebus's and all.

g
geoff2brown
Oct 28, 2011

Absolutely marvellous book. Well written; easy and interesting lesson on Canadian history.

j
johnsankey
Feb 11, 2011

This is real history, the kind that explores the history that affects what people do. A remarkable study.

d
Darwin49
Apr 08, 2010

Read this if you want to expand your knowledge of wars of religion in France, early trans-Atlantic travel, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the St. Lawrence, Quebec, Algonquin, Iroquois and Huron Indians, why the fur trade was so important, the issues involved in founding self-sustaining colonies in the northern Americas, the origins of Cajuns, Metis, and other mixed-race peoples of northern America, and more and more and more. Fantastically interesting book. This is a super biography in the old style: a story of a great man.

b
blossom21
Dec 19, 2009

This is a monumental work on an extraordinary man who devoted his life to founding a sustainable settlement in New France. Without Champlain Canada as we know it would certainly be different. He respected the dignity of all peoples, Natives, Europeans and African slaves he met in Spanish colonies. I found this book most interesting. What a giant Champlain was.

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