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Champlain's Dream Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fischer, Pulitzer Prize–winner for Washington's Crossing, has produced the definitive biography of Samuel de Champlain (1567–1635): spy, explorer, courtier, soldier, sailor, ethnologist, mapmaker, and founder and governor of New France (today's Quebec), which he founded in 1608. This extraordinary and flawed individual was a man of war who dreamed of establishing a peaceful nation in the New World. Fischer once again displays a staggering and wide research, lightly worn, including no fewer than 16 fascinating appendixes covering everything from the Indian Nations in Champlain's World, 1603–35 to Champlain's preferred firearm. The bibliography is equally impressive, and the same should be said of Fischer's literary skills and approach. He does not have a thesis, or a theory, or an ideology, but instead answers questions (Who was this man? What did he do? Why should we care?) to weave together his epic story. With 2008 the 400th anniversary of the foundation of New France, the time is ripe for this outstanding work. 16 pages of color photos; b&w photos, maps. (Oct.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Regarding the history of European settlement in North America, David Hackett Fischer has been around the block. It is no surprise, then, that Champlain's Dream speaks with authority on the relatively unknown biography of one of the period's leading figures. Fischer's solid, comprehensive—and ultimately sympathetic—portrayal of the enigmatic Champlain rekindles the consequences of European settlement in the Americas. Throughout, the author maintains a professional interest in separating fact from fiction: "Because he is a rigorous historian, not a historical novelist, [Fischer] is always scrupulous about drawing a firm line between facts and inferences," claims the reviewer for the New York Times Book Review. With the exception of the Washington Post's critic, who cites poor "skills as a narrative historian," critics agree that Fischer's effort is both important and admirable.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416593322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416593324
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. The recipient of many prizes and awards for his teaching and writing, he is the author of numerous books, including Washington's Crossing, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Big Dave on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a biography of epic cultural and geographic sweep. It entwines itself into the histories of France, England and North America, illuminating by countless fascinating details while never losing the thread of its larger narrative.

The subject is Samuel de Champlain (~1570 to 1635), soldier, explorer, colonizer, diplomat and leader of men. In recounting the facts and deeds of Champlain's life, Fischer finds a theme in Champlain's humanism, in his strong Christian piety with very little ecclesiology and in his dream of la Nouvelle France as the place where men would grow beyond the wars of religion that devastated the France of Champlain's youth. The facts alone are gripping (Champlain made dozens of voyages to North America, was an intimate of two French kings, fought corporate board battles as well as hostile Mohawks, made a fortune, gave it away, founded the city of Montreal, explored and mapped much of what is now eastern Canada and New England, etc., etc.) and Fischer's thematic thread gives it a very inspirational cast without ever flinching from Champlain's errors and weaknesses.

Part of the book's charm is in its incidental illumination of other historical personages (Henri IV of France, for instance, and Cardinal Richelieu). Also delightful is the detail of its minor, surprising episodes; for instance, the account of Champlain's 1609 battle with Montagnais, Huron and Algonquin allies against Mohawk foes, clad in wooden armor and marching in close formation, or Champlain's use of siege engines against an Onandaga fortress in 1615.

Fischer's prose is lucid and never distracting. The book is profusely illustrated with maps, sketches, paintings and photographs that together give the reader a very strong sense of having been a witness.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Bay Gibbons VINE VOICE on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Hackett Fischer's new full-length biography of Samuel de Champlain is pure nectar to the serious reader of history. Full of life, vivid, entertaining, fascinating and full of insight, this is biography at its best. Painted on the vast canvas of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe and North America, we see a fully developed portrait of a fascinating and complex individual who played such a key role in the unfolding of North American culture and civilization.

This biography is worthy to stand beside the best of our generation: John Adams, The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1), The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932. Oddly, it also calls to mind the fictional work of Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1), The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 2) and The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3) by Neal Stephenson with its fascinating scope and historical detail.

Among the plethora of insights gleaned from Fischer is his description of the French quality of "prevoyance," which has no exact corrollary in English.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's founding of the first successful French colonies in North America, historian David Hackett Fischer takes on the sensitive subject of a European's dream for the New World. To create a New French nation that would be a tolerant, productive and improved version of Old France was not just Champlain's dream; it was his obsession. His persistence in the face of near-constant political and environmental obstacles and the degree to which he achieved harmony and integration with the Indian populations are extraordinary. "Champlain's Dream" attempts to reconstruct the life and values of this man who was a soldier, mariner, explorer, cartographer, writer, painter, ethnographer, naturalist, courtier, and, above all the Father of French Canada.

Remarkably, Champlain excelled at most of those things, yet we don't know what he looked like or have more than an inkling of his personal life. He wrote volumes about his voyages and observations of North America, enthusiastically promoting his vision for New France, so we are left to understand the man from what he said about the people and places around him. Fischer's diligence in describing the physical environment of his locations begins with Champlain's home town of Brouage in Saintonge, where he was born around 1570 to a haute bourgeois sea captain. This descriptive prose is a recurring feature, perhaps inspired by Champlain's tendency to do the same.

Champlain first visited the New World as an agent of King Henri IV, for whom he gathered information about New Spain. In 1600, he traveled the rivers of what is now Quebec to establish contact with the Indians and document the land, with a mind to establishing a settlement, the first attempt at which would be in Acadia in 1604.
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