Founding father

By JEFF INGLIS  |  December 3, 2008

North America's fascinating French heritage is rarely the topic of today's leading historians.

In Champlain's Dream, Pulitzer Prize winner (for Washington's Crossing) David Hackett Fischer brings his formidable researcher's talents to bear on a man likely more important to North American history — English and French — than any other 17th-century figure. His biography of Samuel de Champlain — trader, explorer, soldier, colonist, diplomat, governor, and humanitarian — is punctuated by pulse-quickening anecdotes of Champlain's personal courage, and by vivid descriptions of life and landscape on the coast of Maine. 

Fischer tells the story both through the eyes of Fischer, who has summered on Mount Desert Island for decades, and those of Champlain, who was among the first Westerners to see the Downeast coast. Little of it has changed in four centuries. And yet, as Fischer shows, much of what has is due to Champlain.

Champlain's Dream | by David Hackett Fischer | Simon & Schuster | 834 pages | $40

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