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Posted May 29, 2009
A great work, but . . .
This is a pleasant book to read. One can place oneself in Saintonge as the seventeenth century began. One can place oneself on Champlain's early voyages to the Caribbean and the Bay of Fundy. One can place oneself in the court of Henry IV and Louis XII. In this manner one can learn a lot about France and about the St. Lawrence River valley and its inhabitants at that time.
There are two things that bother this reader. One is that once Champlain becomes an adult, there isn't a page in the text wherein we are not reminded that Champlain's feces didn't stink. The other is that if you look at the end notes, a large majority refer back to a collection of Champlain's own writings, no wonder his feces doesn't stink!
That aside, this is a wonderful piece of literature. I am about to order another work by this author.
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Champlain: the Father of New France and Quebec.
Perhaps the NY Times best captured the essence of David Fischer's book about Samuel de Champlain by observing "They Didn't Name That Lake [after him] for Nothing." Fischer a trained historian and professor at Brandeis University, argues that Samuel de Champlain was at heart a man of the Enlightenment, before that era dawned in Europe. Champlain was a writer, artist, natualist, ethnographer, mariner, and professional soldier. Fischer maintains that Champlain was as success at Versailles in maintaining royal support for the nascent French colony in North America, as he was in establishing its settlements and probing its seemingly limitless boundaries. Importantly, Fischer credits Champlain's respect for and cooperation with American-Indians, as his greatest accomplishment. Unlike the English, Spanish, and Portugese colonizers to the south who brutalized and butchered the natives, Champlain and the French were much more magnaminious toward the native peoples. Even though Champlain's dream turned to nightmare with the defeat of Montcalm by Wolfe at Quebec in 1759, among his descendants it lived on to become vindicated in a modern tolerant Quebec.
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Posted January 1, 2012
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