"Champlain's Dream" by David Hackett Fischer

Historians in the News

In most American text books, Samuel de Champlain serves as a sort of historical speed bump between Christopher Columbus and Lewis and Clark.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer believes Champlain deserves better treatment for his key role as leader of one of the earliest settlements in North America.

"He's been vanishing from the 7th grade in the past 20 years," said Fischer, author of "Champlain's Dream," a recent biography of the 17th Century French explorer.

A lake shared by New York, Vermont and Quebec bears Champlain's name, as do colleges, communities and any number of entities on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. But until a recent resurgence of interest in Champlain tied to the 400th anniversary of his explorations, his many accomplishments were often lumped with other European explorers who fell out of favor in academic circles during the late 20th Century, Fischer said.

"Literature on him is like the century plant. It blooms every 100 years when he has an anniversary," Fischer said in an interview from New England, where he was promoting his book.

Canada this year celebrated the 400th anniversary of Champlain's founding of Quebec, and New York and Vermont are planning their own quadricentennial events commemorating his exploration of the region in 1609.

Vermont historian Paul Searls said Fischer's book will help flesh out an iconic figure who took a decidedly different approach from his European contemporaries' sentiments toward American Indians.

"David Hackett Fischer's books tend to be very popular because they're brilliantly written and extremely pleasant to read," said Searls, who teaches at Lyndon State College and the University of Vermont.

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