Champlain’s Dream

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 — Québécois, Acadian, and Métis — 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.

Reviews

“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. Fischer once again displays a staggering and wide research, lightly worn…. [I]mpressive … literary skills and approach…. With …the 400th anniversary of the foundation of New France, the time is ripe for this outstanding work.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“David Hackett Fischer is in that ethereal category of biographers who can climb into the soul of his subject, look out of that individual’s eyes and report back on what he sees…. [Fischer] delivers a marvellous read with Champlain’s Dream. His research is prodigious, and so is his writing talent…. This timely and beautifully written book, published in the 400th anniversary year of the founding of Quebec, is likely to be unsurpassed in its treatment of Champlain for a long time. Fischer has made Champlain wonderfully human — and that is the greatest compliment a biographer can earn.”
The Calgary Herald

“A massive yet accessible biography.”
Washington Times

“Fischer’s work should make it impossible to ignore Champlain’s contributions henceforth.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Narrating Champlain’s activities in North America is where Fischer excels, both in his chronicle of events and his analysis of Champlain’s leadership, political and commercial backing, and diplomacy with the native peoples. Fischer’s comprehensive, incisive portrayal will enthrall.”
Booklist

Champlain’s Dream is a book every Canadian should own.”
National Post

“With Fischer’s Champlain’s Dream, all earlier biographies … no longer serve any useful purpose. This is a massive, scholarly work, logically organized and clearly written as befits a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian…. Fischer goes through the rest of Champlain’s life in admirable detail.”
The Globe and Mail

Champlain’s Dream puts flesh and bones on the enigmatic figure who played a seminal role in the development of our half of North America…. The delights are in the details…. Champlain’s Dream is a worthy addition to [Champlain’s] legacy.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“A major new biography of Champlain does full justice, and then some, to the founder of Quebec City…. Fischer spins a rich, vivid tale of the soldier, spy, master mariner, explorer, cartographer and artist…. This is a terrific book.”
Toronto Star

“Fischer’s stated goal of writing the definitive story of Champlain’s life has definitely been achieved…. This is an incredibly in-depth biography full of rich detail and painstaking research.”
Quill and Quire

“A book that leaves no stone unturned…. [Fischer] succeeds brilliantly in analyzing the man and his motives…. A balanced and insightful exploration of the internal geography of a larger-than-life figure.”
The Chronicle Herald (Halifax)