Looking Ahead to a Year of Celebrations and Looking Back at a Banner Year of Discovery

A Book Review by Jacqueline Steponaitis

By Jacqueline Steponaitis

    2009 will be a banner year for historians and celebrations around the Champlain Valley. It will mark the 400th anniversaries of the explorations and discoveries by Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson. Vermont, New York, Quebec, and most of New England are filled with references and monuments to the impact of these two European explorers. Known as the “ Father of New France”, Champlain made 23 trips across the Atlantic Ocean and left four books of drawings, maps, recordings, and information that inspired a decades of settlement and exploration to follow him.

    Just how do we learn the stories of these two incredible men? While there are many traditional sources, one new book, just published in the last week, offers a unique blend of illustration, reflection, and journal data on both of these explorers. Written by retired Vermont educators Don and Carol Thompson, Seeking the Northwest Passage: The Explorations and Discoveries of Champlain and Hudson is a wonderful starting point to understanding these two complex individuals and their significance in history. Written primarily for a young adult audience, the book discusses the early lives of the two men, political intrigues involved with seeking funding and support for their trips and the eventful year for both in 1609. Complete with maps, illustrations, and a timeline for the lives of both men, the book brings you relevant and interesting accounts of how this area came to be explored, settled, and fought over.

    Many of us have preconceived notions about all explorers and their desire for gold and riches that out weighted and overshadowed all aspects of their humanity. We were raised on stories of them as driven, greedy individuals with little or no awareness of the value and sophistication of any of the Native American cultures they encountered. In the case of Hudson and Champlain, there is much more to the story. Both men's journals and diaries reflect the complexity of their thoughts, and their own internal struggles with what their legacy would be to history. In a year celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of their expeditions to this very area, it is important to study them as people and not the stereotypical model many have come to know. Their real lives, thoughts, and struggles are much more fascinating , and critical to understanding the era.

    The book( ISBN: 978-1-930098-90-9) is available through Purple Mountain Press, Ltd, PO Box 309, Fleischmanns, New York 12430, by emailing [email protected] or by contacting Don and Carol Thompson at (802)468-5309, during the summer months. Don also does first-person historical interpretations of Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson for school, civic organizations and historical associations. 


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