A Pox On The New World

As much as nine-tenths of the indigenous population of the Americas died in less than a generation from European pathogens

In the summer of 1605 the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed along the coast of New England, looking for a likely spot to place a colony—a place more hospitable than the upper St. Lawrence River, which he had previously explored. Halfway down the Maine coast he began to find spots with good harbors, abundant supplies of freshwater, and big spreads of cleared land. The problem was that these parcels were already occupied. The peoples there were happy to barter with him and treat his sailors to fine dinners. But none were interested in providing free real estate.Read more »

Champlain Among The Mohawk, 1609

A Soldier-Humanist Fights a War for Peace in North America

A few generations ago, American colonial history centered on a single narrative that flowed from Jamestown in 1607 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Today early American history has blossomed into a braided narrative with many story lines.

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Native Americans First View Whites From The Shore

New York Indians Discover Dutchmen

Whenever Indians and Europeans met, the process of discovery was usually reciprocal. In hindsight, these first encounters were asymmetrically momentous events, presaging catastrophic consequences for the native peoples of North America. Europeans wrote accounts of these meetings; Indians did not. Nevertheless, memories of such meetings passed from generation to generation within the tribes. Some traditions recalled dreams, premonitions, and prophecies that foretold the coming of powerful strangers, stories no doubt retold with increasing bitterness as Europeans kept coming.Read more »

First Encounters

The journeys 400 years ago of a French and Dutch explorer would forever alter the history of North America

Four hundred years ago, at almost exactly the same historical moment, two intrepid European explorers came near to meeting in the wilderness of today’s New York State. Each left his name on the waters he visited, but the impact of their journeys left a far larger shadow on America’s history. This year, from New York City up the Hudson and along the shores of Lake Champlain, dozens of towns, cities, and museums will celebrate the quadricentennial of the arrival of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain.Read more »

The Renegade

Etienne Brulé was one of the great explorers—the first white man to see Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Superior, the first to set foot in Michigan. Why have you never heard of him?

Growing up in the Great Lakes region of North America, I developed an early appreciation for the European explorers who had long ago traveled the waterways of my home. I read all the books I could find about adventurers like Champlain, Jolliet, Marquette, and Nicolet, and they defined what I thought I should be as a young man: tough, brave, single-minded, and born a couple of hundred years earlier. When I got older, though, I realized that my affection for these men was not shared by everyone.Read more »