America's founding myth tells of the Puritans landing in wild, uncharted lands. Yet a French explorer had already mapped the territory in exquisite detail.
The richness of French history in North America has been neglected in recent generations, although there was once a time, not so many generations ago, when names like Champlain and Verrazano (who sailed for France, and named Rhode Island) were remembered with enthusiasm. It would not quite be right to call Champlain obscure--after all, he has an enormous lake named after him. But for most of us, he sits on a list of explorers and early settlers to be memorized somewhere around age 13, and then forgotten.