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Ghost Empire:
How the French Almost Conquered North America

by Philip Marchand

ISBN 0275994171 / 9780275994174 / 0-275-99417-1
Publisher Praeger
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

After he explored the Great Lakes and the entire Mississippi, Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was murdered by his own men when he led them on a disastrous mission to Texas. But the vast land he claimed for France in 1682 could have becomehad it not been for a few twists of historya French-speaking empire extending more than a thousand miles beyond Quebec. This alternative North America would have been Catholic in religion and granted Native peoples a prominent role.

Philip Marchand probes the intriguingly flawed character of La Salle and recounts the astonishing history of the Jesuit missionaries, coureurs de bois, fur traders, and soldiers who followed on his heels, and of the Indian nations with whom they came into contact. He also reports on the ways in which the drama of this ghost empire continues to be played out in battle reenactments and in parish churches and wayside restaurants from Montreal to Venice, Louisiana. Throughout the book, Marchand draws on memories of his own Catholic childhood in Massachusetts to interpret the lingering attitudes, fears, hopes, and iconography of a people who, more deeply than most, feel the burdens and the ironies of history.

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