Parkman, Francis (1823-1893), a United States historian. Parkman's many-volumed narrative of the rise and fall of the French in North America is one of the finest works of American history. These volumes, published between 1865 and 1892, combine thorough research with a vivid, dramatic, literary-style. Parkman completed the work only after great effort, since ill health plagued him throughout his adult life. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1915.
Parkman's history begins with the explorations that took the French from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to the mouth of the Mississippi. Their progress and decline are traced through such figures as Champlain, La Salle, Frontenac, and Montcalm, until the fall of New France in the French and Indian War. Parkman was one of the first to write with understanding about the American Indians.
Parkman was born in Boston into a well-to-do and prominent family. He graduated from Harvard College in 1844 and from Harvard Law School in 1846, but never practiced law. In 1846 Parkman traveled on the Oregon Trail as far as Fort Laramie. In The Oregon Trail (1849), he described the lives of pioneers and Indians.
In 1848, Parkman began work on his History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac (2 volumes, 1851). Illness interrupted his historical writing in the 1850's. He developed an interest in horticulture and wrote a novel before improved health allowed him to resume research for his multivolume work in the 1860's.
Parkman's historical series consists of: Pioneers of France in the New World (1865); The Jesuits in North America (1867); La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West (1869); The old Regime in Canada (1874); Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV (1877); Montcalm and Wolfe (2 volumes, 1884); and A Half-Century of Conflict (2 volumes, 1892).