David Busseret

Fellow of the Society for the History of Discoveries


The Society for the History of Discoveries honors this year a man who is a leading scholar of French history, West Indian history, the history of cartography, and geographical exploration and discovery.  He is the author, co-author, or editor of thirty books, over sixty articles, book chapters, and pamphlets, and numerous reviews that have appeared in major journals such as The American Historical Review, The English Historical Review, Journal of Modern History, Imago Mundi, La Revue Historique, and Terrae Incognitae.  David Buisseret earned his Ph.D. degree at Cambridge University in 1961 with a dissertation titled “Sully and the Development of a National Administration of France, 1598-1610.”  He taught at the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus) from 1964 until 1980; from 1980 to 1995, he was Director of the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library in Chicago; and from 1995 until his retirement in 2006 he held the first Jenkins and Virginia Garrett Professorship in Southwestern Studies and the History of Cartography at the University of Texas at Arlington.

David Buisseret was born on December 18, 1934 in Totland Bay, Isle of Wight, England, and, after an early education at Woodbridge School in Suffolk, he won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College at Cambridge University.  His education was interrupted by National Service between 1953 and 1955, during which he served in the British army in Egypt, afterward training as a pilot in the RAFVR. After the military, he entered Cambridge and received his degree in history in 1958.  During the next three years, he was a Donaldson Research Scholar at Cambridge, which allowed him to complete his doctoral dissertation.

It is impossible to list in this citation all the books David Buisseret has penned, but, to say the least, they cover a variety of topics over a wide period of time.  His first book in 1969 was his dissertation on Sully. Also in 1969, he published the first edition of Historic Jamaica From the Air (a later edition has been released).  He published Historic Architecture of the Caribbean in 1980, Henry IV in 1984, and Historic Illinois from the Air in 1990.  In 1992, he edited Monarchs, Ministers and Maps: The Emergence of Cartography as a Tool of Government in Early Modern Europe (this is the title of a major exhibit held at the Newberry Library).  Another edited volume published in 1998 was Envisioning the City: Six Studies in Urban Cartography.  The Mapmakers’ Quest: Depicting New Worlds in Renaissance Europe was published in 2003.  Articles in journals and book chapters are even more varied:  “The Irish at Paris in 1603” (Irish Historical Studies, 1964) is an example.  David Buisseret writes as fluently in French as he does English, and his list of publications is studded not only with articles in French, but also about French activities in Europe and the Caribbean.

Being named Fellow of the Society for the History of Discoveries is only the latest honor that David Buisseret has received in his career.  The Institut de France in Paris in 1972 awarded his first volume of Sully’s memoirs its premier médaille.  In 1977, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he received the Centennial Medal of the Institute of Jamaica in 1979, and, in 1993, he was appointed Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government.

Our honoree married Patricia Connolly in 1961 in Chicago, Illinois, and they are the parents of two girls, Kate and Claire, and three boys, Timothy, Mark and Paul.  Because she has attended almost all of the society’s annual meetings, members of the society know Pat almost as well as they do David.

In addition to an impressive publication record, David Buisseret has served as a consultant in architectural and historical matters for the Barbados Conservation Association; he has been a member of the Jamaica National Trust Commission, a member of the Chicago Maritime Society board of directors; he served as editor of The Jamaican Historical Review (1968-1980), and was on the editorial boards for the Columbus Encyclopedia (1988-1991), and Exploration of North America (1988-1992), funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH).

David Buisseret was elected Vice President (1989-1990), and President (1991-1992) of the Society for the History of Discoveries, and from 1982 to the present-day he has been the editor of the society’s journal, Terrae Incognitae.  Editing twenty-four annual volumes of Terrae Incognitae to most people would be a full-time job, but during this time period, he has written articles and books, taught classes, served a variety of organizations in a number of capacities (including the job as Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas Map Society), and in 2000, he was appointed the Chief Editor of the forthcoming Oxford Companion to World Exploration, which will appear in 2007 and consist of almost 1,000 pages.  It is doubtful that anyone else in the SHD has ever been as fruitfully busy as David Buisseret.

For his superb scholarly contributions to the study of both seventeenth-century French history and Caribbean history, his work as Director of the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library, his long, ongoing and distinguished record of publications on early modern France, his publications regarding the history of cartography, his tireless work on behalf of the SHD as an officer, and his twenty-four years as editor of its journal, Terrae Incognitae, we honor David Buisseret, and name him FSHD – Fellow of the Society for the History of Discoveries.

Forty-seventh Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries
Portland, Oregon
September 8, 2006

Prepared by Sanford H. Bederman



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