Bookquick/“Envisioning an English Empire: Jamestown and the Making of the North Atlantic World”

Envisioning an English Empire

Edited by Robert Appelbaum and John Wood Sweet
392 pages, 20 illus.; $59.95 cloth, $24.95 paper

This collection begins by exploring the initial encounters between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians and the relations of both these groups with London. It goes on to examine the international context that defined English colonialism in this period relations with Spain, the Turks, North Africa and Ireland. Finally, it turns to the ways both settlers and Natives were transformed over the course of the 17th century, considering conflicts and exchanges over food, property, slavery and colonial identity.

The founding of an English colony at Jamestown in 1607 was no isolated incident. It was one event among many in the long development of the North Atlantic world. Ireland, Spain, Morocco, West Africa, Turkey and the Native federations of North America all played a role alongside the Virginia Company in London and English settlers on the ground. English proponents of empire responded as much to fears of Spanish ambitions, fantasies about discovering gold and dreams of easily dominating the region s Natives as they did to the grim lessons of earlier, failed outposts in North America. Developments in trade and technology, in diplomatic relations and ideology, in agricultural practices and property relations were as crucial as the self-consciously combative adventurers who initially set sail for the Chesapeake.

This multifaceted view of the history of Jamestown includes the writings of Captain John Smith, the experience of Powhatans in London, the letters home of a disappointed indentured servant and the ethnographic texts of early explorers.

Robert Appelbaum is a lecturer at Lancaster University and is the author of Literature and Utopian Politics in Seventeenth-Century England.  John Wood Sweet teaches history at the University of North Carolina.

Originally published on March 31, 2005