Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith?

Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith?

by J. A. Leo Lemay
     
 

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By the mid-nineteenth century, Captain John Smith, the early colonial explorer and settler, was a well-known figure in American history. The story of how, in 1607, the Powhatan princess Pocahontas saved him from execution by her tribe appeared in all the standard American histories. Numerous plays, novels, and poems were devoted to the episode. Starting in the

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Overview

By the mid-nineteenth century, Captain John Smith, the early colonial explorer and settler, was a well-known figure in American history. The story of how, in 1607, the Powhatan princess Pocahontas saved him from execution by her tribe appeared in all the standard American histories. Numerous plays, novels, and poems were devoted to the episode. Starting in the 1860s, however, scholars began to question Smith’s published accounts of the Pocahontas incident, and a controversy ensued, with Henry Adams becoming Smith’s most famous detractor. Today many scholars continue to regard Smith as a vainglorious braggart who lied about his rescue.

J. A. Leo Lemay offers the first full analysis of the historiography of this debate. Examining all of the primary and secondary evidence, he persuasively demonstrates that the incident did in fact occur. A tightly argued study, Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith? not only refutes the outright skeptics; it effectively reverses the prevailing judgment that the truth will never be known.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lemay has provided the most thorough study to date of the crucial documents concerning Pocahontas’s supposed rescue of John Smith.”—William and Mary Quarterly

“His examination of his sources is quite thorough and illuminates both the time period in which the Smith/Pocahontas episode occurred and the process of nineteenth-century historical debate.”—Southern Historian

Library Journal
The veracity of John Smith's account of his romantic 1607 rescue by Pochahontas was first challenged in the 1860s by essayist Henry Adams and historian Charles Deane. In this meticulous review of the sources of the controversy, author Lemay endeavors to show that the incident actually happened. He succeeds primarily by applying logic to his analysis of the texts by Smith and those of his 19th-century supporters and detractors. Lemay strengthens his argument by showing that none of Smith's contemporaries, Native American or English, was ever quoted as disagreeing with his account of the incident. While this is no longer a burning question in many circles, Lemay's study is appropriate for libraries with historiography collections.-- Mary B. Davis, Huntington Free Lib., Bronx, New York
Booknews
An historical analysis of the validity of the famous Pocahontas story. By the 1860s, scholars began doubting the details. This analysis concludes that Captain John Smith spoke the truth. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820336282
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Pages:
168
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

J. A. Leo Lemay was the H. F. du Pont Winterthur Professor of English at the University of Delaware. He was the author of numerous books, including The Canon of Benjamin Franklin, 1722–1776: New Attributions and Reconsiderations; Robert Bolling Woos Anne Miller: Love and Courtship in Colonial Virginia, 1760; The American Dream of Captain John Smith; and An Early American Reader.

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