The dissolution of the ill-starred Virginia Company in 1624 left Virginia -- now England's first royal colony -- without a formal raison d'etre. Most historians have suggested that the nascent local societies were anarchic, under the thrall of violent and unscrupulous men.
James Perry asserts the opposite: The Formation of a Society on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1615-1655 depicts emergent social cohesion. In a model of network analysis, Perry mines county court records to trace landholders through four decades -- their land, families, neighborhoods, local and offshore economic relations, and institutions. A wealth of statistics documents their development from rudimentary beginnings to a more highly articulated society capable of resolving conflict and working toward communal good.
Perry's methodology will serve as a model for analyzing other new settlements, particularly those lacking the close-knit religious bonds and contractual foundations of New England towns. His conclusions will reshape notions of the development of early Chesapeake society.
Originally published in 1990.
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