Listen to a short interview with Karen Ordahl KuppermanHost: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane
Captain John Smith's 1607 voyage to Jamestown was not his first trip abroad. He had traveled throughout Europe, been sold as a war captive in Turkey, escaped, and returned to England in time to join the Virginia Company's colonizing project. In Jamestown migrants, merchants, and soldiers who had also sailed to the distant shores of the Ottoman Empire, Africa, and Ireland in search of new beginnings encountered Indians who already possessed broad understanding of Europeans. Experience of foreign environments and cultures had sharpened survival instincts on all sides and aroused challenging questions about human nature and its potential for transformation.
It is against this enlarged temporal and geographic background that Jamestown dramatically emerges in Karen Kupperman's breathtaking study. Reconfiguring the national myth of Jamestown's failure, she shows how the settlement's distinctly messy first decade actually represents a period of ferment in which individuals were learning how to make a colony work. Despite the settlers' dependence on the Chesapeake Algonquians and strained relations with their London backers, they forged a tenacious colony that survived where others had failed. Indeed, the structures and practices that evolved through trial and error in Virginia would become the model for all successful English colonies, including Plymouth.
Capturing England's intoxication with a wider world through ballads, plays, and paintings, and the stark reality of Jamestownfor Indians and Europeans alikethrough the words of its inhabitants as well as archeological and environmental evidence, Kupperman re-creates these formative years with astonishing detail.
Karen Ordahl Kupperman is Silver Professor of History at New York University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Creation Myths
1. Elizabethan England Engages the World
2. Adventurers, Opportunities, and Improvisation
3. Indian Experience of the Atlantic
4. English Hunger for the New
5. Grasping America's Contours
6. A Welter of Colonial Projects
7. Jamestown's Uncertain Beginnings
8. The Project Revised
9. James Cittie in Virginia
What People are Saying About This
Daniel K. Richter
If anyone is equipped to say something really new about Jamestown at its four hundredth anniversary, it is Karen Kupperman, with her deep knowledge of early modern colonial ventures of all sorts. This marvelous book teaches us why our usual way of thinking about Jamestown as the "first English colony" is utterly wrong--and why, nonetheless, Jamestown invented patterns that every other English colony would follow. Daniel K. Richter, author of Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America
Peter C. Mancall
Americans have too long obscured Jamestown's history by shrouding it in nationalistic myths and overwrought stories of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. With extraordinary skill, Karen Ordahl Kupperman corrects the record by placing the settlement into its proper context as one among a number of early modern English ventures. Happy Four Hundredth Birthday, Jamestown: you now have the history you have always deserved. Peter C. Mancall, author, Hakluyt's Promise: An Elizabethan's Obsession for an English America
The Jamestown Project is the culmination of nearly everything that Karen Kupperman has written in the last three decades. She makes a compelling case that early Virginia, despite its false starts and appalling mortality, taught the English what successful colonization required. A rare combination of exhaustive research, original ideas, and graceful writing. John Murrin, Princeton University