The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550-1624

The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550-1624

The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550-1624

The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550-1624


In response to the global turn in scholarship on colonial and early modern history, the eighteen essays in this volume provide a fresh and much-needed perspective on the wider context of the encounter between the inhabitants of precolonial Virginia and the English. This collection offers an interdisciplinary consideration of developments in Native America, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Chesapeake, highlighting the mosaic of regions and influences that formed the context and impetus for the English settlement at Jamestown in 1607. The volume reflects an understanding of Jamestown not as the birthplace of democracy in America but as the creation of a European outpost in a neighborhood that included Africans, Native Americans, and other Europeans.

With contributions from both prominent and rising scholars, this volume offers far-ranging and compelling studies of peoples, texts, places, and conditions that influenced the making of New World societies. As Jamestown marks its four-hundredth anniversary, this collection provides provocative material for teaching and launching new research.


The local inhabitants of Tsenacommacah, the Paspaheghs, knew their environment well. They used the best lands in the region for their home sites and fields, knew where to hunt and fish nearby, and eschewed swamp land since it attracted mosquitoes and could not be farmed. Hence, in the spring of 1607, they must have viewed askance the group of English colonizers who had sailed up the Chesapeake to establish a fortified camp on a marshy island that the Indians deemed unworthy of settling themselves. It was not much of a village, nor did the newcomers seem like much of a threat to the Powhatan Confederacy that dominated the peoples of Tsenacommacah. But unlike earlier English visitors who had arrived farther south in the mid1580s at Roanoke in modern-day North Carolina, these immigrants proved to have more staying power. Despite difficult times at first, including periodic confrontations between the Powhatans and the English, the settlement named after King James survived. It became a permanent intrusion into In-

This volume grew from a remarkable and innovative conference sponsored by the Omo
hundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Fredrika J. Teute designed
the conference and subsequently played a crucial role in developing the individual
essays here and the overall concept of the volume. Her energy led to a genuine circum
Atlantic effort and, in the process, made a lasting contribution to our understanding of
the early modern world. Her vision for this book and wise counsel were invaluable for
me from the moment I joined the project. I also want to thank Daniel H. Usner, Jr., and
the other reviewers, who each provided detailed analyses of specific essays and helped
the authors develop their arguments for this collection. Ron Hoffman, in addition to
his role in the organization of the conference, also shaped particular essays here. Kathy
Burdette performed remarkable copy-editing, and Mendy C. Gladden provided cru
cial support throughout the process of organizing the volume. All of the essays in this
collection have benefited from the rigorous and thoughtful insights that are defining
elements of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture’s publi
cation program.

In developing this introduction, I thank Lisa Bitel, Fredrika J. Teute, and Kathy
Burdette for their extraordinary efforts, as well as the Huntington Library for permis
sion to reproduce the images here.

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