The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606-1700

The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606-1700

The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606-1700

The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606-1700

Synopsis

Since its original publication in 1975, The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century has become an important teaching tool and research volume. Warren Billings brings together more than 200 period documents, organized topically, with each chapter introduced by an interpretive essay. Topics include the settlement of Jamestown, the evolution of government and the structure of society, forced labor, the economy, Indian-Anglo relations, and Bacon's Rebellion. This revised, expanded, and updated edition adds approximately 30 additional documents, extending the chronological reach to 1700. Freshly rethought chapter introductions and suggested readings incorporate the vast scholarship of the past 30 years. New illustrations of seventeenth-century artifacts and buildings enrich the texts with recent archaeological findings. With these enhancements, and a full index, students, scholars, and those interested in early Virginia will find these documents even more enlightening.

Excerpt

Of all the books I have crafted, The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century stands apart for me. It was my first book. Fashioning it instructed me in methods of documentary rendition, ways of organizing antique texts thematically, and techniques of introducing both themes and documents to readers. The book also won the imprimatur of the (now) Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, which was no small prize for a quite junior historian who taught at a fledgling public university deep in the South. Working with the Institute staff, who cheerfully held me to exacting standards of excellence, I learned much about how books came to be and the immense value of close, cordial partnerships between authors and editors. Those were lessons that I carry with me to this day.

In its original configuration, The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century consisted of some two hundred primary documents, the majority of which had never been published previously. I organized the documents topically into ten chapters, each of which I introduced with an interpretative essay and a bibliography of additional readings drawn from the prevailing scholarly literature. Those essays summarized the particular feature covered in a given chapter and placed its illustrative documents in context. Taken together, the essays constituted a concise history of the Old Dominion down to 1689, and they represented my earliest attempts at depicting colonial Virginians and their world in an extended fashion.

When the book came off the press in 1975, the great mass of Virginia’s extant colonial-era manuscripts still lay tucked away in local courthouses and repositories that ranged across the commonwealth to Great Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere in the United States. They had been lightly used, if at all. Some of those records already existed in microform, and others were being filmed regularly, but such photocopies were themselves not well known or broadly accessible. Then too, printed collections of documents, which had appeared from time to time over the previous 150 years, were also long out of print. Thus, the book responded to a desire to make the documentary record more conveniently available to researchers. Chiefly, I wanted to acquaint students with a sampling of the basic raw materials to the end “that, by the time [those] who read this book have digested . . .

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