Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Tales from a Revolution: Bacon's Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Tales from a Revolution: Bacon's Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America

Article excerpt

Tales from a Revolution: Bacon's Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America. By James D. Rice. New Narratives in American History. (New York and other cities: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. [xxii], 253. $24.95, ISBN 978-0-19-538695-0.)

James D. Rice's Tales from a Revolution: Bacon's Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America examines rumor and innuendo and places the events into a much wider context in a narrative that is highly accessible. Rice has chosen to use single endnotes covering what he calls "gateway publications" that introduce readers to recent secondary scholarship and published primary sources (p. xix). The work is divided into two parts; the first includes the rise of the rebellion as well as the death of Nathaniel Bacon. The second part covers the aftermath, including John Coode's rebellion in Maryland in 1689 and the specter of a "Catholic-Indian plot" (p. 154).

Rice is very successful in weaving a tale with equal parts lyrical prose and intrigue. Part 1, "The Uproars of Virginia," begins with a discussion of the anxious times that led to the rise of Nathaniel Bacon, particularly the Doeg tribe's argument with Thomas Mathew over trade goods. With its romantic language, Rice's telling of the Doegs' retaliation against Mathew sets this book apart from others. For example, Rice's description of the Doegs as "a half-dozen men in each canoe, wearing breechclouts and perhaps soggy moccasins, their hair grown long on one side and plucked on the other, looking as if they were bom with paddles in their hands" adds elements of narrative prose to the timeline of events that have dominated the colonial historiography for many generations (p. 5). The tale highlights the anxious times and notably includes the backstory of the native actors: the Doegs, Iroquois, Pamunkeys, Susquehannocks, Piscataways, and others who participated in trade that led to upheaval in the Piedmont. Rice introduces the tensions present in the trade relationship between Englishman Abraham Wood and the Occaneechees, and later describes Nathaniel Bacon's ties to trader William Byrd. …

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