Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures

By Frederic W. Gleach | Go to book overview

Preface

THE READER MIGHT well wonder, after decades of research and numerous recent publications on the Powhatans and colonial Virginia, what more could be said on the subject. I have repeatedly asked that question myself in the course of researching, writing, and revising this book, but the answer was always there. After years of archaeological and ethnohistorical research in Virginia and elsewhere, followed by extensive studies of the histories of Algonquian and other Native American peoples, and discussions with individual Native people, scholars, and others, much of what I thought I knew about the Powhatans no longer seemed correct. Through these experiences I have learned a great deal. I have tried here to use categories of meaning that would have been relevant to the contemporary Powhatans and colonists, rather than to import categories of meaning arbitrarily from the present. My emphasis is on the role of world-view in the construction of history, not primarily on facts or points of history but on ideas and understandings. These are necessarily fuzzier and harder to document, even within one's own cultural context, and doubly so when attempting to understand another culture, as both the native and the colonial cultures must be considered. Chapters discussing the colonial history are thus preceded by and interwoven with discussions of cultural understandings and institutions for both the Powhatans and the colonists.

One goal of this work is to better explicate some of the meanings of certain events in seventeenth-century Virginia (and, as I shall develop, I don't believe one can speak of the meaning of anything, but only of selected meanings), but this goal is embedded in a larger project of understanding the colonial and postcolonial experiences of eastern North America. My frameworks for interpreting the English are thus drawn from a background that encompasses more than those Englishmen who came to Virginia, and my Powhatan frameworks are based on more general understandings of Algonquian peoples. Just as we must use our knowledge of the history and

-vii-

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Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Methodology and Previous Research 1
  • 1 - The Native Context 22
  • 2 - The English Colonial Context 61
  • 3 - Prolegomena 88
  • 4 - The Birth of Virginia in Tsenacommacah 106
  • 5 - Virginia Before the 1622 Coup 123
  • The Great Massacre of 1622 148
  • 7 - Virginia Between the Coups 159
  • 8 - The Coup of 1644 and Its Aftermath 174
  • 9 - A Survey of Virginia Indian Relations After 1646 184
  • Conclusion 199
  • Introduction 207
  • References 213
  • Index 235
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