Friday, May 18, 2007

The Jamestown Project

Not exactly on time – the settlers landed on May 14th – but darn close to the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first successful British settlement in the New World comes The Jamestown Project by Karen Kupperman. As schoolchildren we got the brief mention of Jamestown, and the love story between John Smith and Pocahontas, but did we hear the real story? Did we get the details of how the colony was founded, how it managed to survive starvation, disease and ignorance? And more importantly, did we hear how the British attempts to establish an American colony fit into the geopolitical situation of the time? Well, probably not, because we were in 4th grade, and it’s hard to make a diorama of all that. But it’s never too late to learn, and Kupperman tells an interesting story with her new book. She presents a very thorough picture of what the situation was in Europe, and particularly England, that drove this expansion into North America. She also discusses the contacts that Atlantic Coast Native Americans had with Europeans prior to the settlement of Jamestown. This is not a part of American history that gets a lot notice, and the recent widespread attention (due to the anniversary) is long overdue.