The Jamestown Project

Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Author . Harvard/Belknap $29.95 (380p) ISBN 978-0-674-02474-8

The Jamestown story needs retelling, says NYU historian Kupperman (Providence Island ) not just because 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of its settlement. It also needs retelling because Americans tend to locate our origins in Plymouth and distance ourselves from Jamestown, which we associate with "greedy, grasping colonists" backed by "arrogant" English patrons. The first decade of Jamestown's history was messy, admits Kupperman, but through that mess, settlers figured out how to make colonization work. Plymouth, in fact, benefited from the lessons learned at Jamestown. What is remarkable is that a colonial outpost on the edge of Virginia, in a not very hospitable location, survived at all. Kupperman, of course, shows how the colonists negotiated relationships with Indians. But her more innovative chapters focus on labor. Colonists began experimenting with tobacco, and colonial elites gradually realized that people were more willing to work when they were laboring for themselves. Backers in England began to think more flexibly about how to create colonial profits. But the dark side of this success story is the institution of indentured servitude, which proved key to Jamestown's success. Kupperman, marrying vivid narration with trenchant analysis, has done the history of Jamestown, and of early America, a great service. 41 b&w illus. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Ebook - 391 pages - 978-0-674-02702-2
Paperback - 392 pages - 978-0-674-03056-5
Open Ebook - 391 pages - 978-0-674-03982-7
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