cover image A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America

A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America

James Horn, . . Basic, $26 (337pp) ISBN 978-0-465-03094-1

Horn, who heads the library at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, offers a history that will put Plymouth in its place. Not only was Jamestown settled before Plymouth, in 1607, but, says Horn, it was the seedbed of many themes, both glorious (representative government) and tragic (imperialism), that run through American history. In this detailed narrative of Jamestown's first 18 years, Horn focuses primarily on the relationship between the English settlers and the Native Americans. (He gives disappointingly scant attention to the first Africans' arrival in 1619.) Jamestown was the first English colony in North America to succeed; that success was "disastrous" for the Indians. The town leader John Smith figures prominently in Horn's tale. Smith's own written recollection of his captivity by Indians is the source for the well-known story that a young Pocahontas saved his life; Horn dismisses Smith's account as implausibly exaggerated. In Horn's view, a pivotal point in Indian-Anglo relations was the Powhatan uprising of 1622. Any hope that the English might partner with the Indians against Spain and treat them with kindness or justice was killed—thereafter, the settlers were determined to exclude the Indians from their new commonwealth. 12 b&w illus., 6 maps. Agent, Michael Carlisle . (Oct. 1)