Jamestown

November 28, 2020 at 7:39 pm (Reviews, Education) (, , , , , , , , , , )

We spent the month of October studying Jamestown, Pocahontas, and John Smith. We also read a few things on Galileo, since he was making discoveries and writing books around the same time and we enjoy getting a whole big picture of the world perspective when we study any place or time period.

So, for a big, big, big picture perspective, I read Her Majesty’s Spymaster by Stephen Budiansky first, to take me from all the mysteries surrounding Roanoke through British and Spanish politics, espionage, and intrigue, and into the reign of King James.

From there, I tackled Love and Hate in Jamestown by David A. Price. I loved this book. I think Price thinks very highly of John Smith and it shows, but I also think the author tackled the subject like a true historian: with a lot of source documents and an appreciation for the fact that all human beings typically have virtues as well as character flaws. Too many tend to portray people as all good or all bad, depending on their political leanings, personal preferences, and limited knowledge/ understanding of humanity.

I couldn’t put Price’s book down and I’m honestly astounded there are less than five star reviews on Goodreads because I just adored this account so much. It is well-balanced, thoroughly researched, and presented in a riveting manner. I think Price treated each historical figure with respect and honesty.

After this, naturally, we binge read everything we could get our hands on about Pocahontas. From D’Aulaire’s beautiful (though, apparently now controversial?) picture book, to Linwood Custalow’s “True Story” of Pocahontas, which to me reads like a propaganda piece about how all natives are saints and all white men were terrible… Obviously, these sorts of narratives (especially when poorly written) don’t sit well with me. I would love to read a Native American who is also a historian tackling this subject. I was disappointed in Custalow’s ranting, but am sure (because history is always documented by the “winners”) that some part of the truth lies in the middle and I’m dying to know which parts are the truths.

That desire for truth and clarity led me to Helen C. Rountree‘s The Powhatan Indians of Virginia, which is brilliant! I highly recommend her work for anyone looking for an authoritative voice on the natives of Virginia. Her research is so thorough and respectful she was made an honorary member of the Nansemond and Upper Mattaponi tribes. I appreciate that she is well-educated, articulate, and has the stamp of approval to share cultural context that allows us to understand what was going on between the lines of the source documents we’re accustomed to reading, like John Smith’s own book.

And like a flash, we moved onto William Bradford in time for Thanksgiving…

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