From the same team at National Geographic who brought us Mayflower 1620 and 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, comes an important book about the FIRST permanent English colony in North America, Jamestown. The story of Plymouth is told and retold in the children’s books and history texts. Jamestown always seems to come in as an afterthought, or footnote.

There are many reasons for that, some of them logical, some simply prejudice. Plymouth is in New England. New England has dominated the school movement in America, ergo. . . The north won the war and gets to write the textbooks.

There are other, more logical reasons. The location of the Plymouth colony still survives, and has been rebuilt as an interpretive, living history museum. The location of Jamestown was thought to be lost, swallowed by the meandering James River. But in 1994, the original site of the Jamestown settlement was discovered on a small rise on the banks of the river. It had not crumbled into the water, after all. Over the past 14 years, over a million artifacts have been recovered, along with the foundations of the fort. This book includes photographs of the site and the recovery and restoration work, along with some arresting photographs of re-enactors taking the part of the early colonists.

The other reason for the relative neglect suffered by the history of Jamestown is that its story is even darker and more depressing than the struggles of Plymouth. At Plymouth, half the settlers died in the first winter. At Jamestown, three-fourths of all those who arrived between 1607 and 1625 were dead before 1626. At Jamestown, the conflict between settlers and Indians began early and never abated. There were murderous attacks by both sides.

But there is a positive side to Jamestown as well. Like Plymouth it is a story of perseverance and courage and independence. Although the settlers began with all of the class distinctions of English society, they quickly learned that in the struggle for survival, all men must labor side by side. A certain egalitarian spirit quickly developed.

The chapters in this book have the following titles:

  • Strangers in a Strange Land
  • A Native American Empire
  • The Dying Times
  • Green Gold
  • Winners Take All
  • A New Look at Jamestown

To adequately understand the history of the founding of the English colonies in America, it is important to understand Jamestown, as well as Plymouth.

National Geographic has done an admirable job of presenting a balanced account of that colony named for King James I of England – the first permanent English settlement in North America.

1607: A New Look at Jamestown is a hardback, 48 pages. The price is $17.95, direct from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer,
Publisher, Greenleaf Press