Reviews prepared by staff members of the Library of Virginia
Sara B. Bearss, Editor
David A. Price. Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. 305 pp. $25.95 (hardcover).
John Smith and Pocahontas have been intertwined in history and mythology since their first meeting almost 400 years ago. Smith, captive of the Indian princess's father Powhatan, lay bound with his head on a stone, waiting for his brains to be bashed out. Pocahontas, the paramount chief's twelve-year-old daughter, rushed forward and placed herself between Smith and his doom. So the story has come down to the present, and many who know nothing else of Jamestown know this tale. Disney gave it the official seal of American legend when it produced the animated movie Pocahontas in 1995.
Although some historians have dismissed Smith's account as fiction, David A. Price accepts his version at face value, and Price's Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation revolves around the Smith- Pocahontas relationship forged in this encounter. Smith, Pocahontas, and their relationship, Price maintains, were crucial to the survival of the young and struggling English colony at Jamestown. While Price draws in the other significant events at Jamestown — the starving times, John Rolfe's cultivation of tobacco, the arrival of Africans in Virginia, and the Powhatan uprising of 1622, among others — his tale returns to these two people. Smith is the epitome of the tough English explorer, brave and strong, determined to push the struggling colony to ensure its survival. Pocahontas reveals a strong streak of independence as she is willing to befriend Smith, warn him of dangers to the colony from her own father, and eventually marry John Rolfe.
When Smith leaves Virginia for England, Pocahontas and her people are told that he has died. Pocahontas avoids the English settlement for years afterward until she is captured by the English. They treat her kindly, and she converts to Christianity before marrying Rolfe. With the marriage, Pocahontas yet again saves the colony from her father when he acquiesces in the union and promises peace. The young woman's tale ends poignantly when, as Rebecca Rolfe, she travels to England, has a last interview with her friend Smith, and then dies. After his return to England, Smith fails in efforts to return to the land that so intrigued him.
Love and Hate in Jamestown adds little new information on the early days of the Virginia colony, but it is readable and serves as a good introduction to the characters and events of the day. Price's John Smith and Pocahontas are crucial to the survival of Jamestown, and his work reminds the reader that it is people who make history.
— reviewed by Trenton E. Hizer, Private Papers Archivist
April Lee Hatfield. Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. 312 pp. $39.95 (hardcover).
The history of the Virginia colony sometimes leaves one with the impression that the establishment of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown was an isolated event. Intellectually, we know that by 1607 Spain had been in the New World for about a hundred years and that in 1534 the French claimed Canada and by 1600 were embarking on a lucrative fur trade there. We understand that the English were latecomers hoping to catch up in a game long underway. Still, these earlier events all become deep background as the first wave of English colonists struggled to maintain their tiny fort against tremendous dangers and hardships, enduring starvation, Indian attacks, and disease. The drama draws our gaze inward, focusing tightly on their fight for survival, the slow growth of plantations along the rivers and streams, and the creeping expansion north and westward. With sea behind and wilderness spreading in all other directions, it is easy to lose context, to think of the Jamestown venture somehow as a first foray into the New World, to forget that this English outpost, isolated from other European settlements by hundreds of miles to the north and south, was not unique in its founding and occurred after much of America had become a place very familiar to a great many Europeans.
Maps tell the story best. A drawing from one of the earliest atlases of the New World, prepared by Abraham Ortelius in 1587, depicts the French settlements in Newfoundland and, beginning at the southern half of North America, below the fortieth parallel, identi- fies the mountains, rivers, lakes, and Spanish and Portuguese settlements extending through Central and South America to Terra del Fuego. Drawn as a peninsula, California already exists as a territory, as do Mexico, Chile, and Brazil. Numerous identifications noted particularly on the rim of the continent extend toward the interior. The American continents drawn by the cartographers Willem Blaeu and John Speed in the 1620s are heavily mapped with hundreds of inscriptions plus decorative panels along the vertical sides showcasing indigenous Indians in native apparel. By this time the interior was also densely annotated, an exception being the great stretch of Terra Incognita expanding westward toward California from the English outpost at Virginia.
This quick glance suggests what April Lee Hatfield's book goes to lengths to convey: English adventurers did not venture into an unknown. Their entry into the New World was conceived at least in part as a challenge to Spanish dominance, and they had the Spanish and French experiences from which to profit. In 1583 William Brome's Spanish Colonie, or Briefe Chronicle of the actes and gestes of the Spaniardes in the West Indies was published in London, one of many examples of the literature that had grown up around European exploration, trade, and conquest since the time of Columbus. Famous among the early depictions of the peoples of the New World were the engravings by Theodor de Bry. Beginning in 1590, he issued a series of translations of accounts of the New World, including a narrative by Thomas Hariot that was illustrated by John White. Both men accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh on his failed attempt to establish an English colony in America. Engravings of White's watercolors were seen across Europe, further familiarizing the average citizen with the exotic New World.
In Atlantic Virginia, Hatfield directs our gaze outward, or better, widens the lens. She argues that the tendency in seventeenth-century historiography has been to examine individual English colonies in isolation and to neglect the economic and political connections between colonies or beyond the Chesapeake. She stresses that the average Virginian of the period did not see himself as isolated but understood that the rivers and streams along which the first farms were planted were arteries that led not only into the interior but also back to England and England's other colonies, to other countries, and, as settlement continued on the mainland, to neighboring colonies. Seventeenth-century life was not lived in a vacuum; a colony was not an island. Age-old travel routes in the interior were used by Europeans as well as Native Americans for movement within and between colonies. A web of transatlantic and intercolonial trade sea routes linked Virginia to such important English colonies in the Caribbean as Barbados, to settlements along the Atlantic coast in New Netherland or New England, and to Dutch traders. Religious migrations and the slave trade established further contacts between the colony and the Atlantic world.
A provocative book, Atlantic Virginia reminds the reader of the larger context in which the English experiment in the New World took place and argues persuasively for historians to consider seventeenthcentury Virginia from this enlarged perspective.
— reviewed by Donald W. Gunter, Assistant Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Anthony S. Parent, Jr. Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2003. xiv + 291 pp. $49.95 (hardcover); $18.95 (softcover).
Between the middle of the seventeenth century and the middle of the eighteenth century the absolute number and relative importance of enslaved laborers in Virginia grew rapidly, and the proportion of enslaved to free agricultural laborers also rose. The enslaved laborers were all of African origin or descent. That alteration in the nature of the agricultural workforce was the most important change in the colony during those decades, and it had ripple effects that changed nearly everything else, from laws to social customs, from relations between the races to the dynamics of the class structure. The effects of those changes are well documented in scholarship on the economic, legal, political, and social history of eighteenth-century Virginia. How those changes took place is the main topic of this scathing indictment of the Virginia planters who made the major decisions that produced the changes.
As a few colonial families became great landed families, they entrenched themselves in privileged positions and dramatically widened the gap between the size of their landholdings (and their corresponding political and social power) and the wealth of the majority of colonists who owned small farms and owned or hired few or no laborers. The great planter families dominated local and provincial government offices, wrote and administered the laws, and solidified their superior economic and social status. The greater the great families became, the greater their labor requirements and the more profitable they perceived lifetime chattel racial slavery to be. Importation of slaves soared, placing farmers and small planters with less easy access to affordable labor at a greater competitive disadvantage. The entire culture adapted to the presence of a large population of enslaved laborers who worked under a brutal legal and economic system that denied them all of the rights and benefits that the owners claimed for themselves.
As presented in this account, the great Virginia planters of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were amoral economic determinists who deliberately fashioned an immoral economic and social system for their own individual and class benefit. Difficult as it may be for some people to accept this significantly revised depiction of the once-praised colonial elite, Anthony S. Parent, Jr., quotes enough passages from their letters and laws to leave little doubt that those white Virginians knew what they were doing and why. The gentry elites of later eighteenth-century Virginia polished their plantation culture and cultivated their reputations on the backs of enslaved black laborers and at the expense of struggling white farmers.
— reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Tamara Harvey and Greg O'Brien, eds. George Washington's South. Gainesville and Tallahassee: University Press of Florida, 2004. x + 345 pp. $59.95 (hardcover).
This collection of twelve essays by specialists in anthropology, American literature, geography, and history treats interrelated themes linking George Washington with the southern colonies and states. Derived from presentations at a 1999 conference at the University of Southern Mississippi, the essays range widely across the spectrum of recent scholarly interests. They explore how established elites dealt with inhabitants on the frontier; how people of different races, ages, and genders acted and reacted to one another; how English-speaking people and Native Americans sparred for access to the best lands in the South; and how Washington sometimes influenced the course of events and sometimes reacted to events that took place outside his influence.
Many of the contributors are working on larger studies of which these essays form preliminary reports. Very diverse in character and not in all instances equally focused either on Washington or on the region that during his time was coming to be called the South, the essays suggest how scholarship is currently viewing the social, political, and economic dynamics of the second half of the eighteenth century. Among the centers of gravity of that scholarship are gender relations, the role of slavery in the new nation, and how relations with the Indians and the seemingly irresistible westward movement shaped the history of the South in the nineteenth century.
George Washington is usually viewed as a Virginian or an American rather than as a southerner. He almost certainly would have questioned being identified as a regional rather than as a national figure, but contemplating the intertwined histories of the South and the Father of His Country may further illuminate both interesting subjects.
— reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Katharine E. Harbury. Colonial Virginia's Cooking Dynasty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004. xix + 479 pp. $59.95 (hardcover).
In Colonial Virginia's Cooking Dynasty, Katharine E. Harbury uses four family cookbooks — two from the prominent Randolph family, and two from books with connections to the Randolph family — to examine the role of women in colonial Virginia from about 1700 to 1824. Through studying and comparing an anonymous cookbook dating from about 1700 (probably written by someone connected to the Randolph family), the 1743 cookbook of Jane Bolling Randolph, a 1744 cookbook containing some recipes from the Randolph family, and Mary Randolph Randolph's 1824 Virginia House-Wife, Harbury succeeds in providing a glimpse into the social structure of Virginia. By examining the types of dishes included in each book, the methods of preparation, and the ingredients used, she shows the reader how colonial women employed their knowledge and skill to advance and reinforce the status of their families within society by entertaining guests in the home.
Divided into three parts, Colonial Virginia's Cooking Dynasty addresses household and societal practices in England and colonial Virginia and discusses the use of various foodstuffs. Drawing on English customs and practices of the day, Harbury examines the similarities and differences in the content, preparation, and presentation of meals in colonial Virginia. Women knew that the reputation and social standing of their family often depended on how the household was run and how guests were entertained. Therefore, the selection of menus and the presentation of meals where guests were present were especially important.
Harbury also discusses the preparation and training women received at home before marriage. Such preparation included household management, food preservation skills, knowledge of herbs and common remedies for illness, and in some cases basic accounting.
The majority of Colonial Virginia's Cooking Dynasty is dedicated to transcriptions (with a modern translation) of the anonymous cookbook dating from about 1700 and "Jane Randolph her Cookery Book, 1743." In a four-column format spread over two pages, Harbury presents the original recipes, comments, and two contemporary versions of the recipe. This format allows for easy reading and understanding of the unfamiliar ingredients and means of preparation often found in the original recipe. Included in the book are not only recipes for foods but also remedies for various ailments.
Colonial Virginia's Cooking Dynasty is an insightful look into the world of women in colonial Virginia. Harbury's discussion of the social differences between England and colonial Virginia are particularly valuable, and the recipes are a joy to read.
— reviewed by Laura E. Drake, State Records Archivist
Jane Turner Censer. The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865-1895. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003. xii + 316 pp. $59.95 (hardcover); $24.95 (softcover).
The outlook of the white elite of the post-Civil War South has often been seen as inherently conservative and even reactionary. While their views on politics and race often lived up to that billing, Jane Turner Censer finds that in the realm of women's rights and status the postwar elite were not as conservative as often portrayed. Contrary to other historians, Censer finds a loosening of some social restrictions, a modest expansion of women's property rights, and the entry of women into new areas of the public sphere, especially through employment and writing. Censer's book mines a wide range of letters, diaries, and other personal papers to examine the lives of elite white women in Virginia and North Carolina. The author augmented this considerable body of evidence with research in county records and newspapers for several representative locales — cotton-growing, coastal Craven County, North Carolina; New Hanover County, North Carolina, a rice-growing community; and Fauquier County, Virginia, a diverse agricultural county in the Piedmont.
Censer illustrates the loosening of social restrictions in myriad areas, from the ability of women to travel unaccompanied by a male escort to their increasing control over whether and whom they would marry. In the home, white women were forced to take control of their domestic arrangements and to become more self-sufficient as their African American servants moved off the plantation and asserted certain rights to their own labor. An expanded control over property was reflected in elite women being frequently named as executors of their husband's estates, in the more equal distribution of property between male and female heirs, and by liberal deeds of trust that gave women more power over property. Women also expanded their roles in the public sphere. The creation of a public school system in Virginia created opportunities for employment, as did the opening of government clerkships to women. Elite women expanded their influence through a variety of cultural and memorial organizations. Censer concludes by examining women authors and their work — both the well known, such as Kate Chopin and Ellen Glasgow, and those not typically cited in secondary sources.
Censer's book invites us to transcend the limiting stereotype of the Southern Belle, but its focus on elite women reminds us that far more research on the middle and working classes is needed before we can properly assess the overall status of women in the postwar South. Likewise, we are left with a picture of an era when progress was made in the social and economic position of elite women, yet by the 1890s these same women were often using their cultural influence to advance deeply conservative social agendas bent on reasserting white supremacy and the defense of a mythical Old South. To her credit, Censer is well aware of this paradox of advance and declension. A wellwritten book that vividly employs the voices of its subjects, The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood is an important contribution to women's and Southern history.
— reviewed by Gregg D. Kimball, Director, Publications and Educational Services
Kimberly Prothro Williams, ed. A Pride of Place: Rural Residences of Fauquier County, Virginia. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press for Fauquier County, 2004. xii + 286 pp. $39.95 (hardcover).
Edited by Kimberly Prothro Williams, an architectural historian who in the mid-1980s worked on the HABS survey of the Virginia State Capitol, A Pride of Place: Rural Residences of Fauquier County, Virginia, presents the results of a 1978-1980 survey of more than 900 of the county's historic properties. Unlike much of the rest of Northern Virginia, where housing developments and strip malls continue to encroach on the rural landscape, Fauquier County has been blessed by a "pastoral scenery" that "has encouraged a remarkable legacy of architecture," ranging "from log cottages, to antebellum farmhouses, to stately Georgian Revival mansions of hunt-loving plutocrats" and because of that has also been blessed by some of Virginia's "most preservation-minded property owners," as Calder Loth notes in the Foreword. Fauquier's historical architecture is introduced in an essay that divides the county's history into fifty-year increments and discusses the various architectural styles popular in each period between 1750 and 1950. A catalog follows in which more than 450 of these houses are pictured. Short descriptions arranged by regions of the county accompany the photographs and include approximate construction dates, original and later owners, details of the houses' and any other buildings' architecture, later additions or alterations, the houses' significance, and their present status. Two appendices list the houses by construction date and in alphabetical order.
— reviewed by Emily J. Salmon, Copy Editor
Wesley E. Pippenger's multivolume Index to Virginia Estates, 1800-1865, begun in 2001, attempts the Herculean task of indexing all items recorded in city or county will books during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century. Volume 4 (Richmond: Virginia Genealogical Society, 2003. xxvii + 634 pp. $40.00) covers the counties of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Fluvanna, Highland, Nelson, and Rockbridge. Organized alphabetically, each one-line entry includes the personal name, city or county, type of account (will, inventory, license, guardian or executor's bond, power of attorney), year, and source citation. These volumes are boons to genealogists and to those studying local history.
Boogers and Boo-Daddies: The Best of Blair's Ghost Stories (Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, Publisher, 2004. ix + 128 pp. $13.95) is a delightful collection of twenty folk tales selected by the staff of John F. Blair, Publisher, as their favorites from among the many that the press has published over the past fifty years. The stories, set in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, include both traditional ghost tales and those with historical settings, such as Charles Harry Whedbee's account of the tragic Theodosia Burr Alston, Jackie Eileen Behrend's tale of a haunting in Williamsburg, and Daniel W. Barefoot's story of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox.
— bookend notes prepared by Sara B. Bearss
Sara B. Bearss is senior editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, published by the Library of Virginia.