Envisioning an English Empire brings together leading historians and literary scholars to reframe our understanding of the history of Jamestown and the literature of empire that emerged from it.
The founding of an English colony at Jamestown in 1607 was no isolated incident. It was one event among many in the long development of the North Atlantic world. Ireland, Spain, Morocco, West Africa, Turkey, and the Native federations of North America all played a role alongside the Virginia Company in London and English settlers on the ground. English proponents of empire responded as much to fears of Spanish ambitions, fantasies about discovering gold, and dreams of easily dominating the region's Natives as they did to the grim lessons of earlier, failed outposts in North America. Developments in trade and technology, in diplomatic relations and ideology, in agricultural practices and property relations were as crucial as the self-consciously combative adventurers who initially set sail for the Chesapeake.
The collection begins by exploring the initial encounters between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians and the relations of both these groups with London. It goes on to examine the international context that defined English colonialism in this period—relations with Spain, the Turks, North Africa, and Ireland. Finally, it turns to the ways both settlers and Natives were transformed over the course of the seventeenth century, considering conflicts and exchanges over food, property, slavery, and colonial identity.
What results is a multifaceted view of the history of Jamestown up to the time of Bacon's Rebellion and its aftermath. The writings of Captain John Smith, the experience of Powhatans in London, the letters home of a disappointed indentured servant, the Moroccans, Turks, and Indians of the English stage, the ethnographic texts of early explorers, and many other phenomena all come into focus as examples of the envisioning of a nascent empire and the Atlantic world in which it found a hold.
Introduction: Sea Changes
1 The Conquest of Eden: Possession and Dominion in Early Virginia
2 Powhatans Abroad: Virginia Indians in England
3 John Smith Maps Virginia: Knowledge, Rhetoric, and Politics
4 The Politics of Pathos: Richard Frethorne's Letters Home
5 The Specter of Spain in John Smith's Colonial Writing
6 The White Othello: Turkey and Virginia in John Smith's True travels
7 England, Morocco, and Global Geopolitical Upheaval
8 Irish Colonies and the Americas
9 Hunger in Early Virginia: Indians and English Facing off Over Excess, Want, and Need
10 Between "Plain Wilderness" and "Goodly Corn Fields": Representing Land Use in Early Virginia
11 Settling with Slavery: Human Bondage in the Early Anglo-Atlantic World
12 "We all smoke here": Behn's The Widdow Ranter and the Invention of American Identity
Conclusion: Jamestown and Its North Atlantic World
"The stimulating essays in this collection demonstrate the usefulness of reaching out, not just in spatial and temporal terms but also in disciplinary ones. By placing Jamestown in a wider frame, we have a better understanding of Jamestown and of the North Atlantic world in the early seventeenth century."—Renaissance Quarterly
"Certain to become required reading for graduate students, this book and the methods and lines of interpretation employed by its authors reveal new layers of meaning that will shape the scholarly discussion of early Jamestown and the Chesapeake for many years."—Georgia Historical Review
"An engaging study of the remarkably varied ways in which the Atlantic identity of one fragile community coalesced in ideas and experiences forged in England and in societies around and even beyond the northern Atlantic rim."—William and Mary Quarterly
"A highly recommended source of the serious scholar as well as for anyone wishing to understand one of the most important periods in history."—Virginia Quarterly Review
This ambitious, interdisciplinary collection of essays offers scholars of colonial American, world history, British history, and the Atlantic world fresh, revisionist insights into the history of Jamestown up to the time of Bacon's Rebellion, while also examining the international context that created English colonialism."—History
"Important reading for all students of the early modern American and Atlantic worlds."—Journal of American History