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The Jamestown Project

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ISBN-13: 978-0674030565
ISBN-10: 0674030567
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Jamestown story needs retelling, says NYU historian Kupperman (Providence Island) not just because 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of its settlement. It also needs retelling because Americans tend to locate our origins in Plymouth and distance ourselves from Jamestown, which we associate with "greedy, grasping colonists" backed by "arrogant" English patrons. The first decade of Jamestown's history was messy, admits Kupperman, but through that mess, settlers figured out how to make colonization work. Plymouth, in fact, benefited from the lessons learned at Jamestown. What is remarkable is that a colonial outpost on the edge of Virginia, in a not very hospitable location, survived at all. Kupperman, of course, shows how the colonists negotiated relationships with Indians. But her more innovative chapters focus on labor. Colonists began experimenting with tobacco, and colonial elites gradually realized that people were more willing to work when they were laboring for themselves. Backers in England began to think more flexibly about how to create colonial profits. But the dark side of this success story is the institution of indentured servitude, which proved key to Jamestown's success. Kupperman, marrying vivid narration with trenchant analysis, has done the history of Jamestown, and of early America, a great service. 41 b&w illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In this four hundredth anniversary year of Jamestown, historian Kupperman enlarges its story to encompass the Atlantic world that gave rise to it. The view from England toward the New World is what the author strives to reconstruct, successfully so. A century behind rival Spain in colonizing ventures, English captains eyed the east coast of North America with myriad possibilities in mind: as a base for raiding Spanish ships, as harboring a water route to the East Indies, and as an opportunity for reestablishing Christianity on a purified footing. The encounter of these concepts with the reality that was America--its people, climate, and landscape--is where Kupperman's account thrives, as she explores the experiences of various colonizing ventures, of which Jamestown was but one. Kupperman argues that Jamestown survived by attracting tremendous public interest in England, which translated into sustained supply for a decade, and by a trial-and-error method for motivating settlers through incentives rather than compulsion. A fine contextualization of the oft-told Jamestown epic. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (February 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674030567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674030565
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By pj on March 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Karen Ordahl Kupperman revisits territory she knows well with this latest history of Jamestown. What distinguishes Kupperman's history from the slew of other books which have come before is the very self conscious effort to put the founding of Jamestown within an Atlantic history context.

For people who are looking for a detailed history of Jamestown itself this is not the book. Instead you should perhaps try one of Dr Kupperman's other books. She only gets to the actual founding of the colony in the last two chapters of the book. Instead she discusses the world which brought about the colonization. That is the true purpose of this book and why it is called the Jamestown PROJECT. By placing the story of the colony within the larger background of financial expansion, political maneuvering, and geopolitics, Kupperman makes us very conscious of the contingency of Jamestown. This was not an inevitable event, the precursor to American history. Rather, it was the END of a long series of events and trends which contributed to the settlement there and the way it developed.

Along the way Kupperman takes us on a sweeping journey of the Early Modern world. Her topics range from the waxing and waning of Islamic powers, to the routes of Spanish expansion, to the creation of Caribbean colonies, the continental wars of 16th century Europe, and the life of Native Americans both in America and Europe. All of this is, while at times disjointed, a welcome background to the colonization of Jamestown and reframes the familiar story in illuminating ways. The background explains why the colony was founded the way it was: why did the colonists refuse to grow food? Why did they interact with the Natives the way they did? Kupperman's book is a useful one for anyone interested in the early history of America or the Atlantic world.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bookphile TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Kupperman does an excellent job of establishing the cultural, religious, and political atmosphere at the time of the colony's origins. I found it fascinating to immersive myself in the whys of the colony: why was it started, why were people interested in investing in it, etc. I also felt there were a lot of interesting parallels to the story of the colony and to that today--of how government and corporations often place financial interests far above humanitarian interests. The book also gave me a much more accurate idea of what it must have meant to be a colonist and helped dispel the myth that in fleeing England these people found a land of freedom and opportunity. It also gave me a very deep appreciation for the first settlers as without them, I surely would never be here. This excellent work does a wonderful job of providing an intelligent, in-depth examination of our origins as a country and it does so in an engaging manner so that it reads more like a novel and nothing like a dry textbook.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jack P. Hailman on January 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a terrific book for anyone interested in the colonization of North America. If school history left you with the impression that nothing relevant had happened in the world until the two ill-fated attempts to colonize Roanoke Island, let Professor Kupperman straighten out your mind. She goes through in great but readable detail the world situation prior to 1607: the European powers and their interactions, the extensive contact with the Muslim world, explorations, and the English attempts to colonize wild and wooly places such as Ireland. In fact, the book is more about this complicated context than about Jamestown. Jamestown doesn't get settled until the reader is already two-thirds through the book's text.

Two minor things caught my eye. The author seems to have swallowed John Smith's concocted story about being on death's row when Pocahontas rushed in and saved him. That fairy tale didn't appear in the first edition of his Generall Historie. Subsequently, a real such happening transpired in Florida to a Spaniard, the report of which became widely known in Europe. Smith had a better eye for a good story than for the truth.

The other trivial complaint is the assertion early on that the Plymouth Colony owed its success to the trials and errors of Jamestown, but the point is never developed in the book. Indeed, the author seems to think that the Pilgrim colony is revered because people believe it wrongly to be the earliest successful colonization attempt. But that's not why Plymouth is gets more press than Jamestown. For one thing, the Pilgrims left detailed genealogical records so these are the earliest settlers anyone can prove to be descended from.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Well Read Post Grad on July 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was excited to receive this book as Jamestown is a topic I was interested to learn more about. However, I was disappointed to find, in spite of the book's title, actual information on the trials and triumphs of the Jamestown colony would not appear until about 90 pages in. The first whole part of the book focuses on other nations and colonization endeavors, religious wars, the Ottoman Empire, and the world in general during the era prior to the Jamestown establishment. Although interesting, this is not what I was hoping to read. Although a bit of back story is needed to understand the time period surrounding what brought those individuals to Jamestown, I was disappointed at the sheer amount of what I would consider back story, and too little on Jamestown - what I was hoping would be the main focus.
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