It’s been 400 years since some English settlers washed up on American turf, calling it Jamestown. Yet for centuries, those ninnies up at Plymouth Rock stole the credit for founding the complex social experiment that is the U.S. of A. Well, it’s high time the tragic Jamestown pioneers (and the Native Americans who slaughtered them) got the respect they deserve. In this anniversary year, two books pay tribute to man’s ability to overcome staggering odds — and crappy government — to create a brave new world.
In Savage Kingdom, due in stores April 10, journalist Benjamin Woolley presents an engaging, well-researched take on the basics: Beginning in 1606, the Virginia Company sent an assortment of corrupt minor nobles and other riffraff — including the stars of the Pocahontas story, John Smith and John Rolfe — across the Atlantic to claim the allegedly rich countryside of Virginia for the British throne. Woolley’s prose bounces along, equally cheerful in the face of a comprehensive flaying and the founding of what became Washington, D.C., leaving you with warm, fuzzy feelings you’ll need when tackling Matthew Sharpe’s deeply experimental fiction Jamestown (See review). A-