Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation by David Price (2003) is a meticulously researched and well-written work of historical nonfiction. It recounts the history of the Jamestown colony and the major figures in that history. It is largely based on primary documents, thus allowing dry and often distorted histories to be supplanted by intimate human portraits.
The Jamestown Colony was founded in 1607 by 104 men who were sent by investors in a London-based stock company that was chartered by King James. The group was composed mainly of aristocrats, and their charge was to find gold and the elusive Northwest Passage to Asia. They were ill-equipped for the realities of the swampy land, the mosquitos and (consequently) the malaria that they encountered, and did not possess the physical stamina or skills needed to survive.
Within a year, more than half of them had died, and the aristocratic leadership was beset by infighting. Among the leaders was the military man John Smith, who had little regard for aristocratic rank and was widely detested. However, in desperation, they eventually turned to his leadership. He ended the search for gold and the Northwest Passage, made everyone go to work clearing land, planting crops, and building structures, and fed everyone from a common storehouse.
Because the narrative is based on primary documents, Price presents a balanced picture of native-settler relations. The native chieftain, Powhatan, was a strong and capable leader. Early on, the settlers got most of their food by trading with his tribe, but tribal members grew upset and often violent as their hunting grounds were being cleared by the settlers.
Smith was captured at one point and his life was saved by Powhatan's eleven-year-old daughter Pocahontas. When Smith returned to England and starvation was rampant, Pocahontas helped the colonists. Contrary to popular myth, however, she was never romantically involved with Smith; she did, however, later marry John Rolfe and accompany him to England.
Over time, the Virginia Holding Company tried to bolster the colony by sending more settlers (most of whom perished) and unmarried women so that the remaining settlers could begin families. Violence and tragedy continued to unfold, however, in the interactions between the settlers and the natives.
As part of Price's overarching themes, he includes the role of governing corporations, the changing views on rank and equality, the growing concept of liberty, the relationship between work and food, and the resulting values that would become an integral part of a new nation.