Love and Hate in Jamestown

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 314

Americans have a curious sense of their own history. Although many lack a basic knowledge of the past, they can still recall snapshots of fleeting moments. If they cannot remember when the American Revolution began, they can surely describe George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River. The situation is even more problematic with early-American history. While few people know that Virginia’s Jamestown colony was founded in 1607, many are aware of its most famous inhabitants: Captain John Smith and a Native American woman named Pocahontas.

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As the subtitle implies, these personages are the focus of Love and Hate in Jamestown, David A. Price’s superb history of the first successful English colony in North America. Popular culture often portrays Smith and Pocahontas as being romantically linked, but Price’s book makes it clear that the truth is far more interesting than the legend. The Jamestown colony was a commercial venture, funded in England by the Virginia Company by people whose purpose was to mine gold. As Price’s narrative reveals, most of the colonists were unfit for the enterprise and easily succumbed to starvation. Smith, with his practical military experience and utter disregard for social rank, understood the niceties of dealing with the shrewd Native American leader, Powhatan, and what was necessary for survival. As Powhatan’s princess daughter, Pocahontas was also crucial to the colony’s longevity. She twice saved Smith’s life and later married colonist John Rolfe.

Thanks to Price’s impressive research, Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation resurrects a forgotten time when a Stone Age culture clashed with a European civilization hungry for the riches of the New World. Though the Jamestown colony has long since passed into oblivion, Price’s wonderful narrative describes what it was like when the seeds of a future America were first planted.

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