Love and hate in Jamestown John Smith, Pocahontas, and the heart of a new nation

David Price, 1961-

Book - 2003

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2nd Floor 975.54251/Price Checked In
New York : Knopf 2003.
Main Author
David Price, 1961- (-)
Physical Description
305 p. : maps
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Choice Review

Two authors add their spin to the often told Jamestown story. Price catches the daily drama in the struggle for survival and the troubled relations among the settlement's leaders and their Native American counterparts, focusing on Captain John Smith. Allen (emer., English, UCLA), of Native American descent (Laguna Pueblo), depicts Pocahontas from the Indian point of view. Unfortunately, instead of adhering to the southern Algonquian culture, Allen gets "off the reservation," digressing at length into a hodgepodge of reference material ranging from the folkways of various Indian groups to Arthurian legend and subsequent US history. Nevertheless, her theme is that Pocahontas was a medicine woman with a "Dream Vision," which she served in her role as diplomat, spy, and, especially, as someone destined to bridge two cultures. Allen even validates (to her own satisfaction, but not likely readers') the unfolding of the supernatural in the course of human events. Price, however, avoids such exaggeration and nebulousness, giving a straightforward narrative of the early Virginians; his main contribution is portraying John Smith as a "Machiavellian," one who knew how to use power and was a master of deceit. Price fills some gaps in the traditional history of John Smith and Virginia, but one wishes that he had more of a historian's perspective, weighing evidence and mentioning controversial ecological theories concerning the founding of the colony. While Allen has searched historical records and Indian oral traditions, she occasionally errs, such as placing Chief Black Kettle at the battle of Wounded Knee. Although her freewheeling approach is difficult to forgive, Allen presents a comparative study of Indian cultures and enlightens readers on the worldview of Native American spirituality. Price has a problem with tediousness, adhering too closely to a strict, detailed chronology. Both books have value as reappraisals of two progenitors of the early US. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Price for general readers; Allen more for specialists and believers in supernatural-inspired behavior. H. M. Ward emeritus, University of Richmond

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Most Americans, one hopes, have at least a vague awareness of the roles of John Smith and Pocahontas in the success of the Jamestown colony. For those general readers who wish to move beyond the myths and obtain a better understanding of them and the early years of the colony, this book will be an enjoyable and valuable tool. Price is a journalist who brings considerable flair to the telling of a familiar story, and he offers some interesting perspectives on both Smith and Pocahontas. Of course, he dispels the myth of their romantic involvement, viewing Smith as a dynamic, driven common man who was determined to crack the whip over the aristocratic, lazy colonists, who expected to find gold and then return to England. Pocahontas emerges here as an intelligent, curious young women who played a vital role in bridging the gap between two cultures. Price also describes in vivid detail the precarious and brutal existence of life in Jamestown when the physical survival of the colonists was by no means certain. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2003 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This sparkling book retells a beloved tale in modern terms. Journalist Price's subtitle suggests that the book might be only about John Smith and Pocahontas-who "crossed into one another's cultures more than any other Englishman or native woman had done"-as well as about Pocahontas's eventual husband, John Rolfe. Fortunately, the book ranges more widely than that. Price relates the entire riveting story of the founding of Virginia. Smith is of course at the center of the tale, because rarely did a colonial leader so bountifully combine experience, insight, vision, strength of character and leadership skills to overcome extraordinary odds. But no one will come away from this work without heightened admiration also for the natives, especially Chief Powhatan, and greater knowledge of the introduction of a third people, African slaves, into the Chesapeake. The book's leitmotif is the interaction of differing cultures and men, like the British gentry, whom Smith scorned for refusing to adapt to hard colonial labor, and the wily Indians, who resorted to starving out the colonists and in 1622 massacred many of them. If there's a fault in a work built unobtrusively on the best scholarship, it's Price's insistence that we see Virginia principally as a place that rewarded courage and hard labor-for white men-in the service of self-advancement and personal liberty. Such a place it was. But it was also for all participants a site, at the start of the nation's history, of danger, horror and death. This is a splendid work of serious narrative history. 2 maps. BOMC, QPB and History Book Club alternates. (Oct. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Drawing on examinations of original documents and previous research, journalist Price has written an engrossing history of the founding and development of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Spanning Jamestown's establishment in 1606 to the revocation of the Virginia Company's charter in 1624, Price examines the interaction among the colonists and their relation to the native tribes, focusing on Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas. Most of the hate alluded to in the title comes from the interpersonal dynamics of Captain Smith and the incompetent, self-serving succession of governors and council members leading the colony during his tenure (1606-09). Of particular interest are the chapters describing the "starving time" (when 60 colonists out of 500 survived the winter of 1609-10), the company's lust for gold, the first sale of African slaves, and the establishment of private property and representational government. The meeting of Smith and Pocahontas remains one of the most fascinating episodes of Colonial history to this day, and Price relays the facts evenly. While not replacing full biographies of Pocahontas or Smith, this work is nevertheless highly recommended for all libraries.-Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-A richly flavored, fascinating narrative of the first two decades of the Jamestown settlement. Price has drawn on a wealth of primary sources, but details don't interrupt the flow of the story. As a mercenary in the Netherlands and Romania, and a slave in Turkey, Smith learned the importance of communicating in new languages and understanding unfamiliar cultures. He developed the skills that would later enable him to stand between the fragile new colony and disaster. The author describes the establishment of the Virginia Company and provides intriguing portraits of the new colonists. Parts of the tale sound surprisingly modern. Fearful that bad news would spook investors and discourage future colonists, the company censored accounts of hardship in letters coming from Virginia. Despite demands from London to cultivate more corn and less tobacco, tobacco always sold at much higher prices, and so remained the crop of choice, even when the colonists were forced to buy corn from the natives. Although reliable information about Pocahontas is incomplete, Price's depiction of the bright, compassionate princess is warm and admiring. Smith's return to England to recover from an injury resulted in disaster for Jamestown. The inexperienced former courtiers made incredible errors that led to the Starving Time and massacres. The author describes these horrific events in graphic detail. The book concludes with an account of Smith's writings and an analysis of the man's vision of America.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A graceful narrative history of the troubled Jamestown colony, "an entrepreneurial effort organized and financed by . . . a start-up venture." So writes Virginian and Washington-based journalist Price, giving his tale a thoroughly modern spin at the outset. "English America," he continues, "was a corporation before it was a country," and the founders of the Jamestown colony were a mix of corporate types, including plenty of middle managers and martinets who, under the rubric of "gentlemen," had no intention of working, not even to save their own skins. Alas, writes Price, those founders didn't do their homework when they chose the spot for their new settlement; though the wide mouth of the James River allowed oceangoing vessels to dock right alongside the town--a helpful advantage, given all the boatloads of gold, silver, and other riches that the colonists were hoping to extract from the surrounding countryside--the site of Jamestown was really a malarial swamp ill-suited to agriculture, cattle, and humans. Put people in trying circumstances, especially people used to the soft life, and you're likely to get ugly politics. That's just what happened, Price writes, as struggles developed between aristocratic leaders such as the "selfish Wingfield" and "the imbecile Ratcliffe"--the epithets are those of another historian, though Price doesn't give much reason to think them wrong, quoting a Jamestown resident who remarked that those governors could have undone Paradise itself--and the commoner John Smith, who was far better equipped than they to see the English through those first few years of warfare and starvation (with a little cannibalism to boot). Price throws a nice twist on the Smith-Pocahontas legend, which has cheerfully misrepresented the facts for four centuries now, and does a fine job of viewing the fortunes of the Jamestown company through the lens of contemporary English politics, all while offering a lively retelling of events. A first-rate work of popular history, and sure to become a standard. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.