JAMESTOWN: GOOD READING OPTIONS

Jamestown was a brutal existence. While it is a valuable piece of American history, even being more than 150 years before America was founded,  to learn about it as it really was might be a little too strong for those who would prefer a visual approach through film.

Books can paint a picture without so much of the brutality, other than what a reader can paint into his or her own thought.  Books about Jamestown can tell detailed, comprehensive stories from various perspectives, and the brutal conditions can be described in ways that can make you almost feel it and even hear the conversations taking place among the settlers and between settlers and natives. It would almost be like you were reading a journal from one of the settlers, or someone from the outside with a third-person account.

When it comes to history, books are the best way to get the full picture. Many of them are interpretative works, while others are strictly factual and objective (and may be drier reads as a result). But any book, or multiple books, can help bring education about early America and how hard it was to survive and thrive and make America what it is today.

Jamestown has been covered well in the literary realm, and not as much in movies or TV. So if you want to know more about Jamestown, you might have to put away Netflix and settle in with a good book. Fortunately, we have some good examples to present to you here. You can find many of these in a public library, on Amazon or from Goodreads.

  • Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Birth of a New Nation by David A. Price. This work looks deep into the colony using original documents. Debunks some common myths about the colony, explains the actual relationship between the settlers and the Powhatan Indians, and develops Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas and John Smith in more realism.
  • Jamestown, the Buried Truth by William M. Kelso. This book takes an archaeologist’s turn, as Dr. Kelso and his team dig up James Fort and find a treasure trove of artifacts, bones, and structures, some of which was believed to be washed away by the James River. Everything that was found tells a story and reveals much about the settlement and its culture and how it managed to survive as the first permanent English settlement in America.
  • Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley. Woolley takes Jamestown and expands it beyond the birth of an American colony and writes about it in a broader context that goes beyond America, into Mexico and Africa. The settlers themselves wrote about a “savage kingdom” in reference to its small island settlement on the James River in the Virginia wilderness, with tough winters and foreign Native Americans surrounding the camp.

These are just three ideas, and there are several more that take various entertaining perspectives of Jamestown, to help paint a realistic picture of what our predecessors endured to build a new nation.