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Jamestown Books

Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (1975)

This classic exploration of Jamestown and colonial Virginia attempts to explain the evolution of a colony paradoxically committed to both slavery and freedom. It is academic but highly readable—, with its provocative analysis contained within a well-paced and fascinating narrative.

Karen Ordahl Kupperman, The Jamestown Project (2007)

Kupperman challenges the tendency to treat Jamestown as the dark underside of American colonial development. Placing it alongside a number of English initiatives at the beginning of seventeenth century, she argues that colonial Virginia provided a testing ground for English expansion and that the lessons learned at Jamestown benefited the colonies that followed.

Winthop Jordan, The White Man's Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States (1974)

This is the abridged version of Jordan's monumental White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812. Only 200 pages and well written, this book continues to provide a provocative starting point for the exploration of racism in America.

Helen Roundtree, The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture (1992)

Written by an anthropologist, not a historian, this interesting book explores the culture, society, and economy of the Indians that greeted English settlers in Jamestown. Within the more interesting sections, Roundtree explores the Indians' religious beliefs, political structures, and understanding and methods of war.

Alden Vaughan, American Genesis: Captain John Smith and the Founding of Virginia (1975)

John Smith was truly a larger-than-life character. His short but critical role in Jamestown's early history is nicely explored in this book. Portions are dated, and those interested in a narrowly focused biography will be disappointed by the equal space given to the development of the colony. But overall this is an interesting, useful, and highly readable book.

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