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Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  278 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Four centuries ago, and thirteen years before the Mayflower, a group of men—led by a one-armed ex-pirate, an epileptic aristocrat, a reprobate cleric, and a government spy—arrived in Virginia aboard a fleet of three ships and set about trying to create a settlement on a tiny island in the James River. Despite their shortcomings, and against the odds, they built Jamestown, ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published April 8th 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published April 10th 2007)
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Mar 10, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, meridian
The last, the very last, of the Jamestown books I'm reading...

Well, this was a good one to end on. After an odd prologue set in 1907, the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, the book steps back to 1565 and the early Huguenot attempt to colonize Florida - a direct challenge to Catholic Spain. This book excelled at providing rich context for the Jamestown settlement and the decisions made by those in authority over it. Mr. Woolley wades through an enormous scope of cultural, religious,
Apr 12, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first colonists and founding of the first permanent British settlement in present day America, there have been a slew of books and reexaminations of the settlement. Wooley, a popular writer and broadcaster in Great Britain has contributed to this review of the Jamestown by presenting a popular history from the British viewpoint, that examines the founding of Jamestown from the perspective that tries to place Jamestown in the perspective of the new ...more
Todd Stockslager
Narrative historical account of the settling of Jamestown. The writing is fine, and the story interesting. Woolley does a good job documenting the roots of the colony in the political and empirical culture of its time, including the links to the literary "Sirenaicals" who contributed to the founding and popularizing of the "New World" reality and mythology.

The book also traces the roots of the colony in

--the religious wars of the time between Protestants and Catholics,

--the empire-building in Ir
May 30, 2014 Tom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sorry. No. Really. I truly am. Woolley seems a fine historian and his research seems excellent, but....It may be the narrow nature of the topic, but not only is this effort not for the amateur historian, but I fear even most experienced and jaded "professional" historians will be...well, bored. The ""The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,But in ourselves" so I may just be too shallow for something this detailed. Still, I can't recommend it. To anyone.
Kathleen Hagen
Savage Kingdom: Virginia and the Story of English America, by Benjamin Woolley, Narrated by David Drummond,Produced by Tantor Media, Downloaded from

This book was published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 2007. The publisher’s note describes this book as well as I can so I include it here.
Published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first American colony, Savage Kingdom presents a bold, even reckless, political adventure dri
Steve Haywood
Jan 08, 2012 Steve Haywood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, america, us, favorites
This is a serious (though not academic and boring) history book about England's first colony in America. I deem it to be halfway between a popular history book (such as those by Giles Milton) and an academic book). It tells the story in quite a lot of detail and refers to sources used from time to time (a bibliography and notes section is at the back).[return][return]The story of the Jamestown colony is a fascinating one to me, all the more so because it is the beginning of modern America. This ...more
Aug 05, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent overview of not only the privations and struggles of the Jamestown settlement, but the machinations in the wider world that had a direct bearing on its viability. I was surprised at the level of intrigue both within the company on the ground, and within the leadership in London. The frequency that members of the initial group are imprisoned, or threatened with execution (including Captain John Smith)was eye opening.

It was also amazing to find the ambivalence that the venture espous
Sep 08, 2015 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I knew a lot about Jamestown, but after I read this book I realized that without John Smith, every last man in the colony would have died horrible deaths. There were parts where this book was slow going, but overall I found it worth the effort. Very compelling.
May 20, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: virginia-history
This is certainly the most captivating and readable account of Jamestown that I've read, and I've read quite a few on the subject. Many claim that this is the best book written on the period. I'm not sure that I'd call it the best, but it deserves a high place on any list.

The reason why I'd be careful of calling it the best, is that there are a few places where Mr. Woolley's geography or chronology are somewhat suspect at best. That aside, no one details and paints the Jamestown picture more cle
Jun 19, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book right after The Jamestown Project and liked it equally. In fact, I would highly recommend reading them together as this one focuses on the history and story of the colony with touches on the world picture. If you do read them together, I would recommend this one first.

I would also like to add that this reminds me of just how open to interpretation even the most well documented histories are. Some of the main characters in this book were only footnote characters in the other and
A very well written account of the Jamestown colony, including a lot of detailed build up explaining the background to the colony's founding. Almost as much of the book is set in England as it is in the new colony.
Jennifer Nesbitt
I enjoyed it, but I agree with others who say that it dragged anticlimactically toward the end. Also, I love it when books include maps, but the ones in this book are labeled incorrectly.
Jan 28, 2010 Zoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Every American should read this book. I found it when my fourth grader was studying Jamestown and I suddenly asked myself "What happened after they got off the boat?" "Why do we think of Plymouth as the first Pilgrims when Jamestown was started so much earlier?"
After you wade throuhg the first 80 pages of the founding of the Virginia company and the politics between Spain and England, the (harrowing) tale begins, and it's nothing like Disney's 'Pocahontas'. These people were inept, unprepared,
Nov 15, 2015 Jackee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-call-uncle
I had high hopes for this book. I find the colonizing of America very interesting. I could not finish this book. What I was able to read was not about the founding of Jamestown as much as it was about following John Smith, the pompous ass who people remember when they think of Jamestown. There are so many more interesting books on the colonizing of America that I couldn't waste my time trying to finish this one.
May 05, 2014 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, history
I had no strong feelings about this book. Didn't really engage me and I don't think I learned a lot, but it wasn't exactly poorly written, infuriating or particularly boring. I was hoping for more, but I was disappointed.
Dec 05, 2015 Old-Barbarossa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well done.
Good refs, good maps, very little speculation.
It's a wonder "English America" survived, eejitry of those in power, starvation, and angry locals very nearly stopped it all.
Jan 15, 2013 Caroline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book ... but honestly, although I'm fascinated by the story of the Jamestown settlement, this book bored me to tears. It felt like someone's PhD thesis that just got printed in book form. There's lots of dates and facts, but honestly, I got nothing of the what must have been over-the-top personalities that settled the new world. Read a much better book on a similar topic a few years back: "A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspi ...more
Mar 13, 2016 Joanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Terry Earley
This lived up to its reviews. I not only learned things about the founding of America, but also of the establishment of slavery through the start of the tobacco industry, and the relationship between the Jamestown settlement and the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the bumbling Captain John Smith, and the tragic princess, Pocahontas who suffered under both cultures.

Woolley writing is readable and helps his readers keep a very complex story straight. I liked it.
Feb 11, 2013 Tomerobber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2013
This is an audiobook on 11CD's that ran over 14 hrs. And was narrated by David Drummond who did an excellent job with the pronunciation of all the Indian names. I was interested in this topic because I wanted to know more about the Jamestown colony. It was very interesting and filled a gap in my knowledge of that era. The author did a great job of making history much more interesting than anything I ever remember from grammar school. A great listen!!
Jeff Ford
Mar 31, 2016 Jeff Ford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For such a serious book, Savage Kingdom was an easy read and kept my interest. Nothing about Robert Ford unfortunately.
Jay Perkins
Aug 18, 2016 Jay Perkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good and detailed narrative on the Jamestown story. The author also does a great job explaining the political climate in England at the time, which is important in fully understanding why Jamestown suffered from so much division. There is not a lot of historical analysis provided, but the author does a great job of portraying events from the viewpoint of the Indian and the Englishman.
Meghan Helzlsouer
Nov 28, 2012 Meghan Helzlsouer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riveting account of the settlement of Jamestown. I read it because I had been frequently watching the Disney movie "Pocahontas" with my two-year-old daughter and wanted to know exactly how much of the movie was not factual. It turns out, a lot! Extremely interesting book; well researched and well presented. Particularly liked the portions about Pocahontas and John Smith, naturally.
Mar 08, 2011 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like/love this book. It's definitely a history book, but it's so well written that it reads more like a novel and it's totally fascinating. It puts everything in context on the American and the British side so the history doesn't seem so disjointed. And, although I'm sure it does have a bias, it doesn't feel overly opinionated.
Sep 10, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
We listened to the audiobook of Savage Kingdom and found it a compelling story. Certain repetitive elements made for occasionally hilarious scenes (it seemed every time John Smith left the Jamestown settlement, he returned to find it in chaos), but overall a wonderfully telling story of the first English colony.
Kenneth Davison
Sep 08, 2013 Kenneth Davison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite historical writers. This book is very well researched. The brutal truth of the passages can make a body a tad queasy at times, but definitely gives one a fantastic warts-and-all picture of all the historical figures we tend to reverence without knowing anything about them.
Oct 07, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not a bad book, but not exactly what I was looking for. There was more emphasis on the politics and economics of the Virginia Company leaders back in England than in the actual settlement in America. I liked the beginning of the book, but by the middle it got too tedious.
Mar 06, 2016 Meredith rated it really liked it
I found this very interesting. I've been on a little history kick lately and this did the trick. This is slow in parts and not my type of usual reading, but I was glad I read it.
Julia Gallagher
I had a hard time staying engrossed (I listened on audio book). Normally I do pretty well with non-fiction in this format, so I don't know if it was the subject matter or just this particular book.
Lots of good information, though I wish it were more analytical and less a digestion/recap of primary sources. Dragged a bit toward the end (except when there was a massacre. Sorry, but true.)
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