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

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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  460 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Four centuries ago, and fourteen 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—left London aboard a fleet of three ships to start a new life in America. They arrived in Virginia in the spring of 1607 and set about trying to create a settlement on a tiny island in the James River. De ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by Harper
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Vicky Hunt
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
To sum it up, Woolley covers an ocean between England and Spain, between the Protestant, the Catholics, and the native pagan religions, between generations of ruling monarchs, and between quite literally warring factions of settlers in the Jamestown Fort.

Things included in the book, which I found fascinating:
1. Name changes of settlers seeking a new life in a new world
2. True events surrounding Pocahontas and other native Americans
3. Details of the geography as the settlers discovered the land
...more
Emily
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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,
...more
Jason
Apr 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
...more
Zoe
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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,
...more
Tomerobber
Dec 22, 2012 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!!
Meghan Helzlsouer
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jeff Ford
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
For such a serious book, Savage Kingdom was an easy read and kept my interest. Nothing about Robert Ford unfortunately.
Roberta
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This was an interesting account of the early days of English settlement in Jamestown and the surrounding areas. It was apparently written—more or less story style—from letters and other accounts that survive from that time.
There were some very interesting tidbits in the telling but it was overall fairly dry, which was not unexpected, and a bit too long for this type of non-fiction. At least, for this reader.
Taylor
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Savage Kingdom is not dry, like so many history books. Instead, littered with primary-source material that gives us an incredible window into the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it reads like a gripping story, and is a detailed play-by-play of the establishment of the State of Virginia. Who knew American history could make for an edge-of-your-seat read? (Maybe you did, but a childhood of mind-numbing U.S. history books had me thinking otherwise.)

It is easy, in learning history, to see only l
...more
James
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
There were some things that surprised me in this book
1. The Jamestown settlers lived in squalid conditions for many years
2. The natives were pretty brutal (skinning people alive, etc)
3. The official rules for the Virginia Company were to treat the Indians well, pay them well for everything, set up schools to teach the Indians how to integrate with european society and christianize them
4. not everyone in a colony thinks or behaves as instructed
5. lots of infighting in the colony - who is really
...more
ᴘᴀᴘᴇʀʙᴀᴄᴋ ʀᴏsᴇs
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
So glad I found this book! I had just returned from a trip from Virginia and have always been interested in the states history.
I love how the author wrote detailed history about the crew and the myths and culture of the local Native tribes. The accounts were greatly detailed so I could picture the entire scene in my mind. Details such as how the people looked, the way the land looked, the smells, the sounds, weather, etc.
As an American, it's important to read up on our country's history BEFORE
...more
Steve Haywood
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Paul
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Sanaya
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Riveting. The story of Jamestown is a fascinating one, but complicated and in many ways underdocumented. Woolley crafts a book that does justice to the story, the nuances, and the mysteries of Jamestown. He describes Indian and English societies in a way that highlights their similarities, and describes the diplomacy in a way you can sympathize with both. In fact, that's possibly Woolley's greatest accomplishment. There was so much conflict in Jamestown that it would be easy to take sides. It wo ...more
Christine
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
rMany facts were previously not know as related here, by re words of true man English captains, colonial administrators and many others. While times were very difficult for the colonists and many died, their brutal, arrogant and selfish characters seem to have led them, the colony, and many who depended on them, into ill-advised and greedy webs of their own making. Mainly, their own attitudes about work, and the station of many of them being too good to do a sufficient amount of manual labor to ...more
Karen
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Sara V.
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good, clear, read that really set the foundation of Jamestown in the greater context of English politics for me - and in doing so also set Shakespeare's "The Tempest" in context as well. Many of the other things I've read about the founding of Virginia cover that time entirely from the point of view of those who were there, with relief ships arriving and former settlers departing, never to be heard from again.

That said, it starts strongly and then tapers off into an ending that was less stron
...more
Randall
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Benjamin Woolley presents, in "Savage Kingdom", a truly complete and thorough history of England's first successful colony in North America. I had no idea there was this much information out there about Jamestown.
The book opens with an interesting survey of English history and politics, as it pertains to English motivations and causes for settling Jamestown. It then pieces together numerous biographies, accounts, and reports to compile the rich history of the Jamestown settlement.
Of particular i
...more
Caroline
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Robert
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Terry Earley
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Tom
May 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
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.
Jackee
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
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.
Joanna
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Chris
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
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.
Laura
Oct 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Kenneth Davison
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Paul
Apr 26, 2014 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.
Susan
Sep 08, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
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