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In April 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of Native Americans had made her their weroanza—a word that meant "big chief". The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and her favorite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, who caused a sensation in Elizabethan London. In 1587, Manteo wIn April 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of Native Americans had made her their weroanza—a word that meant "big chief". The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and her favorite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, who caused a sensation in Elizabethan London. In 1587, Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord and Governor, with more than one hundred English men, women, and children. In 1590, a supply ship arrived at the colony to discover that the settlers had vanished.For almost twenty years the fate of Ralegh's colonists was to remain a mystery. When a new wave of settlers sailed to America to found Jamestown, their efforts to locate the lost colony were frustrated by the mighty chieftain, Powhatan, father of , who vowed to drive the English out of America. Only when it was too late did the settlers discover the incredible news that Ralegh's colonists had survived in the forests for almost two decades before being slaughtered in cold blood by henchmen. While Sir Walter Ralegh's "savage" had played a pivotal role in establishing the first English settlement in America, he had also unwittingly contributed to one of the earliest chapters in the decimation of the Native American population. The mystery of what happened to these colonists who seemed to vanish without a trace lies at the heart of this well-researched work of narrative history....

Title : Big Chief Elizabeth: How England's Adventurers Gambled And Won The New World
Author :
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ISBN : 9780340748817
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
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Big Chief Elizabeth: How England's Adventurers Gambled And Won The New World Reviews

  • Kressel Housman
    2018-11-30 20:31

    I chose this book with my usual criterion for history books: several reviewers said it “read like a novel.” Unfortunately, I don’t agree. It focused on the personalities behind the early American colonies, which definitely helped, but I found my mind wandering fairly often. Also, since the quotes from the primary sources (the “dialogue” of history books) were written in Elizabethan English, it was a bit of a chore to get through all the odd spelling. The history itself is worth the effort, but be forewarned: this is not the whitewashed version of Jamestown you learned in school. At times, this is one grisly tale.If there’s a hero in this book, it’s Sir Walter Ralegh, but he wasn’t the first Englishman to spearhead an expedition to the New World. The first was Richard Hore, but his idea was more of a money-making scheme than a plan for colonization. He hoped to go to the New World, capture a native, bring him back to England, and turn him into a traveling freak show. It might have worked, except the crew he put together was completely unprepared for the trip. One boat returned to England after a storm. The ones that reached the New World were either decimated by natives or died of starvation and disease. The few who survived had to resort to cannibalism and returned to England in disgrace.Sir Walter Ralegh had the good sense to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes. First, he used his abundant charm to curry favor with Queen Elizabeth so that his venture would be properly financed. Meanwhile, he read everything he could get his hands on about the New World. The key to his plan came from a Frenchman who had befriended a native and taught him French. Ralegh understood who knew best about the land he wanted to colonize. His mission would be one of peace. His crew would work with the natives until they became the willing subjects of “Big Chief” Elizabeth.Sir Walter then hired a mathematician named Richard Harriot, the introverted complement to his extroversion. While Raleigh was out drumming up publicity for his plan, Harriot was teaching the crew navigation so they would actually arrive, unlike Hore’s crew. Once they did arrive, they settled on the island of Roanoke, and Harriot put his mathematical mind to learning the native language. He created a phonetic alphabet so that the colonists could learn it, too. Amazingly, he succeeded. The natives were not always happy with the British, but they preferred them to the ruthless Spanish conquistadors. What do you expect from the inventors of the Inquisition?When it was time to return to England, Harriot brought back not one, but two natives, not as a freak show but as ambassadors of the New World. One saw the Englishmen as captors and wanted no part of it, but the other, Manteo, embraced his new role and the honors that went with it. But other factors threatened to choke the new colony. The Englishmen who returned spread the word about how hard life was in Roanoke. They were well-born gentlemen who were not used to manual labor. So Sir Walter had to take subsequent groups of colonists from the poorer, crime-ridden areas of London. He wanted honest, hard-working artisans who had little to lose in leaving England. He made sure to include more women, too.As we know, the colony at Roanoke disappeared. It’s considered a mystery because no bones were ever found, and that’s the subject of the epilogue of the book, but the disappearance doesn’t seem very mysterious to me. Manteo did not have complete control over the natives, nor did the colonists always behave as peaceably as Sir Walter Raleigh had intended, so bloodshed was inevitable. And when Queen Elizabeth died, Sir Walter Raleigh’s rivals made sure to get him imprisoned in the Tower of London. Roanoke lost its visionary and advocate, and with no one to send supplies, starvation and disease set in. Once again, the “civilized” Englishmen turned to savage cannibalism.King James did not share his predecessor’s enthusiasm for the American colonies, so it is ironic that Jamestown, the first surviving colony, was named after him. The chapters on Jamestown include the famous story of how Pocahontas saved John Smith, but that wasn’t her only intervention. She also informed him of an impending native attack once, and when she married John Rolfe, she ended up becoming a better native ambassador than Manteo ever was. Of all figures in the book, she fascinates me the most. What in the world motivated her?If my detailed summary hasn’t spoiled the book for you, I recommend it. It’s a little less dry than your average history book, though nowhere as readable as a novel. But it’s still history that every American should know. To me, the main lessons are three: 1) Life was so hard in the colonies, it’s miraculous that anyone survived at all; 2) Our great American democracy would not exist at all if not for that lethal cash crop, tobacco; and 3) Behind every success story lies a whole lot of failure.

  • Jason
    2018-12-08 00:56

    After traveling to the Outer Banks last summer on vacation and actually walking over the territory that the first colonists lived on, I had to learn more. If, like me, you have been to this remote area of N. Carolina and you want to learn more, start with this book.What is most useful about this book, and there are many useful qualities, is that it does give a fair amount of background to the political and social scene of the late 1500's. After reading this book, I realised that our astronauts have a far, far easier time than these earlier explorers. Modern American minds have come to expect in our minds that England has always been the preiminant power in Western Europe. How different that perception would have been had not these intrepid explorers arrived on our shores with no knowledge of the area, no food, no shelter and no allies.What Milton does best is to give the characters of his story a balanced hearing. The natives are neither entirely naive nor entirely innocent, the English are neither entirely gospel and adventure loving or entirely cruel and conquering.Too often in the books I have read on the "Lost Colony" (and Miles presents a very plausible explanation about where White's colonists ended up), the colonists are placed out of context even for the contemporary Jamestown colony. Here Miles shows why this early colony became strategically unimportant (why the English politicians did not care what happened to them) and important for what they taught about how to start a colony.The only complaint I have about the book is that it tends to not flow very easily. The back and forth of Virginia and England tends to get a little hurried sometimes and makes it a bit hard to read in a few points. I do appreciate Miles stepping out and making conclusions about the events.Overall, this is a FUN history book with sound scholarship backing it. The pages turn quickly. The book really does show the philosophical beginnings of the idea of English North America and why and where our ideas of law and commerce come from.

  • Bettie☯
    2018-11-27 03:49

    Came across Giles Milton before in the shape of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, which was an engrossing account of the spice trade and life aboard those disease-inducing trading ships. Also liked that to a popcorn-eating 4*. Duration: 10 hours 55 mins. Reader: Richard HefferThe summing up of Plymouth versus Chesapeake choice for communal memory is accurately, astutely and succinctly made by Heather Burns

  • Steve Haywood
    2018-11-24 21:58

    I've just read this on the back of reading another book on American history, 'Savage Kingdom' by Benjamin Woolley. In contrast to that book, Big Chief Elizabeth is more of a popular history. It's ultimately a true story, told as a story. It mentions historical sources and has a fairly comprehensive bibliography at the back but doesn't have the many pages of accompanying notes that some other history books I've read do. It was less concerned with the politics and detail than the general overview of what went on, and the characters that were a part of it. The part on the Jamestown colony was quite rushed, the main part of the book being about Walter Raleigh's attempts at founding an English colony in Virgina, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was also in part a biography of Sir Walter Raleigh, at least so far as his involvement with America went (which was his major life's work).[return][return]Overall a great history book, entertaining, easy to read and I learned a lot from it. Leaves me wanting more.

  • Caroline
    2018-11-20 04:31

    This book explores the Elizabethan colonisation of North America, stretching from John Cabot's voyage in 1497 up to the finally successful settling of Jamestown in 1611 - although the real focus of the book is Walter Ralegh's repeated efforts to establish a permanent colony at Roanoke. You have to admire his persistence, and that of the colonists - no fewer than four attempts were made, most ending in death and starvation and disaster.This isn't an especially scholarly read, and I do question some of Milton's conclusions - most particularly his confident assertion about what happened to the colonists who disappeared from Roanoke. Surely if the answer was so easily discovered it wouldn't have been a mystery all this time? However, I digress.This is an immensely entertaining read, fast-paced, lively-told, and full of an extraordinary cast of characters, from Ralegh himself, to Grenville and John White, John Smith and Pocahontas, Manteo and Powhatan. I could have done with a bit more depth and detail, but it serves for a light introduction to the era.

  • Meg
    2018-12-05 20:47

    Probably the best part of this is all the primary sourcing that Milton does. Probably the worst part is how little context is given to colonialism, particularly in regards to prevailing philosophies about conversion and colonist/native interaction. And in general there's very little sense of popular opinion regarding these colonies, just a summation of upper-class intent and obstacles. Plus the author seems to be a little enamoured of Sir Walter Ralegh, and on top of that he straight up disses John White for being a weak leader when it seems like his worst crime was letting people vote on things and not murdering tons of Indians straight off. Then the Epilogue outlines a pretty strong theory that indicates White's settlers lasted longer than anyone ever expected, partially because they were of a lower class than all the other English settlers AND SO they actually knew how to work the land and survive on very little. I mean come on.

  • Will Nelson
    2018-11-25 02:32

    Great book. Despite growing up in Virginia I knew very little about the first English settlements or the Indians they encountered, or the situation in England at that time. The whole story is much more interesting and dramatic than I realized. Milton is a great historical writer, as I already knew from reading Russian Roulette; his style is very simple and straightforward and you just keep on reading. This book has a special kicker because Milton's research seems to have resolved the longstanding question of what happened to the settlers of Roanoke. Here I would have appreciated a little more in the way of footnotes or discussion of how exactly he could resolve this when others failed, and whether others agree with him. Apparently John Smith knew the answer but I was not clear in what source Milton found Smith's account.

  • Steve
    2018-12-01 23:54

    High 5. Milton has produced a more entertaining follow-up to his previous outing in charting the history of Elizabethan voyages of discovery to America. Cabot's discoveries in 1497 had sparked intense interest in the possible riches to be made across the Atlantic, and even during the reign of Henry VIII this vision had drawn ambitious adventurers to it. In 1536 a wealthy London merchant, Richard Hore, inspired by the appearance at court of a captured South American native from William Hawkins' expedition of the previous year, set out on an expedition to Newfoundland. However, this expedition suffered from lacking in sufficient supplies and its members, wracked by starvation, succumbed to cannibalism. The next tragic episode in this history concerns the ill-fated expeditions of 1578 and 1583 of Sir Humfrey Gilbert. The former was complete farce as only one ship of his flotilla was actually able to brave the harsh weather conditions and depart English waters, only to return similarly battered to the disgrace of it's young captain, Gilbert's half-brother, Walter Ralegh. Though bankrupt, Gilbert was able through his friends at court, principally Sir Francis Walsingham, to launch a second expedition on the ingenious premise that investors would accrue semi-feudal rights to vast acres of discovered land -in eight months of such sales Gilbert sold estates of some 8.5 million acres. The second expedition reached St John's Newfoundland, where, despite the presence of Spanish and Portuguese ships, Gilbert proudly claimed the territory for Queen Elizabeth. Yet, tragedy awaited when the expedition set sail south to explore the American coastline, with many being disheartened by the barren Newfoundland landscape. Not only did the lack of a clear vision of where to plant the English colony sow the seeds for diaster, but also so did Gilbert's own arrogance and weak leadership. with the loss of the flagship, wrecked on the shallows, Gilbert was swayed by the discontent among his fleet to abandon the voyage and set sail for home. Moreover, having been taunted as lacking resolve, he deliberately set sail aboard the smallest, most vulnerable ship of the fleet, and was lost to the first storm encountered. The mantle of spearheading the voyages and establishing an English colony now passed to Ralegh, who had been forced to abandon the 1583 voyage when his crew were laid low by dysentery. In the meantime, he had quickly established himself as the Queen's favourite, with his dashing charm and flirtatious pursuit of Elizabeth - his rise coincided with the decline in favour of Robert Dudley. Ralegh regarded the colonisation across the Atlantic as his destiny, and therefore, offered his household at Durham House on the banks of the Thames as a meeting point for experts of all kinds. Chief among these was his mathematician Thomas Harriot whose command of this discipline Ralegh regarded as essential to accurate navigation. Ralegh lost little time, sending an expedition in 1584 to return with a native who could be taught English and thus acquaint the English with greater knowledge of the American lands. The expedition not only achieved this but also discovered the island of Roanoke as an ideal site for the future colony, being hidden by the outer banks of North Carolina from Spanish fleets. Thus, when Elizabeth agreed to provide a flagship and a name for the new colony in her honour, Virginia, but failed to finance the expedition, Ralegh used the concealed nature of an English presence in America as an opportunity for investors to reap dividends from plundering Spanish shipping. Knighted to undertake the mission of planting the colony, Ralegh entrusted command of the expedition to Sir Richard Grenville, a hot-headed firebrand and adventurer, whose father had perished in the 'Mary Rose' disaster. His task was to ferry the colonists across the Atlantic before returning to England, although he had never set sail previously. The settlement itself was left to the control of Sir Ralph Lane, the governor of the first colony, a battle-hardened soldier and expert on fortification who had been entrusted with defending Ireland's coastline against Spanish invasion. However, the true linchpin of the expedition would be Thomas Harriot who had mastered some command of the indigenous languages from contact with the natives captured by the 1584 expedition. Setting sail in April 1585, Grenville succeeded in landing the colonists at Roanoke, but with his flagship grounded and battered on the sand bars of the Outer Banks, many of their supplies and seeds were spoiled by salt-water, thereby making the colonists totally reliant on the natives for food until the first harvests could be gathered in around a year's time. The increasing tension between Elizabeth and Philip II fed by the former's belligerent involvement in the Spanish Netherlands and support for piratical raids on Spanish shipping, and the latter's attempt to seize English merchant ships and enforce an embargo on English goods, made a fertile environment for Grenville's return to England in October 1585 laden with the Spanish prize he had captured en route. The investors in the Roanoke enterprise regarded the settlement as an opportunity to reap rewards from seizing Spanish ships, while the Spanish shared this vision of an English outpost from which to launch piratical raids on their New`World interests, so became determined to locate and destroy the settlement. Grenville also arrived with the news of the colonists' plight with regards to lack of supplies and though Ralegh had his supply ship ready to sail under the command of Drake's brother, Bernard, he had to relinquish the ship to national interests as Elizabeth commanded that the ship sail to protect English fishing fleets off Newfoundland. Thus, when a fleet commanded by Sir Francis Drake arrived off the Outer Banks in June 1586 he came to the aid of the half-starved settlement at Roanoke. The settlers had just carried out an attack on the neighbouring tribes who had attempted to wipe out the settlement, tired of being asked to contribute food to the newcomers. Drake had long taken an interest in this colony, having served on the parliamentary committee which had scrutinised Ralegh's plans, and, despite being commissioned to free captured English grain ships and raid Spanish coastal towns, had a more ambitious plan to plunder the Caribbean islands and the treasure fleet. Having overrun the Spanish seat of government in the New World at Santa Domingo on the island of Hispaniola as the New Year dawned, Drake had learned of Spanish designs to obliterate English presence on the American mainland. This had been the impetus for his arrival at Roanoke, but in attempting to resupply the settlement a great storm scattered the fleet and Drake and Lane agreed that with war on the horizon making further supplies uncertain it would be best to abandon the settlement. On returning to England, gentlemen survivors spread disastrous reports as to the hardships endured and a subsistence diet of acorns, while Lane had lost his previous enthusiasm and dismissed the area around Roanoke as being far from conducive to colonise. By contrast, Harriot returned eager to advance the benefits of a healthier diet and a local population responsive to trade and settlement. Not only did his reports blindly ignore the Indians' obvious hostility to keep the vision of an Anglicised America alive, but Harriot quickly realised that his claims of the medicinal benefits of tobacco would maintain the colony's future should smoking be popularised as a pastime. Lane and the surviving settlers already were 'hooked', and Ralegh added his enthusiasm to spread the habit within the Court. While the Roanoke survivors recounted the failure of their settlement at home, Grenville arrived with a second contingent of settlers at the Outer Banks expecting to discover a thriving colony. Ralegh had dispatched this expedition, together with a supply ship, months before the vanquished settlers returned home, and Grenville witness to the ruins of the abandoned site determined that a small garrison should be left to retain possession of this stretch of land. Therefore, fifteen soldiers under the command of Master Coffin remained with provisions to last two years and four pieces of heavy artillery. When news of these events reached Ralegh, already uncertain as to the validity of the project, he became torn between his responsibility to these men and his own colonial projects in Ireland. The American project could have ended here but for the failure of the Babington plot to assassinate Elizabeth in 1587. The Queen determined that the vast estates of the fabulously wealthy Catholic traitor, Anthony Babington, should be presented to Ralegh, thereby providing him with the funds to finance another expedition to Virginia. Ralegh had paid attention to Lane and Harriot's accounts of the fertile landscape they had explored around Chesapeake Bay to the north of the original settlement and set his sights on planting a new settlement there. The only leading settler willing or able to return was the appointed artist and mapmaker of the Roanoke expedition, John White, who Ralegh appointed as governor to the new colony. White experienced great difficulty in recruiting settlers for this 1587 expedition, but managed to attract many from the London slums, including whole families attracted to Ralegh's promise to provide each settler with 500 acres of prime farmland. The expedition would prove the biggest fiasco yet, due to White's own lack of leadership. This led to the colonists being forced ashore at Roanoke, where they had arranged to recover Coffin's party, as the fleet navigator regarded the plantation as secondary to the rewards for capturing Spanish shipping in the Caribbean. Having discovered that Coffin and his men had been killed by hostile tribes and in desperate straits themselves, especially given the fact that any further supplies would be sent to Chesapeake, the colonists became so disillusioned with their governor that they nominated him to return to England to report their fate. Reaching England after a desperate voyage in October 1587, White discovered a country in preparation for invasion. Not only had the Queen ordered a ban on any shipping leave English shores without permission to ensure all available resources were in a state of readiness to face the reported Armada, but also 1587 marked the rise in Elizabeth's favour of the Earl of Essex displacing Ralegh as her favourite at court. Ralegh was embroiled in the defence of the realm even in securing Ireland from attack by the remnants of the scattered Armada so could not consider his American venture until March 1589. White in the meantime had secured two ill-equipped ships which ignominiously fell prey to French pirates forcing him to limp once again home. The tragedy was that White had left behind his own daughter and grand-daughter with the colonists and when the rescue mission finally set sail in March 1590 he would search in vain for signs of his lost colony, before returning to England a broken man. Many of those who had played their part in the American venture now left centre-stage, with Lane returning to ireland where he served with honour in defeating the rebels in 1593. The most illustrious ending was that of Grenville whose 'Revenge' formed part of a 1591 fleet commanded by Lord Howard in search of the treasure fleet. Encountering stronger odds Howard and the fleet retreated while Grenville's misplaced but heroic arrogance led him to pitch battle against 53 adversaries and the rest is history. Ralegh had fallen in love with one of the Queen's maids-of-honour, Bess Throckmorton, and secretly married her which led to his and his bride's imprisonment in the Tower. Fortune smiled upon Ralegh as his release was provoked by the Queen's need for her admiral to persuade unruly mariners from stripping clean the biggest prize ever captured - the Madre de Dios. Although he and Bess only spent four months in the Tower towards the end of 1592, Ralegh would remain in disgrace for a further five years. His interest in his colonists only resurfaced when the legal proclamation of the death of White's son-in-law and placement of his estates in trust brought home to Sir Walter the frailty of his own title as Governor of Virginia as it was dependent upon his having secured a permanent colony there within seven years. However, he was by now enthused by the discovery of El Dorado in Guiana, and only as a stop en route did he finally set sail for Roanoke himself to fail not only in discovering the fabled city but also in discovering the colonists' fate. Between 1599 and 1602 he sent a further four expeditions to attempt to discover the whereabouts of his lost colony, but with the death of`Elizabeth in 1603 Ralegh's fortunes dipped never to truly recover. The dour James I did not care for Ralegh's flamboyance and laid the blame for the wasteful habit of smoking at Ralegh's door, and deprived him of his titles and monopolies. Worse he was quizzed on trumped-up charges of treason in July 1603 and confined to the Tower. For his own part the King had no interest in colonising the Americas, believing contact with savages would turn any colonist barbarian, and wished to destroy Ralegh. Popular sympathy lay with Ralegh leading to James reluctantly issuing a reprieve on the day of Ralegh's execution, and during his imprisonment he kept alive his dreams of Guiana and Virginia. Ironically, the next figure to promote the opportunities in America would be the Lord Chief Justice who presided over Ralegh's trial, Popham. Without any royal interest, he established the Virginia Company of merchants who funded a 1606 voyage to Chesapeake Bay. It would be this expedition which would establish Jamestown, though once again the settlers would require the support of neighbouring tribes to survive. The most striking figure of the expedition, who gradually would assume leadership over it was Captain John Smith who claimed to have been a mercenary and pirate who had escaped servitude under the Ottomans. Aside from his hirsute ginger beard, his bravery under attack brought him to the attention of the local chieftain, Powhatan, whose daughter would intercede saving Smith from execution. Meanwhile, Ralegh's incarceration in the Tower did not prevent him from influencing events in Virginia. Firstly, he shared his confinement with the Earl of Northumberland, himself wrongfully accused of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, and whose private fortune allowed them to make their captivity as comfortable as possible, while establishing a scientific workshop in the Tower's derelict outhouses. Secondly, the Earl's brother was an integral member of the 1606 expedition and the latter's reports kept them updated as to the fate of the settlement. Thus, Ralegh had the means to act as unofficial advider to the Virginia Company without the knowledge of the King. His influence can be gleaned from an essay on colonisation he produced in which he advocated the education of the indigenous natives to transform them into loyal vassals of the monarchy as opposed to their subjugation by force. Such attitudes probably influenced the crowning of Powhatan as subject'king, the only coronation ever staged on American soil. However, this merely added to the chief's arrogance and when tiring of the demands of the settlers, Powhatan withdrew their food supplies. In attempting to parley with Powhatan, Smith also made it clear that the coronation had not enlarged the chief's rule but rather had passed control of Virginia to the King of England. Vowing to slaughter Smith and his men, Powhatan's plans would be undone by his twelve year-old daughter, Pocohantas who fled to warn the English of the imminent attack. Yet, relations soured further, and the extreme hardships deepened so much so that Smith's leadership came under so much criticism that it led to his electing to sail home. His successor, the Earl of Northumberland's brother was unequal to the task and the colony was decimated by starvation and some succumbed to cannibalism, until the decision by the survivors to finally abandon Jamestown in 1610. Nevertheless, their departure was halted by the arrival of a fleet carrying their new governor together with supplies and new recruits. Chastised for their idleness, they were forced to return to the settlement to face the autocratic rule of Lord De La Warr, whose belligerent attitude towards`the Indians ran counter to everything Ralegh had espoused. His bloodthirsty subjugation and massacres of local tribes was only halted by illness which led to him being removed to the Carribbean, only to be replaced by an even more brutal figure. Sir Thomas`Dale issued a new legal code on the colony which virtually made every crime punishable by death and was even more warlike in his dealings with the natives. However, simultaneously, the virginia Company sought to implement Ralegh's continued suggested policy of civilising local tribes to assimilate them more peaceably into the service of the Crown. In line`with this policy, Pocahantas was taken to be anglicised and christianised, though dale sought to use her as a bargaining chip to extract the subjection of her father. Unbeknown to him, one of his negotiators, John Rolfe, had fallen in love with the chieftain's daughter and risked the wrath of Dale in securing her hand in marriage. Their wedding of 1614 would bring about the end of hostilities and secure the future of the Virginia colony, thus proving Ralegh to have been foresighted in his advancement of co-operation with civilised natives. In 1616, Dale travelled to London accompanied by Mr & Mrs Rolfe, in a master-stroke of marketing for the new colony and securing the future financing of the Jamestown project. This year also witnessed the release of Ralegh, as the King's failing finances finally persuaded him to listen to his captive's promises of securing untold fortune in Guinea. Pocahantas took the anglicised name Rebecca, and her husband deserves mention for securing the future of England's possession of America in that Rolfe had been the first to plant tobacco in the Chesapeake settlement, proving the terrain and climate ideal for its cultivation, and thereby providing the financial means to keep the colony viable. Rumours persisted of the survival in the bush of White's lost settlers, and Smith belatedy revealed that he had been promised to keep silent by Powhatan that the crowned vassalof the English crown had had them massacred just before the arrival in 1607 of the expedition which established Jamestown. This is a gem of historical research, wonderful to experience and so full of illustrious figures of the age.

  • Deb
    2018-11-28 01:35

    I knew very little about the Roanoke Island colony, even tho I knew about Virginia Dare and that all of these first colonists were 'lost'. I think most of us know a little more about the second colony, Jamestown. BUT, this book is not the grade school version of Roanoke or Jamestown! It is a pretty gruesome tale...like all medieval and 1500s life. But, be ready for the gory details! Milton used many actual quotes in Elizabethan English. With the details, the well-researched personalities, and the language, Shorto made this history compelling. I loved it. I am thrilled that I now know the real story about the first English settlements, the Indians they met, and the situation in England that prompted the colonization effort and disasters. I have a clear picture of Sir Walter Raleigh, and the famous Sir Francis Drake. Author Milton presented a formidable story about Sir Walter Raleigh's life and his determined efforts to establish an English colony in the New World, in spite of the Spanish threat. There is plenty of background on the exploits of other famous and not so famous English explorers of the era.Raleigh had the right focus...study, research, fund ... and figure out the politics of making a project successful. Milton included so many quotes/letters between Queen Eliz and Walter; I was completely invested in the authenticity and felt like I was living in the Elizabethan court. The same goes for the plight and experiences of the colonists. Men returning from trips across the Atlantic to the colonies wrote about their experience and about the colonists they saved, and the conditions they encountered, and the stories told by the colonists. I did not know that there was so much written documentation! Very fascinating.I know my American history now! John Smith, Powhatan, Pocahontas, John Rolfe, the colonists. I especially appreciated knowing the details about how the English men in the 1600s, like William Strachey, tried their best to look for, and figure out, what happened to those Roanoke colonists.The first 'governor' was voted by the Roanoke Island colonists to return to England for help in 1587. He TRIED to get back but the English had to deal with the Spanish Armada. Tragic. When he finally returned 17 years later, there was a clue carved in the tree (CROatan?)...but the weather forced the ships to leave before they could look for the colonists. UGH!! When the Jamestown colonists finally returned, they found a well-established, but burned & abandoned, colony on the Chesapeake. There are clues that it was the Roanoke colonists. They whole story and research are fascinating.No question: life was nearly impossible for the 'gentlemen' colonists. They were not equipped for the ordeal, it’s miraculous that anyone survived at all. It is quite clear that our great America would not exist at all if not for help from the native peoples and the lethal cash crop, tobacco. Finally, the story of so much failure finally resulted in a resounding success!

  • Jim Drewery
    2018-11-13 20:54

    Giles Milton offers up an account of the early days of English exploration and its halting attempts at colonization in North America, in his third “non-fiction” offering, entitled Big Chief Elizabeth. The book centers largely around the determined efforts of Sir Walter Raleigh to establish an English colony in the New World during the Elizabethan era of the late sixteenth century. but provides plenty of background on the exploits of other famous and not so famous English explorers of the era as well. The book's opening chapter briefly mentions the excitement occasioned by John Cabot's seemingly successful voyages during the reign of King Henry VII, upon which English claims of sovereignty over North America were based. This is followed by a more detailed account of an ill-fated scheme launched, by wealthy London merchant Richard Hore, who attempted to duplicate the accomplishment of fellow Englishman William Hawkins. Sir Hawkins had returned from a voyage to South America, with a Brazilian savage in tow which, “caused a sensation in Tudor London, especially when he was ushered into the commanding presence of King Henry VIII.”1 Hore was convinced that thousands of curious Londoners would eagerly line up and pay handsomely to view such an exotic creature, netting him and his investors a fortune. He had little trouble finding men of means, eager to invest in the venture, but the plan failed miserably. According to the author, this was because in large part of Hore's poor planning, as well as the ill-preparedness of most of his gentlemen companions for the hardships of such an arduous journey. The adventurers soon find the harsh environs of the North Atlantic a very difficult place to scrounge up a meal and after they are stranded on Labrador when their ship is damaged, they are reduced to stealing the fish which a mother Osprey was regularly bringing to her nest full of hungry fledglings for a time. The mother soon grew wise of their activities and moved the nest, after which starvation reduced them to utter desperation and some resorted to cannibalism. The groups aim to capture a native were thwarted as well. They did see one native canoe, but its occupants easily out distanced their boats and the natives made landfall and disappeared into the forest. They managed to escape possible starvation, by signaling a passing French fishing vessel, and then quite quickly and ungentlemanly seizing for their own return to England.2 Some of Sir Francis Drake's adventures are also recounted in a thrilling manner as well as are those of other lesser known Englishman who had visited the New World and lived to tell their tales in sixteenth century England, like Sir Humfrey Gilbert and Davy Ingrams. Milton recounts that it was the latter's extraordinary tale which convinced Gilbert his belief in the fabled northwest passage to the East Indies was not unfounded. However the discerning reader will quickly recognize that it is highly reminiscent the of far more famous adventures of Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. He was one the few survivors of the disastrous 1527 Narváez expedition, commissioned by the Spanish crown to colonize Florida. After being shipwrecked near modern day Galveston, he spent years trekking across America, accompanied by hundreds of Native Americans who had come to revere him as a healer. However while de Vaca's comparatively well documented odyssey lasted over eight years and covered about fifteen hundred miles, Ingrams claimed that he and two others twice that, some three thousand miles, from Mexico to Nova Scotia in just twelve months. Added to that, along the way he claimed to have seen bright red sheep and rabbits, as well as birds of prey with heads the size of a man's fist. This all seems quite far fetched, certainly to a trained historian, like the bad, but popular history spewed out of HollywoodHis professional scrutiny appears little better in the latter pages of the book dealing with the early days of Jamestown, by which time he has apparently gotten far to engrossed in the swashbuckling storyline. His analysis here amounts to what might well have served as the first draft of the script from Disney's animated feature Pocahontas, and likewise Pirates of the Caribbean might well be added as a source for the sections on Sir Francis Drake. He bubbles out the popularized version of the famous tale of how the daughter of the chief Powhatan saved the life of Captain John Smith, which has long since been discounted by modern scholarship. Long before this point however, it becomes clear that Milton relies too heavily on the “Historical Writings from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”, listed first in the rather oddly formatted bibliography then he does on “Reference Works” then listed. This section contains a rather exhaustive listing of secondary sources dating back as far as 1847, with many dating from the early twentieth century through the 1960's, and only a handful published since then.3 But conspicuously missing from that list is Roanoke:The Abandoned Colony written by Karen Kupperman in 1984, which is widely considered to be the best work on the topic. While the story of Sir Walter Raleigh's exhaustive efforts to found an English colony across the Atlantic is well presented, his treatment of Raleigh borders closely on hero worship. Most irritating of all though is that in over three hundred pages, Milton offers no new factual information here. Nor does the work inspire an abundance of confidence in the author's critical analysis skills In the epilogue however he toys too loosely with the line between fictional and nonfiction. Claiming that the British government and the Virginia Company had known all along that the settlers from the “lost colony” of Roanoke were slaughtered, save for a few lucky ones, by the direct order of Chief Powhatan. Supposedly this was revealed to Smith by the chief, who also showed Smith relics which had belonged to the colonists, just before he was saved from death by Pocahontas. Smith then secretly forwarded to the news to the court of King James and from there it was leaked to the company. This is but one of the theories presented by Kupperman and others as a plausible, perhaps even likely explanation for the colony's disappearance, however Milton implies it to be proven, documented fact. There is a huge difference though between historical conjecture and verifiable facts and good history should deal with fact, not fiction. Thus while this book is well suited for casual reading, it should not be considered as a viable resource by serious scholars.

  • Jim Drewery
    2018-11-13 03:51

    Giles Milton offers up an account of the early days of English exploration and its halting attempts at colonization in North America, in his third “non-fiction” offering, entitled Big Chief Elizabeth. The book centers largely around the determined efforts of Sir Walter Raleigh to establish an English colony in the New World during the Elizabethan era of the late sixteenth century. but provides plenty of background on the exploits of other famous and not so famous English explorers of the era as well. The book's opening chapter briefly mentions the excitement occasioned by John Cabot's seemingly successful voyages during the reign of King Henry VII, upon which English claims of sovereignty over North America were based. This is followed by a more detailed account of an ill-fated scheme launched, by wealthy London merchant Richard Hore, who attempted to duplicate the accomplishment of fellow Englishman William Hawkins. Sir Hawkins had returned from a voyage to South America, with a Brazilian savage in tow which, “caused a sensation in Tudor London, especially when he was ushered into the commanding presence of King Henry VIII.”1 Hore was convinced that thousands of curious Londoners would eagerly line up and pay handsomely to view such an exotic creature, netting him and his investors a fortune. He had little trouble finding men of means, eager to invest in the venture, but the plan failed miserably. According to the author, this was because in large part of Hore's poor planning, as well as the ill-preparedness of most of his gentlemen companions for the hardships of such an arduous journey. The adventurers soon find the harsh environs of the North Atlantic a very difficult place to scrounge up a meal and after they are stranded on Labrador when their ship is damaged, they are reduced to stealing the fish which a mother Osprey was regularly bringing to her nest full of hungry fledglings for a time. The mother soon grew wise of their activities and moved the nest, after which starvation reduced them to utter desperation and some resorted to cannibalism. The groups aim to capture a native were thwarted as well. They did see one native canoe, but its occupants easily out distanced their boats and the natives made landfall and disappeared into the forest. They managed to escape possible starvation, by signaling a passing French fishing vessel, and then quite quickly and ungentlemanly seizing for their own return to England.2 Some of Sir Francis Drake's adventures are also recounted in a thrilling manner as well as are those of other lesser known Englishman who had visited the New World and lived to tell their tales in sixteenth century England, like Sir Humfrey Gilbert and Davy Ingrams. Milton recounts that it was the latter's extraordinary tale which convinced Gilbert his belief in the fabled northwest passage to the East Indies was not unfounded. However the discerning reader will quickly recognize that it is highly reminiscent the of far more famous adventures of Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. He was one the few survivors of the disastrous 1527 Narváez expedition, commissioned by the Spanish crown to colonize Florida. After being shipwrecked near modern day Galveston, he spent years trekking across America, accompanied by hundreds of Native Americans who had come to revere him as a healer. However while de Vaca's comparatively well documented odyssey lasted over eight years and covered about fifteen hundred miles, Ingrams claimed that he and two others twice that, some three thousand miles, from Mexico to Nova Scotia in just twelve months. Added to that, along the way he claimed to have seen bright red sheep and rabbits, as well as birds of prey with heads the size of a man's fist. This all seems quite far fetched, certainly to a trained historian, like the bad, but popular history spewed out of HollywoodHis professional scrutiny appears little better in the latter pages of the book dealing with the early days of Jamestown, by which time he has apparently gotten far to engrossed in the swashbuckling storyline. His analysis here amounts to what might well have served as the first draft of the script from Disney's animated feature Pocahontas, and likewise Pirates of the Caribbean might well be added as a source for the sections on Sir Francis Drake. He bubbles out the popularized version of the famous tale of how the daughter of the chief Powhatan saved the life of Captain John Smith, which has long since been discounted by modern scholarship. Long before this point however, it becomes clear that Milton relies too heavily on the “Historical Writings from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”, listed first in the rather oddly formatted bibliography then he does on “Reference Works” then listed. This section contains a rather exhaustive listing of secondary sources dating back as far as 1847, with many dating from the early twentieth century through the 1960's, and only a handful published since then.3 But conspicuously missing from that list is Roanoke:The Abandoned Colony written by Karen Kupperman in 1984, which is widely considered to be the best work on the topic. While the story of Sir Walter Raleigh's exhaustive efforts to found an English colony across the Atlantic is well presented, his treatment of Raleigh borders closely on hero worship. Most irritating of all though is that in over three hundred pages, Milton offers no new factual information here. Nor does the work inspire an abundance of confidence in the author's critical analysis skills In the epilogue however he toys too loosely with the line between fictional and nonfiction. Claiming that the British government and the Virginia Company had known all along that the settlers from the “lost colony” of Roanoke were slaughtered, save for a few lucky ones, by the direct order of Chief Powhatan. Supposedly this was revealed to Smith by the chief, who also showed Smith relics which had belonged to the colonists, just before he was saved from death by Pocahontas. Smith then secretly forwarded to the news to the court of King James and from there it was leaked to the company. This is but one of the theories presented by Kupperman and others as a plausible, perhaps even likely explanation for the colony's disappearance, however Milton implies it to be proven, documented fact. There is a huge difference though between historical conjecture and verifiable facts and good history should deal with fact, not fiction. Thus while this book is well suited for casual reading, it should not be considered as a viable resource by serious scholars.

  • Vickey Foggin
    2018-12-09 21:39

    This is a well-researched history of the earliest attempts to colonise America that is written in a conversational and easily read style, with paintings and woodcuts from the day illustrating the scenes. A lot of interesting details about the characters behind the expeditions and the extreme hardships the colonists faced but not too dry or heavy. All up a pretty fun and interesting read.

  • Suzanne
    2018-12-08 22:58

    I knew very little about this piece of U.S. history. It was a quick and engaging read. Made me want to visit Raleigh/Durham and the Outer Banks.

  • Sonia
    2018-11-27 20:43

    Finished the amazing story of the colonists under the auspices of the Virgin Queen (Weroenza) and then King James and I have a whole new appreciation for the almost impossible task of setting up a British colony in the New World setting of Roanoke Virginia and its environs. Giles Milton uses original quotes and diary entries to tell the incredible tale of the those men and eventually women and children who dared cross the Atlantic to start a colony in the hostile environment of the New World. The story of Pocahontas and her father the Emperor Powhatan and the role they played in the trials and tribulations of the colonists is more interesting than any reality show out there and well worth the read. Read it--you'll gain an appreciation if you're in America for the fact that you're in America 2017 and even if not, you'll be awed by what you read.

  • Sarah Wagner
    2018-11-30 01:43

    The story of the lost colony of Roanoke looms large in this book, and I appreciated the author going into a lot more detail than my middle school history textbook. The story of all the voyages, attempted settlements, and struggles of early colonization are compelling and left me with a lot of respect for the bravery and persistence of early colonists. A good story and one I would now like to read more about.

  • Mike Dixon
    2018-11-19 03:58

    Giles Milton is the author of a number of works on the amazing period of exploration when European seamen circumnavigated the world and mapped it in detail. Spain got off to an early start and secured the Pope’s blessing for its American conquests. The English followed soon after but were more interested in catching fish off Newfoundland than planting colonies. Their colonial ambitions started later and met with violent opposition from the Spanish who resented any intrusion on a patch of territory they regarded as their own.The first attempts, by the English, to establish an American colony began in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Milton describes the trials and tribulations of the early settlers as one failed enterprise led to another. His lively and entertaining style proceeds at a fast pace and is backed by an extensive bibliography.The colonisers encountered a people they described as “savage” but were remarkably free of racial prejudice. Inter-marriage was encouraged in the hope of creating a new nation owing allegiance to Big Chief Elizabeth on the other side of the Atlantic.The natives’ habit of skinning enemies alive didn’t offend the English greatly. Nor was their pleasure in other forms of barbaric torture regarded as evidence of depraved and inferior minds. That seems surprising until we remember that the Christian Church burnt heretics at the stake and European monarchs discouraged treason with public executions accompanied by hideous mutilations.Interestingly, there was one native custom that offended the colonists and that was cannibalism. Killing people was acceptable to good Christians so long as the victims weren’t eaten afterwards.(view spoiler)[After a few hair-brained schemes, English colonial enterprise took root under the banner of the queen’s darling, Walter Raleigh. The young man came from a prominent, but impoverished, Devonshire family and spoke with an extreme Devonshire accent that the aging Elizabeth adored. Not surprisingly, most of her aging entourage hated him.Elizabeth put up the money for an expedition and letters patent were issued for a colony to be founded and named Virginia. Despite royal patronage, the colony soon ran into difficulties. Some sea captains saw the expedition as a chance to raid Spanish treasure ships. Others wanted to dump the colonists, at the first opportunity, and head for the rich fishing grounds off Newfoundland.The colonists lacked the naval backing they desperately needed and their attempts to grow food were abysmal. If the local people hadn’t come to their aid they would have starved.At first, relationships with the locals were good. But it didn’t last. There were numerous warring tribes and some treated the pale-faced strangers with deep suspicion. The colonists were attacked and ill-prepared to defend themselves.A series of settlements followed and failed. Elizabeth died and Raleigh’s enemies combined against him. He was charged with treason and executed. But, the dream of empire did not fade.Raleigh had introduced tobacco to the English and they were hooked on it. King James tried to ban the drug but without success. The Spanish produced it in their American colonies and sold it to the English who raided Spanish treasure ships to pay for it.Eventually, mercantile minds took control. A company was founded with the express purpose of founding a colony in a region where the tobacco plant flourished. The canny entrepreneurs called the place Jamestown. (hide spoiler)]

  • Tony
    2018-12-05 02:48

    BIG CHIEF ELIZABETH: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America. (2000). Giles Milton. ****. This is a narrative history in just over three hundred pages of events that are usually covered in ten pages or so in standard history texts – the first attempts at colonization of the American wilderness. The driving force in this history was Sir Walter Ralegh. We learn early on that “Ralegh’s name was spelled by both himself and his contemporaries in dozens of different ways, including Rawleyghe, Ralle, and Raulie. From the age of thirty until his death, Sir Walter consistently signed himself Ralegh, the form adopted throughout (this book). The spelling most commonly used today – Raleigh – ws never once used by Sir Walter.” With that out of the way, we learn how Walter (much later “Sir”) became one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite men, and was soon catapulted into wealth and fame because of her patronage. He early believed that England should investigate the strange land across the Atlantic and claim it for its own in order to protect it from the Spanish – traditional enemies of England. Before we get to that story, however, the author manages to bring us up to speed on the many previous landfalls by previous explorers on this unknown land and their ultimate fates. It was these early navigators, however, that ultimately provided the information in the form of maps and charts that enabled subsequent sailors to locate areas that seemed promising. Stories of early explorers, like Sir Humfrey Gilbert, Richard Hore and others, provided information on the native Americans they found, though much of it was extrapolation of isolated encounters. Finally, Ralegh entered on the scene with a plan to transport a group of men to America and establish the first true settlement. He was aided in great part by the assistance of Thomas Harriot, the man who would ultimately provide the first English-Algonquin dictionary and the method that enabled sailors to chart their proper position using new mathematical tools that he developed. Other characters appear on the scene, many, like Sir Richard Greenville, seriously on the edge of madness, that would contribute what they thought were advances in settlement procedures, but which would ultimately totally alienate the native population of the targeted region. Many boatloads of settlers later, a firm establishment was made in Plymouth and the character of Captain John Smith comes to the fore. We learn about Smith and his encounter with Powhatan and Powhatan’s daughter, Pocohantas. All of this material comes from contemporary documents that the author uses extensively throughout his story. If you are a history buff and are interested in America’s earliest history with English settlement, then this book is a must. Recommended.

  • Isabel
    2018-11-14 21:00

    I noticed on the back of the book, people refer to it as a "story." When I looked at the bibliography, I think I figured out why: the author used a lot of secondary sources. As a result, this is not a stuffy catalogue of facts collected from ship manifests and court records. It's a pretty juicy little tale full of details like John Smith "wearily nodding his head" and King James "scratching his codpiece." I suspect neither of those actions were documented, but they do flesh out the story nicely.I'm a little bummed because some of the facts contradict what my 4th grader is getting in his social studies class. Like the introduction to Jamestown of the first female settlers differes by a solid decade. I don't believe there is any mention at all of slaves, but I guess they only appeared after the scope of the book (?). I liked how the history of England wove seamlessly into the story of Roanoke and Jamestown without being a distraction. It made sense that the Roanoke colonists were abandoned for a decade and change when the author explains the chronology of the war with Spain. So many of the threads in this story find their parallel in modern history: the conflict of war funding v. money for experimentation, the difference in focus of successive national leaders, the conflict between war and trade, indigenous v. exogenous populations... and piracy! These things stopped being quaint little historical footnotes and seemed more like logical responses to the events of the time. This is an entertaining history that reads more like a novel. It left me somewhat doubtful of how trustworthy it is, but it was interesting to conjecture how colonists approached survival in the first English settlements in North America.New (to me) Fact: During Raleigh's time, he had a group of men who assisted in planning and studying the colonial settlement. Included in this group was a man who studied the Algonquin (?) language, wrote a phonetic alphabet to transcribe and translate it and produced a version of the King James Bible in Algonquin. The effect was astonishing to the Indians. This was the same guy who transcribed Welsh so that even a person completely ignorant of the language could speak it convincingly if read in this phonetic script.)

  • David
    2018-11-12 03:32

    I stumbled upon the book in a quarterly offering. It sounded interesting and since I knew nothing about Jamestown and the settlement of the Outer Banks, I thought this would be a good place for me to start. Luckily, I chose the absolutely perfect book. It's seriously researched and written. I learned so much about our early history (US) and, at the same time, the history of England during Elizabeth I's reign and that of King James.A few pages into the book I had to laugh when it turned out that the early attempts at settlement ended in now verified cannibalism. Having just finished the story of Michael Rockefeller's death by cannibals, I couldn't believe I was once again in the same world. It was beginning to seem to me that cannibals were everywhere.The book is the search for any living survivors of that first group of Englishmen that were left to fend for themselves in a land they didn't know and a land that was populated by not so pleasant natives. The book did give me a completely different view of the Indians that populated America when the first adventurers arrived. They were ferocious and they made a unique specialty of torture and killing, cleaning, cooking and the eating of their enemies. These were not "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" Indians. They were hunters, killers and could be characterized as savage.If you take the time to read Big Chief Elizabeth, you won't be disappointed. It's very well written and the story is fascinating. I'm certainly very happy that I took the leap and I hope you will do the same.

  • Lucynell
    2018-11-16 00:56

    The attempt to settle the New World is one of the most spectacular undertakings of the Age of Discovery and it would take a bad writer to mess it up. Here we have a good example of how one can do that. Quoting from contemporary sources is awesome, retaining the Elizabethan spelling is not. It makes for frustrating reading. Then the author dwells on minor subjects and characters for longer than necessary and rushes over others. It is often unfocused and moving back and forth in time serves absolutely nothing.But the story is unbeatable. Of all the leading European powers England was the least qualified to attempt such a monumental enterprise. Enter Elizabeth Tudor. She was an extraordinary figure and she surrounded herself with extraordinary personalities. Her gentlemen-adventurers were cunning and cultured, visionary and ruthless, ambitious and learned. They gambled, they fought, they could write beautiful sonnets and torture someone to death. Or a lot of them could anyway. The attempt itself was eventually successful but many paid the price with their own fortunes and even lives, and that includes all involved. Tales of cruelty and courage abound and there's even some romance in the form of Pocahontas. I'm sure there must be better books on the subject than this one, but I guess reading this won't hurt anyone anyway. For a more general overview of the time I suggest Susan Roland's The Pirate Queen.

  • Julie
    2018-11-10 03:42

    A comprehensive history of the first English settlements in America, this book details the decades-long struggle to establish a colony in the unknown wilderness of the New World. Here’s what you’ll find inside:-Elizabethan policy on colonialism and privateering-A biography of Sir Walter Raleigh-Conflict between the English and Spanish-The mystery of the lost Roanoke colonists-Complex relations between settlers and nativesIt details every failed expedition and the reasons for each failure which was generally due to lack of provisions and overall laziness of the colonists. What I liked most was the romanticism that Raleigh lent to the whole endeavor. His motives were genuine, if somewhat commercially and financially motivated, but he had his Queen and her kingdom at heart in wanting to expand into this uncharted land. Of course, I’m captivated by anything to do with the lost colony of Roanoke and I think its significance was well-detailed here. There are other familiar characters in the saga including John Smith and Pocahontas who add some color to the narrative. This book is an accessible and well-written account of the struggles and successes of the earliest English enterprises on American soil.

  • Dale
    2018-11-28 00:40

    Growing up in the late 20th century as the world came more and more to resemble the much-invoked global village, I really took for granted the size and scope of the planet. I knew I could get on a plane and fly anywhere in a day or less, and wherever I got off the plane I'd be able to spend some travelers' checks on food, lodging and postcards. Even in history class, when learning about the age of exploration and the difficulties of crossing the Atlantic, I absorbed the information but never really thought about the implications.Big Chief Elizabeth conjures up the late 16th and early 17th century realities and I found myself constantly shaking my head in amazement. Given the detailed recounting of several attempts to establish permanent settlements in Virginia, it's amazing that any of us live here at all, let alone that the 400th anniversary of Jamestown was a couple years ago. The circumstances weren't just difficult, they verged on the outright impossible, and a lot of luck and happenstance allowed England to get a foothold on the mid-Atlantic coast of North America. Milton's book isn't necessarily incredibly well-written, to my eye, which is why this is only a three-star review, but the events he relates in and of themselves are fascinating.

  • Erin
    2018-11-09 23:47

    Big Chief Elizabeth is a non-fiction account of the English colonization of America. It's such a fast-paced and entertaining story that it reads more like fiction at times. I found it difficult to put down.The story draws from historical accounts of the English efforts to colonize America, frequently citing journals, government papers and long-forgotten texts. The central figure in the story is Sir Walter Ralegh, who was a hugely important figure in Elizabethan England and devoted to establishing an English colony in America. The first attempts, in the area that is now North Carolina's Outer Banks, are disastrous. It's amazing to a modern reader how badly organized and poorly thought out these missions were. And yet the determination and bravery of the settlers is incredible. These people went to American knowing full well that they would likely die there and never see England or their families again.The Roanoke and Jamestown colonies are covered in depth and make for fascinating reading. I learned quite a bit about the earliest history of the English in America and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  • Lisa
    2018-12-03 23:57

    Interesting account of the early attempts at English settlement in the New World. For those who vaguely remember learning about the 'lost colony' at Roanoke, this book goes into detail about the planning (or lack thereof) that went into the colony, its accidental planting at Roanoke when it was intended to be further north in the Chesapeake Bay area, and the political reasons why the colony was left to fend for itself for so long. It also gives a summation of a few theories as to what happened to the colonists. Sadly, the author felt the need to try to wrap up the 'story' with a 'happy ending', as the Jamestown colonists and the Powhatan finally make peace, leading to a new era of prosperity. This is a bit facile, given that the prosperity subsequently proved rather one sided.

  • Elizabeth Burgess
    2018-11-26 21:52

    While history was one of my least favorite subjects in school (second only to PE), I really enjoyed this book! I found it quite a page-turner - anxious to find out what would happen to each batch of potential colonists. I very much enjoyed the direct quotes taken from the explorers' journals (found on almost every page.) The only downside for me was, at times, I found something just a tad annoying in the author's phrasing, word choice, etc. (This only occurred once every 50 pages or so) I now find myself anxious to watch Pocahontas to gripe about inaccuracies .. or just sing along to colors of the wind ...

  • Andrew
    2018-11-17 04:50

    This book provides a great account of the early years of the American colony. I've seen some of the other reviews mentioning that the Elizabethan English detracts from the story, but I actually found it made it more compelling to have first-hand accounts throughout the book, and Milton has done well to incorporate these in a way so that the book still reads like a novel. The situations the early colonists found themselves in was so precarious that you realise any of these small events could have drastically changed the history of America (sorry for the oxymoron!). I think this book is well worth a read.

  • C.G. Worrell
    2018-12-05 20:53

    The amount of research that went into this book is staggering, but Giles Milton manages to tell the story in a way that's fresh, approachable, and suspenseful. I devoured this 350 page book in two days, sitting on pins and needles to learn the fate of the early colonists. These people had a suicidal sense of adventure, or nothing to lose (but their lives). The mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke still tugs at the heartstrings 400+ years later. I also liked how the author presented the Native American side of the story from a very human perspective. The etchings, maps, and portraits (especially those of the Algonquins) leap from the pages.

  • Darren Anderson
    2018-11-22 00:32

    This is another fantastic work courtesy of Giles Milton. Why couldn't the history books in school be this interesting? It is remarkable how smoothly he transitions between the stories of so many fascinating characters - and there are a lot of them. They are all there - Raleigh, Smith, Grenville, Elizabeth, James, Drake, Pocahontas, etc. but no account I've read blends all their stories as masterfully as this one. It was a hard book to put down, and one that I wished would keep going. Thankfully, I have some more Milton on my shelf.

  • Rebecca Radnor
    2018-11-19 22:50

    Incredibly readable; history presented as story telling. The book goes in depth into characters often overlooked in our history texts, such as Thomas Harriet, a close friend of Sir Walter Raleigh's who was his resident geek and solved a lot the technological problems Raleigh had realized had hindered British sailing to that point. It also explains exactly what John Rolfe's contributions were. Learned a few things, especially about Harriet, and had other facts clarified as they are put into the wider context of the clash or personalities that laid the context for American colonization.

  • T P Kennedy
    2018-12-09 22:48

    A concise and perfectly readable account of the first English colonists in America. He's very strong in sketching the leading personalities behind the drive to colonise. The account of the politics back in England behind the colonisation is very well done. It's a bit weaker in sketching the impact of the colonists on the Indian way of life. Equally too he describes the mystery of the lost settlers of Roanoke but I'd have liked more coverage given to this. It's good but I'd have preferred a longer account going further.