The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675
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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Bernard Bailyn gives us a compelling, fresh account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to British North America, their involvements with each other, and their struggles with the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard.
The immigrants were a mixed multitude. They came from England, the Netherlands, the German and Italian states, France, Africa, Sweden, and Finland, and they moved to the western hemisphere for different reasons, from different social backgrounds and cultures. They represented a spectrum of religious attachments. In the early years, their stories are not mainly of triumph but of confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize situations and recapture lost worlds. It was a thoroughly brutal encounter—not only between the Europeans and native peoples and between Europeans and Africans, but among Europeans themselves, as they sought to control and prosper in the new configurations of life that were emerging around them.
throat than by the mouth, teeth and lips,” seemed impossible for others to learn. In fact, “they rather try to conceal their language from us than to properly communicate it.” It was not, he concluded, a proper language at all, but something “made up, childish,” a private jargon, so private that when spoken in conversation even the most experienced traders could not understand it. Given what he considered to be the Indians’ stupidity, superstition, and barbarous language, it was hopeless to think
Maryland, what they had in common was the ability to seize on the immediate opportunities, exploit them and defend them, and parlay fleeting profits into sustainable advantages. Govert Loockermans had no support to begin with. He arrived as a cook’s mate, was taken on as a company servant, became a freeman, and ultimately prospered as a factor for a prominent Amsterdam firm. His brother-in-law, Oloff Stevensen van Cortlandt, a soldier employed by the West India Company, had become a storekeeper,
through both male and female lines. In New England success in leadership depended on charisma and persuasion; in the Powhatans’ chiefdoms sheer power, reinforced by priestly authority, decided people’s fates. In parts of northern New England, men provided the basic staple of life, game; in southern New England, women, working in the fields, produced an estimated 90 percent of all caloric consumption. Priestly—shamanistic—roles were important everywhere, but in some places, like the Virginia plain
expect nothing but “scorns and prison,” he fled to London, and there, in hiding, he considered various alternatives. He might live with the church’s demands as merely “indifferent things” and continue the struggle for reform, though at the risk of imprisonment. He could escape to the familiar refuge of Holland, where he might secretly influence events in England and be poised to return quickly when and if a great reformation occurred. Or he could join the migration west across the ocean, serve
manor on the Hudson, he owned houses and warehouses in New York, scores of slaves and tenants, “mills, cattle, and sloops … and at least four solely owned ships for the external trade.” A few other formerly Dutch merchants followed, but rather far behind—Steenwyck, for example, with an estate of £15,841, Loockermans, worth 520,000 guilders. All the major merchants prospered by transnational ties, legal and illegal, maintaining affiliations not only with English creditors and suppliers but with