John Smith’s Generall Historie of Virginia

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The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith was published in London by Michael Sparks in 1624. Smith was one of the founders and leaders of the Jamestown, Virginia colony, the first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States. This book contains the famous story of Smith’s capture by the Algonquin tribe and how his life was saved by the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas, although many scholars consider Smith’s account of the event to be embellished. Smith was the first colonist to write primarily for other settlers rather than for patrons or future readers. He gives many examples of the resources and opportunities available in the colonies, although he also describes colonists’ conflicts with Native Americans. In addition to the history of the Jamestown colony, the Generall History describes the previous history of Virginia and provides histories of New England and the Summer Isles or Bermudas. Also included are early maps of Virginia and New England.

This is one of the earliest and most important books on American history. Special Collections’s copy is from the Jesse Spencer Collection.

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