Milton, Giles - Big Chief Elizabeth - ( Item 120601 )
Published in London by Folio Society. 2011. First Thus. Fine Hardback. No inscriptions or bookplates. Fine slipcase. New preface by the author. Bound in cloth. Blocked with an illustration by Joe McLaren. Set in Granjon with Gryphius display. Frontispiece. 16 pages of colour and black & white plates. Book size: 9½" × 6¼", 344 pages. The colonial enterprise that paved the way to the United States of America was effectively a gamble on the part of a handful of adventurers motivated by a combination of greed, romance and desperation. Fired by envy of the vast gains being made by the Spanish in the South, succeeding waves of merchants and swashbuckling noblemen attempted to build a permanent colony in the North. Under the aegis of the energetic Walter Ralegh, several expeditions set out, and Queen Elizabeth was persuaded to give her name to the fledgling colony of Virginia. It was a gamble which at first seemed unlikely to pay off. The first settlers were repeatedly saved from starvation by the generosity of their Indian neighbours; however, relations soured and tensions spilled over into violence. Both locals and colonists suffered sicknesses to which they had little natural resistance. Investors were bankrupted, supply ships sank, and lack of food eventually reduced the colonists to cannibalism. The story features many larger-than-life characters, from Sir Humfrey Gilbert, who was so incensed at doubts cast on his courage that he insisted on sailing in the smallest and most overloaded boat (which promptly sank), to Captain John Smith, saved from death by a chief 's daughter, Pocahontas. Some of the encounters described were cordial, even friendly: after talking to local tribes, the English were convinced the name of the country was Wingandacoa (which they wrote on all official paperwork). Later they discovered this meant 'You've got nice clothes'. The artist John White was a guest of the villagers of Pomeioc, producing detailed watercolours of the village and its inhabitants and persuading a little girl to stand still for her portrait by giving her a doll. At the book's heart, though, lies the mystery of what happened to the 1587 settlement attempt on the island of Roanoke. When a relief expedition arrived, they found the word 'Croatoan' scratched into a gatepost but no sign of the 115 settlers. Tantalising signs and rumours suggested they might be alive, but eventually the grisly story of their fate leaked out. For this Folio edition, Giles Milton has written a new preface which brings the search for the lost settlers right up to the present day – including archaeological finds and DNA investigation of whether survivors from an Indian massacre intermarried with local tribes.
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