Guest Post: Did Squanto meet Pocahontas, and What Might they have Discussed?

This is a guest post by Dr E. M. Rose. Dr Rose is a Visiting Fellow, Department of History, Harvard University, and can be reached at emrose@fas.harvard.edu. These observations emerged during research Rose conducted in the spring of 2017 as Visiting Fellow at The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (OIEAHC)/Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation at Historic Jamestowne.

Two of the most famous Native Americans in early colonial history may well have met in London. Matoaka, nicknamed Pocahontas, who lived near the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, who greeted the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, were apparently living near other in the English capital in late 1616. Pocahontas and Squanto were both part of a small and complexly entwined commercial community of merchants, sea captains, and maritime entrepreneurs, whose ventures spanned the globe. The two Native Americans were kidnapped in America within a year of each other and eventually came to England, where they were welcomed enthusiastically.[1] Although there is, as yet, no documentation to prove that such a meeting took place, circumstantial evidence suggests that they met when they were staying only a few hundred yards down the street from each other in the homes of men with interlocking business interests. Although the histories of Jamestown and Plymouth are usually treated as separate chapters in most narratives of American history, they were closely linked. Continue reading

History and the Seeds of Memory: Reflections on Ric Burns’ The Pilgrims

pilgrims_pbsamexperienceIn his now classic study of early nationalism, historian Benedict Anderson wrote “I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined….”[1] While Puritan society was not a “nation” in the sense that Anderson meant it, his reflections nonetheless are evident in Ric Burns’ documentary, The Pilgrims. Burns seeks not to merely retell the Thanksgiving story, but to understand why Plimouth Rock and the popular Thanksgiving story (much of which is inaccurate) is such a pervasive part of the American origins story.

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Contested Rites

continental_prayerJoseph Yesurun Pinto, a 31 year-old Anglo-Dutch émigré in the autumn of 1760, had led New York’s Shearith Israel synagogue for barely a year when the second notice appeared in the papers. To re-commemorate the British conquest of Canada, all “Christian societies” and “houses of worship” would celebrate a day of thanksgiving on Thursday, October 23d. Over the past decade, New Englanders and their neighbors had held at least 50 fast days, many to lament God’s judgments against America, or to reform their wayward behavior. The proclamation of a thanksgiving day likely brought some measure of relief and joy.

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The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWhether writing or grading term papers has kept you from all things early American, here’s a quick recap of some of the top news stories of the week(s)!

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The Week in Early American History

TWEAH

We have an abundance of links for your Sunday morning reading pleasure. Read on, fellow early Americanists:

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The Week in Early American History

TWEAHIt’s been another marvelous week for early American history. First, we saw the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. As John Fea notes, the exact wording of the speech has been causing trouble; Barack Obama has been accused of refusing to read a crucial passage. The AP’s Allen G. Breed investigated the various drafts of the speech and, with help from Martin P. Johnson, discussed their significance to American journalism. On SNL, though, Mr. Jebediah Atkinson had harsh words to say about the address.

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