Christina’s Review: The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century edited by Warren M. Billings


Christina’s Review: The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century edited by Warren M. BillingsThe Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century by Warren M. Billings
Published by Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia on 2009-01-26
Genres: Colonial Period (1600-1775), History, United States
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Since its original publication in 1975, The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century has become an important teaching tool and research volume. Warren Billings brings together more than zoo period documents, organized topically, with each chapter introduced by an interpretive essay. Topics include the settlement of Jamestown, the evolution of government and the structure of society, forced labor, the economy, Indian - Anglo relations, and Bacon's Rebellion. This revised, expanded, and updated edition adds approximately 30 additional documents, extending the chronological reach to 1700. Freshly rethought chapter introductions and suggested readings incorporate the vast scholarship of the past 30 years. New illustrations of seventeenth - century artifacts and buildings enrich the texts with recent archaeological findings. With these enhancements, and a full index, students, scholars, and those interested in early Virginia will find these documents even more enlightening.

This is one of my personal favorite books to keep on my shelf. The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century is a documentary history of Virginia from 1606 through 1700. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the history of one of our first colonies and states, and one I reference in research quite a bit.

I was recommended this book by one of my professors who wanted us to read primary research material for an early American history class. Being from Virginia, I jumped on this read. The book is organized with letters, documents, lists, court notes, and more, broken up into the following sections:

  1. “The Beginnings” – including information on the settlement of Virginia, such as instructions given to ship crews, contents of ships, letters of experiences, and more.
  2. “The Evolution of Self-Government in Virginia: The Governor and the General Assembly” – this section dove deeper into the construction of the government by the British and the development of the House of Burgesses, with a look at select Acts, elections and other legislation.
  3. “The Evolution of Self-Government in Virginia: Local Government” – this section dove deeper into the country court systems, deeds, information on commissions and more Acts. This section also contained information on court cases I later used in research, including text on land and debt suits and punishments.
  4. “The Structure of Society” – looking more at census records and land patents. Here the editor also included papers from a Virginia family, the Willoughby Family.
  5. “Bound Labor: Indentured Servitude” – a more in-depth look at indentured servants, including runaways and thefts associated with.
  6. “Bound Labor: Slavery” – this is another section I have referenced for research before on Virginia slavery history. There is information on runaways, slave insurrections, and court cases including freedom suits. More information is also included on laws that defined slavery and its progression in Virginia society.
  7. “Tobacco and Trade” – Virginia’s early economy thrived on tobacco, and this section exemplifies its importance for individuals in society during colonization and early settlement.
  8. “Indians and Whites: The Conflict of Cultures” – more information on Native Americans, including the Anglo-Indian war of 1675-77 is included in this section. Pieces from notable characters in Virginia history, such as John Smith and John Rolfe, were also included here.
  9. “Upheaval and Rebellion” – Virginia’s history contained court cases, riots, and rebellion that defined the colony’s development. Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, led by Nathanial Bacon, was a notable rebellion in early colonial history with documents included in this text.
  10. “Life in Seventeenth-Century Virginia” – This is an overall general history of the settling of the colony, including documentation on travel and promise in Virginia, the development of homes and families, information on religion, as well as leisure activities that entertained early colonists.

Overall, this is an interesting compilation of documents from seventeenth century Virginia that add clarity to the colonial developments of the country. Each section begins with an overview of the topic, followed by suggested readings (primary, secondary and electronic) then a selection of documents that support the topic. It’s educational, at times a quick read, and at others times a little more challenging as the reader confronts old English text. It is definitely one I will keep on my shelf for quick reference on topics of colonial history in Virginia.

pj - christina