History Blog

A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward

The subtitle of A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward says it all: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. The voyage of the Sea Venture, May to July, 1609, featured an encounter with a perfect storm that flung the little boat ashore on the island of Bermuda instead of its intended destination, the fledgling colony at Jamestown.

The author is a credible historian (the text is fleshed out with ample notes and an extensive bibliography) with a novelist's skill at telling a story enlived with fleshed out characters, dramatic  tension, and pacing that make it a true page turner. One of the Sea Venture's passengers was William Strachey, a writer whose extensive chronicle of the castaways' experiences of the desert island was widely circulated on his successful return to England and clearly was familiar to Shakespeare who apparently wrote his play while the news was still fresh.

Who were these people?  How did they survive?  How did they hand build a boat capable of getting them up to Jamestown and what did they find when they arrived?  What elements did Shakespeare incorporate into his play?  Fascinating reading, with an amazing finish.

CRRL Presents: Tony Wrenn, Architectural Historian and Lifelong Gardener

This interview airs beginning October 27.
On a beautiful morning in the gardens at Chatham, Tony Wrenn shares his love of gardens and the amazing architecture that surrounds us with Debby Klein on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.

The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James

She killed his mother and kept him on a cheap allowance for decades, but James VI of Scotland learned to play the political game successfully and survived the Virgin Queen to become the supreme ruler of Britain and her fledgling colonies. Just the years-long strain of their relations would be enough in itself to create a satisfying novel for history fans. But George Garrett took it further in The Succession. He gives us the rulers’ views and often their exact correspondence, but he goes far deeper than most historical novelists in recreating the personalities of the age.

The Queen’s spying messenger riding hell-bent for leather; drunken and fearless border reivers; a condemned noble priest hiding in plain sight; an actor full of bluff and bravado; Elizabeth’s too-young, too-ambitious lover; and her brilliant, crookbacked secretary are all players on this stage of statecraft. This is no romance but rather a swirling journey back to a time when it meant something to be ruler of the realm. What’s at stake for these bit characters? Power, riches, adventure, sometimes freedom as well as their very lives. Some will perish by the Queen’s command on the rack or by the blade. The Succession is too intellectually and emotionally honest to pretend there are no losers when a crown’s at stake.

Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty

In colonial days, Baptists, Methodists and other dissenters from the Church of England might be jailed for preaching in the streets or fined for keeping their own churches. Evangelical Christians were an important factor in the American Revolution's success.

CRRL Presents: Anita Wills, Author of Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color

This interview airs beginning September 1.
Anita Wills’s quest for information about her family uncovered fascinating information all the way back to Colonial days. She joins Debby Klein on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.  

Find out more about CRRL Presents.

CRRL Presents: John Pearce, Historic Preservationist

Interview airs beginning August 18.
John Pearce is Director of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library and Director of the James Monroe Presidential Center. He shares his more than 40 years of experience in Early American Culture, decorative arts, and heritage preservation.  

Find out more about CRRL Presents.

Accommodating Revolutions: Virginia’s Northern Neck in an Era of Transformations, 1760-1810 by Albert H. Tillson, Jr.

The Northern Neck runs from Falmouth in Stafford County all the way down to Windmill Point in Lancaster County, bounded by the Rappahannock River to the south and the Potomac River to the north.  Now it’s a sleepy section of Virginia but it was once called the Athens of the New World.

Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War

If your early education taught you something about Thomas Jefferson, it likely included facts on his part in authoring the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Jefferson was an ideas man—a deep thinker. Well-educated in the classics at the College of William and Mary, he stayed out of the usual undergrad troubles by keeping at his studies and socializing with the professors while classmates spent their time drinking, gambling, and racing their horses through the streets. As historian Michael Kranish relates in Flight from Monticello, he made plenty of friends, but they were from the same landed gentry class as himself.

He first encountered an upstart farmer named Patrick Henry at a friend’s dinner party. Jefferson was not impressed by his dress, candid manners or frank speech, which drew a crowd of admirers. Not so much the classical scholar, Patrick Henry was already a practicing attorney while Jefferson was still in school.  While Jefferson carried on learned conversations with his professors, Henry was winning cases—not with references to Greek and Roman scholars but by spelling out the plain merits of the case and the rules of law. Jefferson found his courtroom arguments crude but admired his ability to turn a phrase and set a crowd on fire.

HeritageQuest Database is Now Available

HeritageQuest is a popular genealogical and historical research database which provides searchable census records and a digitized version of the UMI Genealogy & Local History collection. Images of the census records are also available. HeritageQuest is searchable from a computer anywhere and will be replacing the library's subscription to Ancestry Library Edition, available only from computers in the library. Ancestry will continue to be available in the library through August.

To use HeritageQuest, go to the Articles & Databases page, click on HeritageQuest in the list, and then enter your 14-digit library barcode.

The Devil's Company by David Liss

Benjamin Weaver, retired prize fighter and now professional thief-taker, is back in action on the streets of 18th-century London. What seemed a simple job—cheating a card cheat—turns nightmarish when Weaver discovers he’s the one who has been rooked in David Liss' The Devil’s Company. The mysterious and wealthy Mr. Jerome Cobb has a very dangerous plan in which Weaver is an essential player. His physical skills, intelligence, connections, and indeed his very character are necessary to make the plan a success.

No one else will do, and in order to secure his cooperation, Cobb and his cronies have drawn a diabolical net around those Weaver holds dear. The Devil's Company referred to in the title is none other than the terrifically wealthy East India Trading Company. Their near monopoly on imports of tea, fabrics, and other luxury items began more than 100 years before this story opens in 1722, and it is this fortress-like institution that Weaver must infiltrate.