‘Big Chief Elizabeth’ by Giles Milton
Thank god for Giles Milton! I can’t even tell you how much I fretted over the fate of those poor colonists on Roanoke for years, but suffice it to say that it was one of those burdens you don’t notice is terribly heavy until it is lifted. And suddenly you feel free.
In this case, free to worry about other abandoned colonists throughout the Age of Exploration, most of whom I hadn’t even thought to fret over until reading Giles Milton’s excellent Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America.
Milton, a superb combination of story-weaver and historian if ever there was one, does a fine job explaining, exploring (har har), and contextualizing the successive waves of British attempts to colonize North America. But, best of all for Roanoke-fretters like myself, Milton is the first person I’ve read who persuasively and logically uncovers the fate of those colonists. His research into the source material and then his utilization of those sources in new ways to produce new, viable answers, is absolutely stunning. I read this book while on holiday in Virginia (it seemed appropriate), and I found myself wanting to read aloud practically every page since each one was as interesting and new as the last.
For anyone looking for an intelligent, but not weighty book to read by the beach the summer, look no further than Big Chief Elizabeth. It’s thorough, fascinating, and will relieve that big pile of worry you’ve been carrying around regarding Roanoke since the fourth grade. (Or was that just me?) Regardless, it’s a great read and one which I highly recommend.