Audrey J. Horning. Ireland in the Virginian Sea: Colonialism in the British Atlantic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. 496 pp. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4696-1072-6.
Reviewed by Jessica M. Parr (University of New Hampshire)
Published on H-War (December, 2014)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air University)
The role of migration and peopling in shaping the early settlements of the British Atlantic has been well-studied by Peter Pope, Alison Games, Bernard Bailyn, and others. So too, has the idea of colonial Virginia as a thoroughly Atlantic entity, though April Hatfield’s influential study focuses more on how contact between English and Dutch traders, and how interaction between Virginia and other colonies informed slavery in Virginia. However, archaeologist Audrey Horning brings a fresh and innovated perspective to this already rich historiography.
Horning begins by looking at the allowances made for cultural intermingling in the Chesapeake and Ireland, as well as their responses to factionalism and expansion. Like some of her predecessors, Horning carefully explores the role that movements of people--indigenous and otherwise--played in shaping the culture and politics of early English colonies. Her two case studies, Ireland and Virginia, give a nod to English’s imperial aspirations on both sides of the Atlantic.
On one hand was Virginia, a predominately economic enterprise that arguably became the most steadfastly Anglican of Britain’s North American colonies. On the other hand was Ireland, a colony of plantations where Protestantism came to determine land holdings and other vestiges of political and economic power over indigenous Irish Catholics. Despite the fact that Virginia shared some similarities in terms of the privileging of Anglican Protestantism, Horning does not see Ireland as a model for North American colonization. The distinction she makes breaks with one of the conventional ways of viewing England’s imperial expansion in the seventeenth century. Combined with her detailed analysis of the two colonization projects, this differentiation is among her important new contributions to the scholarship. Horning notes that the Chesapeake settlements achieved stability decades before Ireland. She rightfully attributes this to the Chesapeake’s dependence on England for “trade, defense, and immigrants,” a dependence not shared by the Irish (p. 17). In light of this, the elites in Virginia were motivated to stay clear of the War of Three Kingdoms. Getting involved in the theo-politics of seventeenth-century England was simply not in their interest.
Horning’s analysis includes not only elites, but also those on the cultural and political margins of English colonial aspirations (and some might say Englishness). She deftly navigates not only the complexities of two colonies, but also how the different inhabitants might respond to colonial expansion. In Ireland, in the wake of the Reformation, the Ireland and the Roman Catholic Irish were regarded as a source of “anxiety and fear.” This fear of an Ireland that was resistant to colonization led the English to rebrand the Irish as “savages,” as part of the process of colonization (p. 350). The specter of Ireland was such that those involved in setting colonial policy in Virginia were mindful that “great care was thought fit to be taken that these new colonies should consist of such men as were unlike to fall to the barbarous customs of the Irish” (p. 374). Prescriptions against cultural intermingling proved fruitless, in both the New World and the Old.
In contrast with Ireland, the lands that became the Chesapeake colonies were largely unknown to the English. Relations between Native peoples and the English settlers in Virginia were complex, owing to the “frequency and intensity of contacts,” largely related to trade (p. 102). While Virginia’s elites were careful not to run afoul of the ruling classes back in England, neither could they escape the influences brought on by these interactions with indigenous Americans. They proclaimed their British roots, but the colonies still changed them.
Horning’s study is meticulous, thoughtful, and a welcome contribution. It will be of particular interest not only to those who study the cultural effects of colonization, but also those who are interested in a fresh look at the economics of colonization.
. The literature is vast, but see especially Peter E. Pope, Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Bernard Bailyn, The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (New York: Vintage, 2013); and Alison Games, Migration and the Origins of the English World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).
. April Lee Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).
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Jessica M. Parr. Review of Horning, Audrey J., Ireland in the Virginian Sea: Colonialism in the British Atlantic.
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