Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton
The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America

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Synopsis

In April 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of Native Americans had made her their weroanza—a word that meant "big chief". The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and her favorite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, who caused a sensation in Elizabethan London. In 1587, Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord and Governor, with more than one hundred English men, women, and children. In 1590, a supply ship arrived at the colony to discover that the settlers had vanished.

For almost twenty years the fate of Ralegh's colonists was to remain a mystery. When a new wave of settlers sailed to America to found Jamestown, their efforts to locate the lost colony were frustrated by the mighty chieftain, Powhatan, father of , who vowed to drive the English out of America. Only when it was too late did the settlers discover the incredible news that Ralegh's colonists had survived in the forests for almost two decades before being slaughtered in cold blood by henchmen. While Sir Walter Ralegh's "savage" had played a pivotal role in establishing the first English settlement in America, he had also unwittingly contributed to one of the earliest chapters in the decimation of the Native American population. The mystery of what happened to these colonists who seemed to vanish without a trace lies at the heart of this well-researched work of narrative history.

 

About Giles Milton

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Giles Milton is the author of three books, including a history of the seventeenth-century spice wars in the Dutch East Indies, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg.
 
Published April 1, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 358 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Milton (Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, 1999, etc.) describes the earliest British expeditions to the New World, starting with the poorly planned and ill-fated colonization of Sir Humfrey Gilbert.

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The Guardian

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Giles Milton's narrative races along at breakneck speed as he stitches together a story of heroism, sacrifice and misplaced zeal, painstakingly researched from contemporary writing and records The great names of the age - Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Francis Drake - sail across the pages as England...

Aug 27 2000 | Read Full Review of Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adve...

The Guardian

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He includes a funny anecdote about the pride one Englishman took in learning the Indian name for the countryside, Wingandacoa : "This was put into all the official paperwork and it was some months before the English realised that this unpronounceable word - which the Indians kept repeating to Ba...

Aug 05 2000 | Read Full Review of Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adve...

Publishers Weekly

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Nevertheless, Raleigh played a huge role in Britain's long-standing claim to America, not only by bringing settlers to lay claim to the new land but also by introducing tobacco to Elizabeth's court and turning ""smoke into gold."" Although Milton's historical revelations are few and he has a penc...

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