August 1590, John White...found Roanoke deserted and its makeshift houses dismantled. The only clues were letters carved into a tree 'CRO' and a post with an inscription in capital letters 'CROATOAN'. Missing was the emblem of a cross, 'a secret token' that the colonists had earlier agreed to leave, if necessary, as a sign of distress ... The Secret Token spanning more than 400 years, offers the most authoritative account of the Lost Colony to date, if not the last word.
...focuses not just on the very sturdy evergreen mystery the lost colony of Roanoke (which, as he points out, historians and archeologists have for years been patiently pointing out was not actually 'lost') but also on the origin and growth of the legend itself. ... The story was once a familiar part of any elementary-school American history education: in 1587, the Roanoke colony was found deserted – even the houses and barricades were gone. The only clue was the 'secret token' of Lawler's title, carved into a tree at the settlement site ... Of course The Secret Token won't stop or even stall the outlandish speculation about Roanoke's fate (space aliens have, inevitably, been dragged into the whole thing many times), but readers who prefer the facts need look no further.
Andrew Lawler warns in his new book, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, that Lost Colony fever is a kind of madness. Happily, that doesn’t stop him from plunging into the wild terrain of theories ... Lawler manages to do this in a clear-eyed way, conscious of whether he, too, is getting lost ... Lawler has a polished, pop-history writing style — informative without seeming dense, entertaining but not pandering ... One of the strengths of the first section of the book is its depiction of the civilizations that had already been clashing for generations ... Lawler also does a good job conveying the strangeness of one of the central figures of the Lost Colony mystery: the wayward governor, John White ... Lawler falls into the habit of ending chapters with suggestive cliffhangers. It works, for a while, but gets distracting ... the themes of mingled races, of cultures clashing to create something new, are surprisingly fresh and powerful.
The Roanoke colony is often associated with phenomena like ghosts, zombies, or alien abduction. Lawler, thankfully, doesn’t spend too much time debunking that kind of thing. Far more interesting is his exploration of Roanoke in regards to how America thinks about itself, its history, and race ... Lawler dives into what could have happened to it. He puts it into context. Roanoke existed at a time when England and Spain were actively trying to kill each other, Native Americans and Europeans were first encountering each other, and the beginnings of America’s genocide and displacement were already underway. That context is inescapable, but everyone loves a good mystery.
A sweeping account of America's oldest unsolved mystery, the people racing to unearth its answer and what the Lost Colony reveals about America today ... In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler sets out on a quest to determine the fate of the settlers, finding fresh leads as he encounters a host of characters obsessed with resolving the enigma ... offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony and its fate, but of how its absence continues to define -and divide -America.
Early settlers vanish, spawning centuries of speculation ... a contributing writer for Science and contributing editor for Archaeology, clearly has been infected with the Lost Colony syndrome…an urgent and overwhelming need to resolve the question of what happened to the colonists. He creates a vivid picture of the roiling, politically contentious, economically stressed Elizabethan world from which they sailed and a thorough—sometimes needlessly so—recounting of historical, archaeological, and weird theories to explain the disappearance.
Part detective novel, part historical reckoning, Lawler’s engrossing book traces the story of—and the obsessive search for—the lost colony of Roanoke, the first English settlement in the New World, which disappeared without a trace in 1590 ... Digging in archives, visiting archeological excavations, and consulting previous leads, Lawler tries to wring a conclusion from the extant evidence: did the settlers die; did they merge with local Native American villages; did they leave the area?