Mr. Kelly, a literature professor at the College of Charleston, takes as his subject Jamestown’s common men, arguing that they were metaphorically (and sometimes literally) shipwrecked in other men’s dreams, forced to forge their own path toward America’s future. The author meanders through topics only loosely connected to Jamestown ... But I wonder who, outside of New England, still sees Plymouth as the foundation of the United States. History textbooks today mention Jamestown as well as St. Augustine and Santa Fe alongside New England. My own kids, learning history in North Carolina public schools would point to Roanoke or the American Revolution if asked about America’s founding. And I suspect few students in San Diego and St. Louis would choose Plymouth. Joseph Kelly is beating a horse that died in the previous century ... But of course our founding myths do describe the people we want to be—so maybe the Virginia Co.’s plan for a civil public life with responsible leaders and economic opportunities for everyone is a good history to revive after all.
...In this retelling of the Jamestown saga, Kelly argues that history’s Hopkinses, who aspired to marronage (escaping slavery) and self-determination instead of empire or a city on a hill, offer the myth we need, one that contains 'the trampled seed of democracy.' Though Hopkins and those like him left few records, Kelly fleshes out the available glimpses with a vivid, detailed description of the settlement and its English and Native American contexts ... Kelly’s dynamic narrative brings Jamestown to life and shows how history reflects the present as well as the past.
Despite the volume of this book and the controversial interpretations, it makes a fast easy adventure in reading. It includes the familiar such as John Smith but so much else. Solid scholarship, Marooned has an extensive bibliography, documentation, and illustration.