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Roanoke: Solving the Riddle of England's Lost Colony Hardcover – 2 Nov 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First edition (2 Nov. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224061062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061063
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,170,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Lee Miller's fascinating historical detective story, Roanoke, deals with one of the greatest mysteries of England's early colonisation of North America. In 1587 Sir Walter Raleigh ordered John White to settle an American colony of 116 English men, women and children. White landed in Roanoke that year, but inexplicably abandoned the colony (including his heavily pregnant daughter) and returned to England, promising to return with supplies within six months. In fact it took White three years before he returned to Roanoke, only to discover "nothing at all: as though the colonists had never been". All signs of life and settlement had completely disappeared. Vainly searching for the lost colonists, White finally returned home a broken man, never to be heard of again. Officially the colonists are said to have been murdered by Powhatan Indians. Lee Miller thinks differently. This account "is a myth created to explain glaring inconsistencies, to smooth out the rough edges of unanswered questions", of which there are many, carefully explored by Miller. Why did White settle in Roanoke rather than Chesapeake Bay as he was ordered? Why did he abruptly abandon the colony? What are we to make of the subsequent stories of grey-eyed Indians with an ability to work copper? Through the mass of evidence Miller weaves an extraordinary but highly readable conspiracy theory: "John White;s colonists were deliberately sabotaged and left for dead on Roanoke Island". This remarkable claim leads Miller to the heart of government in London, and the political machinations of Elizabeth I, the Earl of Essex, Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Walter Raleigh. Miller's evidence to support such a conspiracy theory is far from conclusive, and at times the breathless detective style is a little laboured, but this is a fascinating story, worth reading alongside Giles Milton's broader book Big Chief Elizabeth. --Jerry Brotton

About the Author

Lee Miller graduated in anthropology from Johns Hopkins University. She was a writer and head of research for the TV series "500 Nations" and also served as consultant for the BBC TV series "Land of the Eagle." She is the editor of "From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian."

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The first thing you notice about the book is how teeth grindingly badly it is written. It's full of ungrammatical half sentences, that are deeply irritating and destroy any flow of the prose.The historical research is patchy in places with some silly howlers, in the section on London in the 1570s, she describes the Globe theatre as a malign influence on public morals (it didn't open until 1599) and tells us that Londoners suffered from 'Mad Hatter Disease' because of the lead water pipes, ('Mad Hatters' suffered from Mercury not Lead poisoning).
These mistakes are fairly trivial but don't inspire confidence in the quality of the research. She doesn't appear to have turned up any new documents and those that she does quote are interspersed in the body of the text making it difficult to get the sense of them.
The main thrust of the book is that the colony was sabotaged by one of Raleigh's court rivals to discredit him. No evidence is put forward for this, what you get is a few dubious suppositions presented as fact then an increasingly implausible house of cards of 'what if's' building a theory of what may have happened to the colonists. It is very hard to believe that any of Raleigh's rivals would have gone to such lengths to discredit him when there must have been easier methods closer at hand. To call this book a solution of the mystery is very misleading, personally I think this would have been better written as an historical novel, as History it's a failure.
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Format: Hardcover
Lee Miller's book is a rare find: a very exciting work based on extensive historical fact, interpreted and analyzed clearly, originally, and brilliantly. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Roanoke, or history at all; its methods are laudable, and its conclusions rewrite history.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating piece of research into what might have happened to the infamous lost English colony that settled on Roanake Island off the coast of (then) Virginia in the mid 16th century and subsequently vanished without trace.

Set to the backdrop of English and Spanish attempts to colonise the Americas, the war between England and Spain and the Spanish Armada, in the time of (and featuring) such notable entities as Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, it traces what we know and highlights what we don't about the fate of a group of English "planters" that were left at the garrison on the island to await supplies and the rest of their family members.

The traditional version of the mystery is that when this group of settlers arrived, they found the existing garrison abandoned and the stockade devoid of soldiers except for one corpse. When the relief expedition finally arrived, delayed by the war, three years later, the settlement was empty with no trace of the planters that had been left there three years earlier.

The story becomes more and more complex as more questions are thrown open. Evidence of whether the settlers were religious "separatists" fleeing the shadow of the Inquisition is examined; as are the settlers' relationships with the nearby native tribes. But it is the intrigue at the court of Elizabeth I that may provide more answers; the repeated failures of experienced ship captains to set sail or dock on time, to resupply, or navigate round areas they knew well; as the story unfolds, it appears the colonists might have been doomed from the start, pawns in a game of rich courtiers' egos trying to destroy their rivals' projects.
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