Category: Colonial History (ca. 1560–1763)


“A Dictionarie of the Indian Language”; an excerpt from The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia by William Strachey (1612, pub. 1849)

In this excerpt from “A Dictionarie of the Indian Language, for the Better Enabling of Such Who Shalbe Thither Ymployed,” William Strachey compiled what he believed to be words spoken by the Virginia Indians of Tsenacomoco who lived in the Tidewater when the Jamestown colonists landed in 1607. Appearing at the end of The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia , Strachey’s dictionary consisted of 400 words, of which 263 accurately represent Algonquian-language words or phrases, according to the linguist Frank T. Siebert Jr.


“A strange dream this day”; an excerpt from the diary of Landon Carter (1776–1777)

In this excerpt from the diary he kept for more than twenty-five years, Landon Carter notes that several of his slaves have run away following a proclamation by the royal governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, promising freedom to slaves who joined British forces during the American Revolution (1775–1783). Carter repeatedly voices his dislike for Patrick Henry and his belief that he (Carter), and not Henry, had taken the lead in opposing the Stamp Act (1765). Finally, he gives evidence of strained relations at home with his son and wife, and brags of his abilities as a physician.


“A Vision Upon this Concept of the Faery Queene” by Sir Walter Raleigh (1590)

This sonnet, “A Vision Upon this Concept of the Faery Queene,” was written by Sir Walter Raleigh and published as a commendatory verse at the beginning of Edmund Spenser’s epic The Faerie Queen (1590). Raleigh and Spenser met in Ireland, and Spenser modeled after Raleigh his character Timias, a squire who woos the “heavenly born” Belphoebe, modeled after Queen Elizabeth. Some spelling has been modernized.


“Against ffornication” (1662)

In this law, “Against ffornication,” passed in its March 1662 session, the General Assembly addressed the problem of indentured servants having sex that produced pregnancies that, in turn, cost masters money and labor.

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