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The Formation of a Society on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1615-1655

James R. Perry

Publisher: Omohundro Institute
Imprint: OIEAHC
Published: 01/1990
Reprint: 2011
Subject: Colonial, Revolutionary Era & Early American History
Paperback ISBN: 9780807897508
eBook ISBN: 9780807839393


The dissolution of the ill-starred Virginia Company in 1624 left Virginia -- now England's first royal colony -- without a formal raison d'etre. Most historians have suggested that the nascent local societies were anarchic, under the thrall of violent and unscrupulous men.

James Perry asserts the opposite: The Formation of a Society on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1615-1655 depicts emergent social cohesion. In a model of network analysis, Perry mines county court records to trace landholders through four decades -- their land, families, neighborhoods, local and offshore economic relations, and institutions. A wealth of statistics documents their development from rudimentary beginnings to a more highly articulated society capable of resolving conflict and working toward communal good.

Perry's methodology will serve as a model for analyzing other new settlements, particularly those lacking the close-knit religious bonds and contractual foundations of New England towns. His conclusions will reshape notions of the development of early Chesapeake society.

Originally published in 1990.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.


James R. Perry is an independent scholar and coeditor of volumes I-III of The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800.


Delmarva History Prize, Center For Delmarva History at Salisbury State University (1997)


"In one of the most richly detailed accounts of early Virginia society yet written, James R. Perry provides a vivid portrait of how English settlers adapted to conditions along the Chesapeake Bay and their remarkable achievement in creating a stable and orderly society in the face of severe demographic disruption and an intractable environment. The result is a model of painstaking social history at the local level."
--James Horn, Brighton Polytechnic

"The effect of James R. Perry's book will be considerable. As a work of scholarship, it is impeccable, drawing as it does on a considerable array of manuscript sources. As a piece of historical writing, it is well crafted and soundly argued. As an interpretation, it will be debatable, and that quality is what invests The Formation of a Society on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1615-1655 with significance."
--Warren M. Billings, University of New Orleans, Lake Front

"This solid, well-written monograph is yet another useful contribution to the growing historical literature on the Chesapeake colonies in the seventeenth century."
--Maryland Historical Magazine