During the half century after 1650 that saw the gradual imposition of a slave society in England's North American colonies, poor white settlers in the Chesapeake sought a republic of equals. Demanding a say in their own destinies, rebels moved around the region looking for a place to build a democratic political system. This book crosses colonial boundaries to show how Ingle's Rebellion, Fendall's Rebellion, Bacon's Rebellion, Culpeper's Rebellion, Parson Waugh's Tumult, and the colonial Glorious Revolution were episodes in a single struggle because they were organized by one connected group of people.
Adding land records and genealogical research to traditional sources, Noeleen McIlvenna challenges standard narratives that disdain poor whites or leave them out of the history of the colonial South. She makes the case that the women of these families played significant roles in every attempt to establish a more representative political system before 1700. McIlvenna integrates landless immigrants and small farmers into the history of the Chesapeake region and argues that these rebellious anti-authoritarians should be included in the pantheon of the nation's Founders.