Big Chief Elizabeth : How England's Adventurers Gambled and Won the New World, Paperback

Big Chief Elizabeth : How England's Adventurers Gambled and Won the New World Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


In April 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title.

A tribe of North American Indians had made her their weroanza - 'big chief'. The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and her favourite, Sir Walter Ralegh.

His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, whose tattooed face had enthralled Elizabethan London.

Now Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord and Governor.

Ralegh's gamble would result in the first English settlement in the New World, but it would also lead to a riddle whose solution lay hidden in the forests of Virginia. A tale of heroism and mystery, BIG CHIEF ELIZABETH is illuminated by first-hand accounts to reveal a remarkable and long-forgotten story.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432 pages, B/W maps and illustrations throughout
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780340748824



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Filled in gaps in my knowledge of the Elizabethan era.

Review by

I've just read this on the back of reading another book on American history, 'Savage Kingdom' by Benjamin Woolley. In contrast to that book, Big Chief Elizabeth is more of a popular history. It's ultimately a true story, told as a story. It mentions historical sources and has a fairly comprehensive bibliography at the back but doesn't have the many pages of accompanying notes that some other history books I've read do. It was less concerned with the politics and detail than the general overview of what went on, and the characters that were a part of it. The part on the Jamestown colony was quite rushed, the main part of the book being about Walter Raleigh's attempts at founding an English colony in Virgina, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was also in part a biography of Sir Walter Raleigh, at least so far as his involvement with America went (which was his major life's work).Overall a great history book, entertaining, easy to read and I learned a lot from it. Leaves me wanting more.

Review by

A highly readable account of the early attempts by Englishmen to colonise the North Eastern part of what is now the United States in the 16th and early 17th centuries. It starts from unfamiliar ground - an attempt by one Richard Hore as early as 1536 to capture a native American and bring him back to England. The attempt at capture failed but Hore did get there, so the first Englishman achieved that distinction a few decades earlier than is perhaps generally realised. The book retraces the landings of the various groups of adventurers and colonists in the Roanoke and Chesapeake Bay areas in the 1570s and 80s, and their often (but not always) bloody history of conflict with the native Americans. The fortunes and fate of the lost colony of 1587 are well covered and the epilogue arrives at a plausible conclusion as to their fate. The instrumental role of Pocahontas in finally achieving peace between the main tribes and the settlers is well covered. A great read, marred only slightly by a lack of reference notes (though the bibliography is fine) and the fact that the provenance of some of the illustrations is not clear and/or they are not positioned at the logical place in the text.

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