New perspectives on the Old Dominion


CoombsDr. John C. Coombs, associate professor of history, has published, with Dr. Douglas Bradburn of Binghamton University, the book Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion, a collection of essays on 17th-century Virginia. This is the first such collection on the Chesapeake in nearly 25 years.

Coombs (center at right) and Bradburn edited a collection from contributors who represent some of the best of a younger generation of scholars who are building on, but also criticizing and moving beyond, the work of the so-called Chesapeake School of social history that dominated the historiography of the region in the 1970s and 1980s. Employing a variety of methodologies, analytical strategies, and types of evidence, these essays explore a wide range of topics and offer a fresh look at the early religious, political, economic, social, and intellectual life of the colony.

“We are hoping that Early Modern Virginia will appeal to both scholars and the interested public,” says Coombs. “It is an academic volume (in the sense that the essays are based on original research and thoroughly documented), but our charge to the authors was that their essays be directed toward an educated general audience rather than just specialists. Thankfully I think they all met that requirement, and consequently anyone who reads the book will not only be able to understand the essays but will learn a lot about early Virginia—from religion to government, trade to imperialism, slavery to Native American society, landscape to household life—that they probably didn’t know.”

The essays in Early Modern Virginia were presented in 2007—the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown—at a symposium at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. Coombs says, “This essay collection, like the symposium, is intended to suggest new angles of view, new approaches, and new arguments that help advance our understanding of the development, settlement, and nature of life in the Old Dominion’s first century. Over time I think it will be seen as one of the most important academic publications conceived to mark Virginia’s anniversary.”

Dr. Coombs has a B.A. from Arizona State University and a Ph.D. from the College of William & Mary.