Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Shelf: Anne Orthwood's Bastard

The opening sentence in L.P. Hartley's* novel "The Go-Between" reads: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

Not only did people in the past act differently but they also had entirely different ways of thinking about things--ways that we might never imagine. I'm always looking for ways to gain insights into the world as my ancestors experienced it.

Subtitled "Sex and Law in Early Virginia," this award winning book is a scholarly (but far from dry) examination of how society and the law operated in 17th century Virginia.

"A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye Hills" by John Farrer, London, 1651

John Ruston Pagan is a legal historian specializing on the ways that English law changed with its transportation to the colonies. He happened upon Anne Orthwood's story and the court cases that started in 1664 and didn't end until 21 years later when her surviving child sued for his freedom.

This is the world my 8th great grandfather Thomas Warren knew; both he and Willliam Kendall, the head of the household where Anne first met the man who later got her pregnant, served in the House of Burgesses. Several of their terms coincided so it's almost certain that they knew each other. Even though they lived in different parts of the colony, the scandal caused by Anne's situation very likely spread throughout the region.

I highly recommend this book whether or not you have ancestors in colonial Virginia. In 150 pages, Professor Pagan re-creates a lost world.

*There's no known connection to the Hartley family I married into.

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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