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The extraordinary story of the Powhatan chief who waged a lifelong struggle to drive European settlers from his homeland
In the mid-sixteenth century, Spanish explorers in the Chesapeake Bay kidnapped an Indian child and took him back to Spain and subsequently to Mexico. The boy converted to Catholicism and after nearly a decade was able to return to his land with a group of Jesuits to establish a mission. Shortly after arriving, he organized a war party that killed them.
In the years that followed, Opechancanough (as the English called him), helped establish the most powerful chiefdom in the mid-Atlantic region. When English settlers founded Virginia in 1607, he fought tirelessly to drive them away, leading to a series of wars that spanned the next forty years—the first Anglo-Indian wars in America— and came close to destroying the colony.
A Brave and Cunning Prince is the first book to chronicle the life of this remarkable chief, exploring his early experiences of European society and his long struggle to save his people from conquest.
About the Author
James Horn is the president of Jamestown Rediscovery. He is author and editor of eight books on colonial America, including 1619 and A Land as God Made It. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.
“Informative and engaging, A Brave and Cunning Prince challenges conventional wisdom about Pocahontas, Captain John Smith and, most important, the early encounters between the Indians and the English. And Horn reminds us that the outcome of their protracted conflict was by no means certain.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Horn’s story rivals any narrative — fact or fiction — and provides ample suspense and action to entertain the reader… A Brave and Cunning Prince joins the aforementioned previous Horn works in providing a complete and intriguing look at the early years of Virginia by questioning previous assumptions of other historians and providing highly detailed and well-researched accounts of these seminal events.”—Roanoke Times
“An accomplished work of scholarly detection... Swift, moving prose along a twisting storyline lends this brilliant book the feel of a mystery.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“A fascinating narrative of intrigue, shifting alliances, and betrayal. Horn’s detailed biography properly places Opechancanough in the context of history.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“An immersive portrait... Early American history buffs will be riveted.”—Publishers Weekly
“Like most Native people in early American history, Opechancanough generally plays a brief bit part as a violent and tragic figure. In contrast, James Horn constructs a remarkable life story that spanned a century. At a time when America is digging more deeply into its origins, this eye-opening narrative challenges well-worn tales of Pocahontas and congenial first encounters with a grim record of kidnapping, starvation, and total war.”
—Colin G. Calloway, author of The Indian World of George Washington
“This book tells the story of one of the most fascinating figures in American history—the older brother of the more famous man we know as Powhatan. Most Americans probably have never heard of Opechancanough, but A Brave and Cunning Prince makes it clear that his name ought to ring in our mythology with the tragic names of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse of the Sioux, the Apache’s Geronimo, and the Comanche’s Quanah Parker. Opechancanough’s experiences and travels rival those of John Smith, and his leadership was demonstrably more effective. Though eclipsed in the records by both Smith and his own brother, Opechancanough might have been the most important of the three. Opechancanough’s story is long overdue, and who better to tell the tale than our generation’s foremost authority.”
—Joseph Kelly, author of Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin
“A Brave and Cunning Prince is brilliant, stunning, original, and un-put-downable. Horn’s gripping prose and remarkable detective skills transport the reader to the Chesapeake Bay, Madrid, Mexico City, Havana, and London and into the mind of the talented, indefatigable Powhatan chief, Opechancanough. Upending the traditional Jamestown colonization narrative, Horn centers the Powhatan people, uncovering their priorities and their perceptions of the invaders who tried to colonize their land. Horn has crafted a magnificent, important biography, essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand early America.”
—Lorri Glover, Saint Louis University
“James Horn combines cutting-edge scholarship with vivid, accessible prose in this sweeping narrative of Opechancanough's eventful and eye-opening life story.”
—James Rice, author of Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America
“James Horn has produced the first full biography of Paquinquineo/Opechancanough, making a compelling case that these two important figures in the Indigenous history of Virginia were one and the same. This transatlantic biography will be of great value to anyone interested in the vast history of what in Horn’s hands becomes an Algonquian Atlantic.”
—Michael Leroy Oberg, SUNY-Geneseo
“Few individuals, European or Native American, had as much impact on early America as the Pamunkey leader Opechancanough. In A Brave and Cunning Prince, the renowned historian of early Virginia James Horn offers a masterclass on historical reconstruction and narrative style, deeply informed by an unparalleled mastery of evidence and sensitivity to the nuances of lived experience. Horn takes us across a century and the entire Atlantic basin, enlightening at every unexpected twist and turn. Opechancanough, a monumental figure, comes to prominence again in this true-life page-turner of narrative history.”
—Peter C. Mancall, author of The Trials of Thomas Morton