New Books Network

Lauren Working

The Making of an Imperial Polity

Civility and America in the Jacobean Metropolis

Cambridge University Press 2020

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in British StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Native American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network January 22, 2020 Charles Prior

In his Relation of the second voyage to Guiana, published in 1596, George Chapman put the imperial ambitions of England into a telling verse...

In his Relation of the second voyage to Guiana, published in 1596, George Chapman put the imperial ambitions of England into a telling verse couplet. ‘Riches, and Conquest, and Renowne I sing. / Riches with honour, Conquest without bloud’. For the metropolitan gentlemen of early 17th-century London, the colonising project in Virginia was deeply bound up with the tastes and social lives of statesmen. Chapman’s reference to riches and honour signal English ambitions at the outset of a colonising project in which the interior worlds of the state were profoundly transformed.

In The Making of an Imperial Polity: Civility and America in the Jacobean Metropolis (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Lauren Working examines a complex trans-Atlantic process of the movement of objects, ideas, and cultural mixing. Colonialism was a civic project that might hold the keys not just to the prosperity and prestige of the kingdom, but to the refashioning of society. But beneath all this lay tensions that stemmed from the encounter with the Native peoples of Tsenacommacah, a place that was marred by violence between settlers and the Powhatan Confederacy. This book places that tension at the fore of a sparkling and detailed study of the ideology of early colonialism and its place in important circuits of ideas and power in London. Lauren Working is a Post-doctoral Researcher on the TIDE Project.


Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.