Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

For God, King, and People

Forging Commonwealth Bonds in Renaissance Virginia

Alexander B. Haskell

Cloth: 978-1-4696-1802-9 ($45.00)

Copyright 2017
University of North Carolina Press

By recovering a largely forgotten English Renaissance mindset that regarded sovereignty and Providence as being fundamentally entwined, Alexander Haskell reconnects concepts historians had before treated as separate categories and argues that the first English planters in Virginia operated within a deeply providential age rather than an era of early modern entrepreneurialism. These men did not merely settle Virginia; they and their London-based sponsors saw this first successful English venture in America as an exercise in divinely inspired and approved commonwealth creation. When the realities of Virginia complicated this humanist ideal, growing disillusionment and contention marked debates over the colony.

Rather than just "selling" colonization to the realm, proponents instead needed to overcome profound and recurring doubts about whether God wanted English rule to cross the Atlantic and the process by which it was to happen. By contextualizing these debates within a late Renaissance phase in England, Haskell links increasing religious skepticism to the rise of decidedly secular conceptions of state power. Haskell offers a radical revision of accepted narratives of early modern state formation, locating it as an outcome, rather than as an antecedent, of colonial endeavor.

About the Author

Alexander B. Haskell is associate professor of history at the University of California, Riverside.


In provocatively reexamining the literature of colonization and state formation, Haskell brilliantly destabilizes conventional wisdom about their genesis. The English commonwealths founded across the Atlantic were the conceptual creator, not creation, of state and empire.

--Peter Thompson, University of Oxford