Blandford Candy in America. The Emerald Cross OUT NOW!
I have been fascinated with the history of the Native American nations, and the European colonisation of North America, ever since childhood. The M.R. Harrington novel Dickon Among the Lenape enthralled me when I was lying in a bed in Bristol Children’s Hospital as a six year old. I am unsure where my parents picked it up, as even then it was a rare book, but it seems to have been one of the novels my father bought when they taught in Canada in the 1960s. It was clearly important enough for him to bring it back to the UK, and I’m very glad he did.
Unable to sleep due to the various tubes and catheters and machines that go ping, reading books was my only escape from the noisy kids wards’ that were my home at various times in the 70s and 80s. Blandford’s journey to the American colonies allowed me to revisit my childhood reading, and the characters of the semi-historical Chaucos and his entirely fictional brother Roger Forester are certainly inspired by Harrington’s books.
I have tried to present the colonies and the native people through a Seventeenth Century European’s eyes and viewpoint. I have also desperately tried to avoid stereotypes like the noble savage and, frankly, racist tropes about the Native American experience of colonisation, whilst also giving Blandford a realistic outlook on both the nascent slave trade and the Native American displacement. That has meant using historical terms like kingdoms and kings which are and were utterly meaningless within the context of Native American culture and society, but were commonly used in the 17th Century.
I am fortunate that the trade in human flesh had not quite developed it’s more offensive vocabulary that is still used to humiliate and demean (at least in widespread use in the English colonies and language). However, it has meant using historical terms such as blackamoor and mulatto that are still utterly offensive today. In that, I had to balance accuracy of language with a moral determination not to gratuitously offend anyone. I hope that I have found that balance. The slave trade in the 1640s was very much in its infancy.
Attitudes on the colonists’ parts were always mixed, but during the 18th Century puritan sensibilities lost out to the vast amounts of capital generated by the trade. The trade was still opposed and still condemned (Abolition did not start with Wilberforce), but every household in Britain benefitted directly from the wealth of the slave trade. Growing up in Swansea, where the copper manacles that would chain the slaves were made, and going to University in Bristol where the relics of the trade are all around, I am always struck by the lack of teaching time we now ascribe to the colonial period in general and the slave trade in particular. It is, I think, the same wilful blindness about our history that allowed the trade to flourish in the first instance. We should begin to acknowledge that and how we as a nation benefitted from the trade of human flesh.
The arrival of Europeans in America was a cataclysmic event on both sides of the Atlantic. The Colombian Exchange is perhaps the most significant historical process of the renaissance. New crops and commodities like tobacco, coffee, sugar, tomato, potato and furs flowed back to the Old World. In return the colonists reintroduced horses to the Americas, as well as a series of pathogens (smallpox, cholera, typhus, typhoid, measles, influenza the list goes on) which devastated the American peoples. It has been estimated that the Native American population had fallen by 80-95% within 150 years of Columbus’s arrival. The Eastern seaboard of America that Blandford arrives in was a ghost land compared to only a few decades before.
My Native American characters are agents of their own destiny within the historical context, just like my European characters. The Susquehannock Nation had lost their powerful position by the 1670s, probably after a devastating outbreak of smallpox. The remnants of the nation were absorbed by the Five Nations (Iroquois) or moved to western Virginia. The last of them were massacred by the Paxton Boys in the 18th Century. The Lenape (Delaware) Nation has long been pushed from their traditional territory. The Indian Removals of the 18th and 19th Centuries saw them relocated westwards but they still exist and their websites and educational services were a valuable resource in my research. The Iroquois Confederacy (or Haudenosaunee) of five (now six) nations fought for control of the European Beaver trade in North America. They remained a powerful factor in colonial politics long into the 18th Century. The confederacy still exists today and there are modern communities across Canada and the United States with a total population of over 100,000 who identify as one of the Iroquois peoples.
The First Nations all have wonderful resources easily available to anyone wishing to learn about their culture and history. There are museums, tribal websites, reams and reams of scholarly research, and all of them put on events and educational experiences to help access the resources. I heartily recommend them all to anyone wanting to research further. My books are very much fiction not history (however well I try to keep to the facts), and certainly not sociology, anthropology or Native American studies. The reality of early colonial history, and the Native American experience of it, is much more fascinating, enthralling and exciting than anything my mind could devise.
All of the major European nations were involved in the colonization of the Americas. After the failed expedition to Roanoake, the first successful British settlement was founded in Jamestown in 1607. The crown granted successive land patents from 1607 onwards with establishments in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Newfoundland joining Jamestown on the Atlantic seaboard. The increase in settlers from the 1620s onwards became a tidal wave by the middle of the century, and the English population of the Americas increased dramatically which gave them a clear advantage when it came to conflicts with other colonial powers.
The Dutch had control of the Hudson River trade with their colony at New Amsterdam (New York), giving them access to beaver pelts and goods from the interior. The Dutch were primarily in America to develop trade rather than to settle. Similarly the small Swedish colony on the Delaware was designed to exploit resources and send wealth back to the mother country. Even Scotland got in on the act, founding the short lived first colony of Nova Scotia in 1629. The English came to settle right from the outset. The growing power of the English navy after Pepys reforms, and the disparity in colonial population meant that the Dutch and Swedish colonies were easily absorbed by the end of the 17th Century. With them were a variety of Germans, French, Swedes and Italians and increasing numbers of African slaves, who nominally became colonial subjects of the English Crown.
The novel is based on information taken from extensive sources. Some of these included: Samuel Luke’s Journal, the Memoirs of Prince Rupert, Edward Hyde and Margaret Cavendish; collections of letters by Henrietta Maria, Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell; copies of original newsbooks, such as the Mercurius Aulicus, Perfect Diurnal, and Parliament Scout, and contemporary poems, ballads and plays. These have mostly been found on
Early English Books Online which has masses of primary documents photocopied, and sometimes with digitised text, and you can get free access at your local public library.
Secondary sources included work by Christopher Hill, CV Wedgewood, M.R. Harrington, Richard Holmes, Barbara Graymont, John O’Meara, and James Walter Thomas. I have also taken account of up to date research information on the First Nations websites, the Spanish Hill website, Rebels and Revolutionaries podcast and the British Civil Wars Project website.
The Emerald Cross is OUT NOW and available on AMAZON from Sharpe Books