Marooned by Joseph Kelly

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Marooned:

I would’ve stayed in Bermuda.

Quick synopsis:

The founding of Jamestown and the absolutely crazy set of circumstances and difficult people that made it last. Also, a lot of Joseph Kelly philosophy.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Stephen Hopkins was sentenced to death for mutiny in Bermuda. Years later he would be on the Mayflower. He is a wonderful example of how far a good apology can go.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Kelly, the author, wonderfully illustrates how the English felt superior to the hated Catholic Spanish who plundered and murdered their way through the Americas. Kelly then more or less pinpoints exactly when the English started doing the same thing without a hint of irony.

My Take on Marooned:

This is a tale of two books. One is good, the other not so much.

When Kelly is focused on the history of Jamestown, this book really shines. He has a great handle on the characters, of which there are many, and I found he was able to put a lot of things in perspective. John Smith was an egomaniac who ruled with an iron fist. Kelly doesn’t shy away from also pointing out that without John Smith, everyone would definitely had died. Kelly also does a pretty good job of putting the English mentality (read: superiority complex) on trial as they slowly realize the Spanish might have the right idea. The right idea (in their minds) kill everyone and then they should be sufficiently afraid of us.

The other book within the book is much less successful. Kelly too often sidetracks to start philosophizing on the thoughts and feelings of the “lesser” sort of settlers. These sections completely break up the flow of the book and, quite frankly, usually aren’t very convincing. Kelly meant to make Jamestown the true jumping off point of American thought. He didn’t convince me.

(Tangent: Rhode Island is the true jumping off point of American thought. Fight me.)


Come for the history, skip the philosophy. A good book for someone who knows a little bit about this time period but not all of it. Too in depth for beginners. Buy it here!

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Marooned by Joseph Kelly
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