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Dr. Virginia Bernhard Publishes Seventh Book
3/26/2012
Photo: Dr. Virginia Bernhard Dr. Virginia Bernhard, University of St. Thomas professor emerita of history, has published her seventh book titled, A Tale of Two Colonies: What Really Happened in Virginia and Bermuda. It is currently available from the University of Missouri Press.

In 1609, two years after its English founding, colonists struggled to stay alive in a tiny fort at Jamestown and John Smith fought to keep order, battling both English and Indians. Meanwhile, the Virginia-bound Sea Venture was shipwrecked on Bermuda, the dreaded, uninhabited “Isle of Devils.” The castaways’ journals describe the hurricane at sea as well as murders and mutinies on land, and their adventures are said to have inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

A year later, in 1610, the Bermuda castaways sailed to Virginia in two small ships they had built. They arrived in Jamestown to find many people in the last stages of starvation; abandoning the colony seemed their only option. In what many thought was divine providence, three English ships sailed into Chesapeake Bay and Virginia was saved, but the colony’s troubles were far from over.

Despite glowing reports from Virginia Company officials, disease, inadequate food, and fear of Indians plagued the colony. The company poured thousands of pounds sterling and hundreds of new settlers into its venture but failed to make a profit, and many of the newcomers died. Bermuda-with plenty of food, no native population, and a balmy climate-looked much more promising, and in fact, it became England’s second New World colony in 1612.

Bernhard’s book links Virginia and Bermuda in a series of unintended consequences, resulting from natural disaster, ignorance of native cultures, diplomatic intrigue and the fateful arrival of the first Africans in both colonies.

Bernhard served on the UST faculty from 1971 to 2006. She was the director of the History Department for many years and the director of the Women Culture and Society Program from 2005-2006. She received the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Academic Achievement in 2003. Dr. Bernhard earned a doctorate from Rice University, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree from Rice.

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