The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington's Times

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9780679753056: The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington's Times

From historian Charles Royster--winner of the Francis Parkman, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes--comes the history of one of eighteenth-century America's most fantastic land speculation deals: William Byrd's scheme to develop 900 square miles of swamp on the Virginia-North Carolina border and create fabulous wealth for himself and other shareholders, including George Washington.

Royster scrupulously follows the paper trail through the byways of transatlantic deal-cutting, providing a rare view of early American economic culture.  Elegantly written and impressively researched, The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company is an eye-opening account of greed, folly, and venture capitalism in the revolutionary era.

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Review:

The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company begins, appropriately, amidst a time of extraordinary popular delusions. The mania surrounding the Mississippi Company and the South Sea Bubble was just properly breaking around 1720, leaving countless speculators broken and penniless. But any lessons to be learned from these legendary schemes seem lost on the principals of Charles Royster's historical epic, including such august figures as George Washington and Virginia's William Byrd. They--apparently like all other men of means at the time--were driven to convert the vast tracts of America into cold, hard cash. Speculation on land, along with the various ventures intended to exploit it profitably, is the central theme to Royster's interconnected patchwork of stories that spans some hundred years and sprawls the better part of the globe. Nearly all these tales relate to, if sometimes obliquely, a particular company and the men (including a young George Washington) who founded it to "save" the impassable, frog-infested marsh on the Virginia-North Carolina border known as the Great Dismal Swamp. (Never mind that local folk thought of it as "a low sunken morass, not fit for any of the purposes of Agriculture.")

Fortunately, Royster, an accomplished historian and author of the Francis Parkman Prize-winning A Revolutionary People at War, had more luck getting something valuable out of the Dismal Swamp than his Colonial predecessors. His richly detailed, circuitous saga makes for dense, satisfying reading. --Paul Hughes

From the Back Cover:

In Praise of The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company

"Imagine Barbarians at the Gate with lace cuffs. Charles Royster's tale of eighteenth-century mischief among tobacco magnates on the colonial frontier reads better than most historical novels, full of gossip and wit and Royster's trademark exhaustive research. Let some of Virginia's 'First Families' start spinning in their graves!"
--Wilton Barnhardt, author of Gospel

"Only a talent as original and creative as Charles Royster's could produce this magnificent book. His intricate, often hilarious narrative of the Dismal Swamp Company offers sobering insight into the curious commingling of greed and optimism, of exploitation and idealism, in George Washington's America."
--Drew R. McCoy, author of The Last of the Fathers

"In his "Fabulous History," Charles Royster tells the story of how Virginians in the age of the American Revolution did business, with one another and across the Atlantic. Brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed, rich in detail and broad in its implications, the book is one to be read with pure pleasure. It is also one to be treasured as a permanent addition to the literature of America's past."
--W. W. Abbot, Editor Emeritus of The Papers of George Washington

"Charles Royster has become the most haunting iconoclast of American myths. In this brilliantly provocative book, he takes on the generation of the Founding Fathers, who included among the ardent democrats a rather unsavory crowd of land speculators, creators of pyramid schemes, and deadbeats trying to escape the king's justice."
--Edward Muir, author of Mad Blood Stirring

"Where George Washington failed, Charles Royster triumphs by reclaiming Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp in this extraordinary tale of transatlantic intrigue, commercial speculation, and revolution. Enormously captivating, The Fabulous History is just that, a narrative of stunning breadth and imagination."
--A. Roger Ekirch, author of Bound for America

"Charles Royster has used the experience of the Dismal Swamp Company to produce a beautifully written and insightful evocation of the rich world of late-eighteenth- and very-early-nineteenth-century Virginia."
--Jack P. Greene, author of Peripheries and Center

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From historian Charles Royster--winner of the Francis Parkman, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes--comes the history of one of eighteenth-century America s most fantastic land speculation deals: William Byrd s scheme to develop 900 square miles of swamp on the Virginia-North Carolina border and create fabulous wealth for himself and other shareholders, including George Washington. Royster scrupulously follows the paper trail through the byways of transatlantic deal-cutting, providing a rare view of early American economic culture. Elegantly written and impressively researched, The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company is an eye-opening account of greed, folly, and venture capitalism in the revolutionary era. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780679753056

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