Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era
It is not surprising to anyone who knows the Bay country that the Chesapeake captured the imagination of Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries," writes Arthur Pierce Middleton in this classic maritime history of the earliest years of Maryland and Virginia. "It was called the 'Noblest Bay in the Universe' in which the whole navies of Great Britain, France and the Netherlands might simultaneously ride at anchor."
"Tobacco Coast" is the history of how the Chesapeake Bay shaped the society and economy of an entire region. Its hundreds of miles of navigable tributaries made adoption of the tobacco staples possible and eliminated the necessity of cities and towns; its physical dominance created an "essential unity" of lands sharing its shores, despite the political decisions that created the separate colonies of Maryland and Virginia. Middleton recaptures the peril faced by the early colonists (Father Andrew White, who arrived in the Ark, wrote that "all the Sprights and witches of Maryland" seemed arrayed in battle against the ship when violent storms struck off the coast) and traces how the settlers persevered and the colonies thrived, due in great measure to the growth of tobacco as the mainstay of Chesapeake commerce (in 1775 it represented over 75 percent of the total value of exports from the Chesapeake colonies and was worth some $4 million).
Colonial life and commerce, shipbuilding and the merchant marine, privateers and self-protection--are all treated with insight, drama, and thoroughness in a fascinating maritime history, long out of print and now widely made available for the first time.