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March 16, 2010

New book probes one of the great unsolved mysteries of American history

In this gripping account based on new archival material, James Horn, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president of research and historical interpretation, tells for the first time the complete story of what happened to the Roanoke colonists and their descendants in his new book, “A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.”

The story begins with the settlement of 118 men, women and children off the coast of North Carolina on Roanoke Island in 1587. Facing diminishing supplies and the threat of a fierce native population, John White returns to England one month later to beg the expedition’s sponsor, Sir Walter Raleigh, for assistance. Unable to return to the colony until 1590, White found Roanoke Island abandoned. He never saw his friends or family again. Horn then pursues the mystery with the adeptness of a historical scholar and detective.

Reviews prior to publishing have been positive. Publisher’s Weekly reported, "A leading historian of early Virginia, Horn relates the convoluted, fascinating story of the failed 1588 venture on Roanoke Island: a British settlement whose 100 men, women, and children disappeared without a trace. . . . [A]n outstanding historical mystery/adventure tale with an ending perhaps less tragic than historians have long believed."

Horn joined Colonial Williamsburg in 2002 as director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library and deputy research division administrator. In 2007, he was named vice president of research and Abby and George O’Neill Director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library. In 2008, he was appointed vice president of research and historical interpretation. Horn has served as Saunders Director of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, Visiting Editor of Publications at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture at the College of William and Mary, and taught for 20 years at the University of Brighton, England.

He is the author of “A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America”; “Adapting to a New World: English Society in the Seventeenth Century Chesapeake”; three edited collections; and numerous articles on early America.

“A Kingdom Strange” is available for $26 at WILLIAMSBURG Booksellers, located inside Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center, 101 Visitor Center Dr., Williamsburg, Va.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City© program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring British and American decorative arts from 1670 –1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg Hotels feature conference spaces and recreation activities from spa and fine dining to world-class golf. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121