Oneworld Publishing, London and Oxford: published in October 2014 in the US and November 2014 in the UK
He fought and beheaded three enemy commanders in hand-to-hand duels. He was sold into slavery, then murdered his master to escape. He sailed and fought with pirates, and was marched to the gallows (twice) to be hanged for treason, only to be reprieved shortly before the noose was dropped over his head. All this happened before he was thirty years old. This is Captain John Smith's life.
Everyone knows the story of Pocahontas, and how she allegedly saved John Smith. And were it not for Smith's autocratic leadership, the Jamestown colony would most surely have failed. Yet Smith was a far more ambitious explorer and soldier of fortune than these tales suggest – and a far more ambitious self-promoter, too.
Now, in this first new major biography of Smith in decades, Peter Firstbrook traces the adventurer's astonishing exploits across three continents, testing Smith's the escapades Smith claims to have survived against the historical and geographical reality on the ground. In doing so, Firstbrook constantly challenges Smith’s claims to uncover the truth behind one of the most colourful lives from the Elizabethan and Jacobean age.
With A Man Most Driven Firstbrook delivers a riveting, enlightening dissection of this mythology-making man, England's arrival on the world stage, and the invention of America.
‘A nuanced account of the English captain saved by Pocahontas reveals an astonishingly complicated personality ... Exciting historical tales with romantic overtones.’
View full Kirkus Review here
‘Firstbrook approaches the subject with healthy skepticism, examining just where Smith’s claims might be exaggerated and where history backs them up. In the process, Firstbrook also takes a closer look at the legend of Pocahontas, at least partially debunking the motives behind her timely intervention in Smith’s death sentence…’
View full Publisher's Weekly review here
Copyright © Peter Firstbrook 2014