Old Dominion, New Commonwealth, A History of Virginia 1607-2007: Book Review

Old Dominion – New Commonwealth

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth by Heinemann, Kolp, Parent and Shade is an oldie but goodie that I learned about when I took a class on Virginia resources. It’s described as being seen as a “classic in the years to come” and is a highly regarded work that covers four centuries of Virginia history, from its founding to its quadricentennial.

A quick perusal gave me a first impression of a textbook, although each chapter has “sources” rather than footnotes, so it’s a bit of work if someone wants to determine the origin of a particular fact. At just under 400 pages, the book also has the size of a textbook.


List of Maps
1 Before Virginia
2 Atlantic Outpost: 1607-1650
3 Imperial Outpost: 16550-1690
4 A Planter’s Patriarchy: 1690-1775
5 An Empire in Crisis: 1750-1775
6 From British Colony to American State:1775-1788
7 The Virginia Dynasty: 1789-1825
8 Democratizing the Old Dominion: 1825-1851
9 Virginia at Midcentury: 1840-1860
10 Slavery, Secession, and the Civil War: 1850-1865
11 The Reconstruction Era: 1865-1885
12 Progress and Preservation: 1885-1915
13 The Rise of the Byrd Organization: 1915-1930
14 Depression and War: 1930-1945
15 The Politics of Race: 1945-1960
16 A New Commonwealth: 1960-2007
Appendix: Virginia Population Figures
General Bibliography

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth is an incredibly detailed overview (I know those words would seem to contradict one another) of the founding and growth of Virginia. Given the minutiae of information in each paragraph, this book isn’t quick or easy to read. There’s a lot for the brain to digest.

On the plus side, the chapters are neatly defined and I found reading one at a time and then taking a short break was a method of which my mind approved. Don’t take that as a criticism of the book, as it’s not meant to be. The details contribute to the overall quality of Virginia’s story. It just makes for some intense concentrated reading.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who would like to add to their knowledge of American history, but especially to those who have deep early roots in the Old Dominion. While it’s true that each state has contributed to and influenced American history, Virginia paved the way.

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia 1607-2007 by Ronald Heinemann, John G. Kolp, Anthony S. Parent, Jr. and William G. Shade was published by University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville and London, 2007. Secondhand copies can be found on eBay for well under $20 with a number offered for less than $10. Those prices are a bargain for what I have to agree is a classic book on Virginia history.

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