Episode 388 | Andrew Lawler Interview

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Today’s author interview is with Andrew Lawler, author of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke 

A sweeping account of America’s oldest unsolved mystery, the people racing to unearth its answer, and the sobering truths–about race, gender, and immigration–exposed by the Lost Colony of Roanoke 

In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina. Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, their colony was to establish England’s first foothold in the New World. But when the colony’s leader, John White, returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, his settlers were nowhere to be found. They left behind only a single clue–a “secret token” carved into a tree. Neither White nor any other European laid eyes on the colonists again.

What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke? For four hundred years, that question has consumed historians and amateur sleuths, leading only to dead ends and hoaxes. But after a chance encounter with a British archaeologist, journalist Andrew Lawler discovered that solid answers to the mystery were within reach. He set out to unravel the enigma of the lost settlers, accompanying competing researchers, each hoping to be the first to solve its riddle. In the course of his journey, Lawler encounters a host of characters obsessed with the colonists and their fate, and he determines why the Lost Colony continues to haunt our national consciousness.

Thrilling and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the first English settlement in the New World but of how its disappearance continues to define–and divide–America.

Andrew Lawler is author of two books, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke and Why Did the Chicken Cross the World: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization.  As a journalist, he has written more than a thousand newspaper and magazine articles from more than two dozen countries. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many others. He is contributing writer for Science and contributing editor for Archaeology. Andrew’s work has appeared several times in The Best of Science and Nature Writing.

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