The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington's Times

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From historian Charles Royster--winner of the Francis Parkman, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes--comes the history of one of eighteenth-century America's most fantastic land speculation deals: William Byrd's scheme to develop 900 square miles of swamp on the Virginia-North Carolina border and create fabulous wealth for himself and other shareholders, including George Washington.

Royster scrupulously follows the paper trail through the byways of transatlantic deal-cutting, providing a rare view of early American economic culture.  Elegantly written and impressively researched, The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company is an eye-opening account of greed, folly, and venture capitalism in the revolutionary era.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the author

CHARLES ROYSTER is Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University. His previous books include A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783, which won the Francis Parkman Prize, and The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans, which won a Bancroft Prize and the Lincoln Prize.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Dec 8, 2010
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Pages
640
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ISBN
9780307773296
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Corporate & Business History
History / Modern / 18th Century
History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

In Light Horse Harry Lee, Charles Royster tells the story of a man whose career embodies the visionary promises that inspired the American Revolution, as well as the inability of the revolutionary generation to put all its ideals into practice.
 
The man is Henry Lee—soldier (nicknamed “Light-Horse Harry Lee”), statesmen, landowner, historian of the young republic, member of one of the oldest and most eminent families of Virginia—who throughout his life endeavored to realize his dream of a free and prosperous America. Brilliantly examining Lee’s ambitions and achievements, Mr. Royster makes us see how, both during the war and afterward, Lee continually risked himself in the service of his vision and how again and again he failed to win the victories he sought. He shows us Lee as a young officer in the Revolution, fighting valorously and skillfully, earning renown as a patriot and a military genius—but leaving the Continental Army before the war’s end, sickened by the violence of battle and disheartened by his helplessness to mitigate it. After the war, we see Lee determined to play a central role in the new nation’s peaceful growth—serving in Congress and as governor of Virginia, promoting expansion and development through his own private business ventures. And we watch as Lee’s desperate pursuit of wealth and order for America ends tragically: in his political defeat, bankruptcy, and exile from the land he fought to free.
 
Tracing Lee’s struggles and reverses in his efforts to implement the promises of the Revolution—in his defense of the union, his opposition to Jeffersonian Republicans, his investments in land, his repeated warnings against war—Mr. Royster shows how, in extreme form, Lee exemplified in his strivings the public aspirations of America’s most politically creative era, as well as his generations collective failure to attain its vision of national grandeur and individual happiness. And it is this failure and the resultant disappointment, Mr. Royster argues, that in large part opened the way to disagreements over the nature of the Union,  culminating, finally, in the Civil War—in which the South was led by Light-Horse Harry Lee’s son, Robert E. Lee.
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