In his study of early modern England, Michael Reed described landscape as ‘the autobiography of society’.1 However, when English travellers to America reported the landscapes they encountered, they did not describe a society operating within the natural world. Authors wanted to encourage settlement and investment and portrayed America’s landscape as one of potential and future wealth for the individual and for the commonwealth as a whole. Authors held a variety of attitudes towards the natural world of woodland, river and mountain to justify man’s incursion into that landscape, with their own English origins playing a part in their perceptions of the new landscape across the Atlantic. Occasionally authors offered a very different discourse, voicing disappointment at the dangers or difficulties presented by the American landscape. But many of those who acknowledged hardships and failures tried to reassure readers by insisting that these problems could be, or already had been overcome. Although the tools of the archaeologist or biologist might better equip us to learn the ‘truth’ about the landscape in the past, it is possible to examine the ways early modern settlers interpreted and represented what they found in America.2