Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘Tenfold More Wicked’ Podcast Unearths Colonial History, Mystery and Ties to Current Events

WILLIAMSBURG — Can your status in life help you avoid legal punishment? That’s the question “Tenfold More Wicked” is exploring in its tenth season, “Entitled,” set in 18th-century Williamsburg.

The true crime historical podcast will explore the story of a liar, an innocent, and a killer through collaborative research with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, William & Mary and its host, best-selling author Kate Winkler Dawson.
“I love Colonial America and I did not know anything about Colonial Virginia at all. I did not know it was the wealthiest colony and the prototype for what England wanted the colonies to be — lots of money, lots of aristocracy, large gentry class — so, I was already really intrigued by the amount of money that was in the colony at the time. Which is very dangerous for people that are powerful. And, I just love the area.”
Kate Winkler Dawson (photo:
This is the second time “Tenfold More Wicked” has focused on a historical Virginia tale.
Dawson had never heard this particular story until Nicole Brown, a listener and local historian, reached out. As Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Program Manager, Brown helped facilitate the collaboration and brought Dawson to Williamsburg to personally visit the sites and speak to interpreters, historians and educators.
“I think this speaks to how meticulous Kate is with her research and truly how great of a collaborator she is,” said Brown, a self-proclaimed avid true crime podcast listener. “What I love about Kate is she takes historical true crime, which can sometimes be trivialized or poorly researched, and she really dives deep to understand the socio-political context of the worlds of these crimes. She uses true crime as a conduit by which to understand larger concepts about society and the world. That was why I felt compelled to reach out to her.”
“Entitled” revolves around three powerful men during 1765 and 1766. Speaker of the House of Burgesses and Virginia Treasurer John Robinson, along with his father-in-law, Colonel John Chiswell, a member of the House of Burgess, and merchant Robert Routledge.
“You have a man who is a member of the top 2% wealthiest in the colony of Virginia, which is the richest of all the colonies and he has a very powerful son-in-law. Everyone is in debt and when you have this kind of class you see the paranoia and pressure that is coming down on these people.” Dawson continued, “You see desperation happening and on the flip side protecting themselves.”
“One of the most interesting aspects is the division of power and how important it is, this is something we talk about even today in politics. After we find out what [Robinson] does before he died, how he just wreaks havoc on Virginia and shakes the colonies, they realize ‘maybe we shouldn’t have one person hold the purse strings and control the government at the same time.’ It’s these kind of difficult lessons we experience throughout history and now it just resonates,” explained Dawson.
Brown added, “There is this break of trust because of these cases that happens and what comes out of that in the middle of revolutionary turmoil is a cataclysmic shift in how the public feels about their representatives.”
John Robinson, Virginia Treasurer and Speaker.
“It’s a mystery … it’s the death of three men and how they were so very different and how they changed an awful lot about what happened in American history,” stated Dawson.
Brown said the case in “Tenfold More Wicked’s” tenth season fit into Colonial Williamsburg’s (CW) interpretive plan, “The power of CW as an institution is we can take histories of the everyday people in 18th century Williamsburg and not only make them come to life but connect them to wider political events that are happening.”
Dawson explained she uses the podcast platform, in addition to her written work, to help tell stories and educate, “The point, for me, is not just entertaining through true crime. I don’t believe that. I believe it’s more like illuminating parts of society that are covered up or that people think are boring. Let’s talk about politics but in the context of history. What happened in 1766 is happening now. We see it. So, are we learning anything from history? That’s the point of my show. What can we learn? What can we bring forward? Ultimately, with crime and history, the reason people killed in 1766 has not changed … the motives are the same … sex, money, guilt, corruption, power, jealousy.”
“This was such a compelling story that is so important to history,” Dawson continued, “Ultimately, what ends up happening with this story really did shift history.”
Follow “Tenfold More Wicked” on Facebook. New episodes drop on Mondays, and links to podcast platforms can be found here.

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