Starting with voyages of discovery in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and continuing through to the present - when the material world is represented on the Internet - the author of Archaeology and the Modern World reveals a crucial dimension of historical archaeology that lies beyond words. The focus is on two areas - the Chesapeake (Virginia and Maryland, USA) and the Cape region of Africa. Past colonial societies of these areas relied heavily on slave labour and there was little if any direct contact between them. Yet, as Martin Hall observes, there were marked similarities in the ways the people created and used the material around them. It is these comparisons that the author uses as a measure for evaluating the major theoretical traditions in historical archaeology. Although structuralism, critical materialism and other theoretical perspectives have taken historical archaeology forward over the past twenty years, such interpretations are not able to do justice to the complexities of the past five hundred years. Working through the rich texture of individual lives, specific landscapes and cityscapes, individual buildings and everyday objects, this work develops an approach that builds on earlier theory. Through this study, the early colonial world emerges as a set of unstable compromises, imbued with violence, in which material culture played a crucial mediating role. Throughout this study the past is seen as vitally connected with the present. It becomes apparent that whether through the claims for recognition by Thomas Jefferson's African-American descendants, through the terminal rituals of white South Africa in the demise of Apartheid, or in the way in which the material evidence of the past is mobilized in the Balkan conflicts, the material world of past centuries is still with us and continues to shape the future.