Jamestown Summary & Analysis
The Race for Empire
By 1600, England was lagging far behind in the European race for empire.
Spain had followed Christopher Columbus' epic voyage of 1492 with a massive campaign of colonization and exploitation in the New World. Within a century, Spain had built a complex empire stretching from the tip of South America into the southern regions of the present-day United States. The gold and silver pouring in from Spanish territories drove Spain's entire economy and financed its massive navy.
The political and religious turmoil that erupted from the tumultuous rein of Henry VIII was a large reason England lagged behind. But with the ascendance of the cagy Elizabeth I to the throne in 1558, England began to put its political house in order.
And began to dream of empire.
England's imperial visionaries looked enviously at Spain while concocting their plans. Most prominent among these was Richard Hakluyt (the younger). A clergyman, geographer, and advocate of English expansion, he assumed that enormous wealth still awaited discovery in the New World. Hakluyt suggested that America offered a cornucopia of natural resources that could be turned into valuable goods by English skilled craftsmen and Indian laborers, working side by side.
Other visionaries, like Sir Francis Drake, figured that until England developed its own sources of colonial wealth, it might as well steal a little of Spain's. For Drake and John Oxenham, looting Spanish ships became a national obligation. Haunting the sea lanes used to deliver Spain's New World fortunes, plundering Spanish gold and silver, they became legendary as national heroes in England and villainous pirates in Spain.
Development and piracy came together in Walter Raleigh's plans for an American colony during the 1580s. A soldier and adventurer, and a favorite in the Queen's court, he used his influence with Elizabeth I to secure royal support for a New World adventure.
Influenced by Hakluyt's vision, Raleigh drafted a colonial plan built on expectations of valuable local resources that could be turned into wealth for England through the skilled work of his colonists. But he had also followed Drake's career, and he also expected to use his North American colony as a naval base from which he would launch raids on the Spanish gold fleet.
But the colony Raleigh planted at Roanoke, an island off the coast of modern-day North Carolina, never really got off the ground.
And that's putting it really lightly.
See, Raleigh arranged for 75 settlers to be deposited there in 1585, but they had to be removed after conflicts with the local Indians. Plus, inadequate supplies put the colony at risk. Undeterred, Raleigh sent a second batch of 121 settlers in 1587. But political disturbances in England prevented Roanoke's supporters from re-supplying the colony until 1590—and when supplies finally arrived that year, the ship carrying them found the colony completely empty, and only one mysterious word—"Croatoan"—scratched on a post offered a clue as to the colonists' fate.
Yikes. What did that mean? Were the lost colonists of Roanoke Island attacked and killed by the Croatoan Indians of the Chesapeake? Or had they gone off to live with the Indians, assimilating into the Croatoan tribe? We still don't know the answer.
Raleigh tried one more time, in 1602, to find his lost colonists, but he turned up nothing. His dreams of organizing a successful American colony would never be realized.
But even as Raleigh's colony vanished into thin air, other New World ventures were being prepared. In 1606, a group of London investors organized the Virginia Company, planning to undertake a commercial colonization scheme in the same region as Roanoke. Still drawing from Hakluyt, this privately-funded joint stock company mapped out a complex colonial venture that aimed to exploit America's valuable resources to replicate Spain's New World success.
In other words, Spanish achievements continued to inspire English efforts—but in one very important way, Spain's colonies disgusted rather than inspired the English. Descriptions of Spain's brutal enslavement of Indians and Africans circulated widely in England. Appalled English expansionists insisted that this sort of harsh and un-Christian exploitation of human beings wouldn't be part of their colonies.
Uh, guess again.
Obviously, Jamestown didn't work out quite as they planned. And lo and behold, slavery did emerge within half a century of the colony's founding. Nor did the complex economy envisioned by theorists like Hakluyt and the leaders of the Virginia Company soon develop. Instead, a one-dimensional agricultural economy based entirely on cultivation and export of tobacco emerged by the 1620s.
This economy relied less on skilled workers and complex commercial transactions than on the backbreaking labor of increasingly unfree people.
On the (kind of) flip side, though, Jamestown did ultimately prove successful. By the end of the 17th century, Virginia was England's most valuable colony. But between the vision and reality of this New World colony lay a brutal and unanticipated history that included both staggering exploitation and unprecedented opportunity for English settlers willing to brave the harsh conditions of the Chesapeake.
The Jamestown Fiasco Essay, Research Paper
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The Jamestown Fiasco
The errors made by the early colonists at Jamestown, which threatened their
endurance is the fact that they didn t crop for themselves, but rely on Indians. During the
winter of 1609-10, things could hold been better, yet 500 colonists were hungering from deficiency
of reaping. The consequence is that they showed one and merely reliable illustrations of
cannibalism witnessed in Virginia. By the spring, merely 60 of them were left alive. Besides,
American indians gave them problem clip to clip. What Captain Christopher Newport did every bit shortly as
he landed was constructing a garrison and seeking to do friends with Indians. Yet, when he came
back, he found that two hundred of Powhatan s warriors had attacked the garrison. Even
subsequently, uneasiness with Indians continues throughout. Nonetheless, of import thing to
notice is that many errors of colonists are offspring of the hapless organisation and way
of the settlement. The manner leaders were picked didn T help the settlement, non to advert that the
council members spent most of their clip spat and fascinating against one another.
Subsequently, John Smith came to deliver by seting people to work, but that changed once more when
the Virginia Company came to take over the charge with military subject.
Jamestown colonists were unable to feed themselves because they were unwilling to
work for nutrient. It is stated that even Indians knew that colonists were dependent upon
American indians for nutrient. The colonists have fallen into an uneasy armistice with the Indians,
punctuated by guerilla foraies on both sides, but they have had plentifulness of clip in which they
could hold grown harvests. When Smith told them that it s pick between working or
starvation, the decease rate dropped dramatically on subsequently winter. Another account is the
character of the immigrants. There was an extraordinary figure of gentlemen, non to
reference that gentlemen by definition, had no manual accomplishment, nor could they be expected to
work at ordinary labour. Gentlemen or non, subsequently, it is proven that famishment brought
everybody to tuging. Even though the corporate organisation of labour in the settlement was
besides portion of early problems, reorganisation of 1609 changed it. The problems of Jamestown
had been modified once more and once more until the find of baccy, which is why it lasted
without confronting extinction.
It is stated that during the following two old ages after John Smith landed in Jamestown,
his assurance and willingness to move overcame most of the disabilities imposed by the
lame frame of authorities. Smith
, the boy of a beefeater, kept the settlement traveling and cover
with Indians. When the supplies ran out in the first fall, he succeeded in trading with
the Indians for maize. When he was caught by Powhatan, it is known that he was saved by
just princess, Pocahontas. Subsequently, he besides made amazingly accurate map of the state
that shows the location of the different folks. By the terminal of 1608 Smith was left entirely in
complete control of the colonists. He divided the people into work packs and made them a
small address, in which he told them they could either work or starve. As a consequence, in the
winter of 1608-9 he lost merely seven or eight work forces. It is Smith who kept settlement traveling by
coercing people to work on reaping until the Virginia Company came to take over the
The Virginia Company in 1609 was non yet ready to abandon its end of doing its
ain manner in Virginia, so when Thomas Gates and Lord De la Warr arrived, Virginia was
steadfastly governed under a clear set of Torahs. For the following eight or nine old ages whatever evil
bechance the settlement were non the consequence of any diffusion of authorization except when the
appointed governor was absent. The alleged Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, set the
settlers to work with military subject and no pretence of soft authorities. The Laws
prescribed decease for a assortment of offenses such as colza, criminal conversation, larceny, lying, profanation, and
blasphemy. It besides did non even contemplate that the Indians would go a portion of the
English colony. They succeeded in seting colonies at several points along the
James every bit high up as Henrico, merely below the falls. Harmonizing to John Rolfe, the switch to
private endeavor transformed the settlement s nutrient shortage immediately to surplus, even though it
didn T last long because of Governor Samuel Argall ( 1617 ) .
Edmund Morgan puts baccy as the beam of hope, using that it saved the
Jamestown from extinction. It had been known from the Roanoke experience, that the
Indians grew and smoked baccy ; and tobacco grown in the Spanish West Indies was
already being imported into England. Virginia baccy wasn T precisely what they wanted it,
but when John Rolfe tried some seeds of the West Indian assortment, the consequence was much
better. The settlers started to works baccy, and in 1617, ten old ages after the first landing
in the Jamestown, they shipped their first lading to England. Later, when baccy was used
for smoking for merriment, it changed the Virginia Company s economic system wholly, for the
demand for baccy was multiplying as more and more colonists grew baccy.