Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History

Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History

Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History

Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History

Synopsis

Political intrigue, rebellion, starvation, cannibalism, conflict with Native Americans, all are part of the story of the first lasting English outpost in the New World. Now shrouded in legend, the story of Jamestown is part adventure, part gritty reality. This book provides a complete, contextual look at the true story.

Excerpt

In April 1606, Englishmen once again took up their quest to plant an English society in the New World. It was an auspicious time. Peace with Spain ended a generation of wars, armadas, insurrections, and privateering. A succession of crop failures, storms, plagues, and domestic riots gave way to prosperity. And the political uncertainty aroused by the death of Elizabeth Tudor abated as the Scotsman James VI thwarted his rivals and consolidated power as the first Stuart. Although James I had no grand economic scheme, or even an abiding interest in trade and commerce, he did have the good sense to follow those so inclined—the great merchants of London, the national-minded nobles, and the gentry adventurers, the men who together planted Virginia.

It was not ordained, or even desired, by Englishmen that the first colony should be along the Chesapeake Bay. That region came to them almost by default. Spanish and Portuguese colonizers and traders had captured the preferred lands and islands of the Caribbean and South America, finding there advanced Indian civilizations, hoards of wealth, and a tropical climate capable of producing goods deemed necessary to national economic independence. Other Europeans already had abandoned the North American coast before the first feeble English probes. Thousands of Spaniards died following Ponce de León, Hernando de Soto, and Pedro Menendez into the Florida and Carolina wildernesses; in 1570, Jesuit missionaries perished farther north, perhaps inside the Chesapeake capes; only the isolated posts at St. Elena and St. Augustine remained. By 1580, the Spanish could confirm the warning of Peter Martyr— “To the South:… they that seek riches must not go into the cold and frozen North.” The French tried both: to the North with Jacques Cartier along the St. Lawrence in the 1530s and 1540s, and to the South with Huguenots Jean Ribault and Rene Laudonniere at Port Royal in South Carolina and Fort Caroline in Florida in the 1560s. They, too, failed.

Certainly Martyr’s stricture seemed correct to the English after Sir Humphrey Gilbert and most of his Bristol associates drowned returning from . . .

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