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Jamestown Essay

703 words - 3 pages

The founding of Jamestown, America's first permanent English colony, in Virginia in 1607 - 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in Massachusetts - sparked a series of cultural encounters that helped shape the nation and the world. The government, language, customs, beliefs and aspirations of these early Virginians are all part of the United States' heritage today.The colony was sponsored by the Virginia Company of London, a group of investors who hoped to profit from the venture. Chartered in 1606 by King James I, the company also supported English national goals of counterbalancing the expansion of other European nations abroad, seeking a northwest passage to the Orient, and converting the Virginia Indians to the Anglican religion.Serious problems soon emerged in the small English outpost, which was located in the midst of a chiefdom of about 14,000 Algonquian-speaking Indians ruled by the powerful leader Powhatan. Relations with the Powhatan Indians were tenuous, although trading opportunities were established. An unfamiliar climate, as well as brackish water supply and lack of food, conditions possibly aggravated by a prolonged drought, led to disease and death. Many of the original colonists were upper-class Englishmen, and the colony lacked sufficient laborers and skilled farmers.The first two English women arrived at Jamestown in 1608, and more came in subsequent years. Men outnumbered women, however, for most of the 17th century.Captain John Smith became the colony's leader in September 1608 - the fourth in a succession of council presidents - and established a "no work, no food" policy. Smith had been instrumental in trading with the Powhatan Indians for food. However, in the fall of 1609 he was injured by burning gunpowder and left for England. Smith never returned to Virginia, but promoted colonization of North America until his death in 1631 and published numerous accounts of the Virginia colony, providing invaluable material for historians.Smith's departure was followed by the "starving time," a period of warfare between the colonists and Indians and the deaths of many English men and women from starvation and disease. Just when the colonists decided to abandon...

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