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English Colonists and Early Jamestown Experience

Discuss the lessons you think English colonists learned from their early Jamestown experience. Focus on matters of fulfilling expectations, financial support, leadership skills, and relations with the Indians.

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RESPONSE:

1. Discuss the lessons you think English colonists learned from their early Jamestown experience. Focus on matters of fulfilling expectations, financial support, leadership skills, and relations with the Indians.

This question is straightforward. It is asking you to focus on four factors in terms of what you think the English colonists learned from early Jamestown experience. Jamestown was the once-struggling little outpost on the edge of a swamp that gave the English a permanent footing in North America. They learned to persevere in the face of hardship, disease, survival, starvation, and hostilities with the Indians.

Gradually, the settlers initially learned that fulfilling their expectations was very difficult given their lack of essential skills and hostile relationships with the Indians. However, the Indians saw the need and soon the settlers were becoming dependent on the Indians for food, but gradually became more self-sufficient under Smith, but then it was often at the expense of the Indians e.g., absorbing Indian Territory, etc. From the beginning, the Jamestown Colony struggled to make a profit for the Company. Most of the 1607 settlers were used to the 'city life' of London. They lacked wilderness survival skills and were inexperienced at the tasks needed to develop the chosen industries. In addition, disease and hunger took their toll, as did poor relations with the local Natives led by Chief Powhatan. This was a time of improved spirits and relations with the Powhatan's that lasted through the arrival of another 400 colonists in the fall of 1609. Unfortunately, these ill-fated settlers arrived just in time for what became known as "The Starving Time" - a winter of sickness, disease and starvation that saw 80% of the population die. (http://www.bandbwilliamsburg.com/jamestown.html)

The English settlers learned survival tactics, but lacked essential leadership skills to successfully manage the Colony. The settlers increasingly became hostile toward the Indians. In fact, in the next decade, the colonists conducted search and destroy raids on Indian settlements. They burned Indian villages and their corn crops (ironic, in that the English were often starving). Both sides committed atrocities against the other. Powhatan was finally forced into a truce of sorts. Hostilities increased as land policies led to dispersion of English settlements along the James River. Increasing cultivation of tobacco required more land (since tobacco wore out the soil in three or four years) and clearing forest areas to make land fit for planting. Expanding English settlements meant more encroachment on Indian lands and somewhat greater contact with Indians. It also left settlers more vulnerable to Indian attack. By this time, the Indians fully realized what continued English presence in Virginia meant--more plantations, the felling of more forests, the killing of more game--in sum, a greater threat to their way of life. The self-proclaimed humanitarian efforts of people like George Thorpe--who sought to convert Indian children to Christianity through education--did not help either. In March of 1622, the Powhatan Indians staged an uprising, killing a quarter of the European population settled in Jamestown and the smallholdings that had sprung up around it. (http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/colonial/indians/indians.html)

Financial Support

During the following years, the Virginia Company used numerous methods to continue to gain stockholders, support from the Crown, and entice hundreds of settlers to the Jamestown Colony. They appealed to God and Country, they held lotteries - but they never made a profit. The mortality rate of settlers and the cost of sending new settlers remained high, impacting any type of steady income they hoped to achieve. In 1612, Virginia's cash crop, tobacco, was the first venture at the settlement to make a profit. Soon, it became the only industry arriving settlers focused on. In 1617, the Virginia Company established a headright system - a form of indenture in order to increase the colony's numbers, as many believed that populating the Jamestown settlement was its only hope for success. Current residents or investors paid for the passage of new settlers in return for land. These new settlers then spent a period of time serving on the investor's land. Despite both the success of tobacco crops and the many hundreds of settlers that arrived, by 1621, the Virginia Company was severely in debt. (http://www.bandbwilliamsburg.com/jamestown.html)

Financial support from England as a royal colony (1924) - With the attach from the Powhatten Indians, finally, King James I officially changed the status of Virginia to a royal Colony in 1624, to be administered by a governor appointed by the King, a form of government that continued until the Nation's Independence in 1776. (http://www.bandbwilliamsburg.com/jamestown.html)

Indeed, the settlers who survived learned to persevere in the face of hardship, survival, starvation, and hostilities with the Indians. This is not exhaustive, and you can check the links for other ideas.

Also see http://www.historictriangle.com/jamestown/

BEST OF LUCK!