The Settlement of Jamestown
Ivy Tech University
In 2007, the Jamestown settlement celebrated its 400th anniversary. The governing body of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly, held a session there, a parade was held, and even Dick Cheney and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom attended a ceremony honoring the historic site where English settlers would first find a permanent home in the future United States (Lessig and Payne, 2007). Looking backward, it seemed almost inevitable that the settling of Jamestown was the beginning of the United States as it’s known today.
Yet in its time, the future of Jamestown was anything but certain. From the very beginning the settlers would face disease, drought, famine, and fighting both amongst themselves and with the neighboring tribes of Native Americans. At times, its population dwindled so low as to risk becoming another Roanoke (Hall-Quest, 2007). That is, it would be doomed to see the majority of its population die and the remainder disappear, most likely to live with the neighboring tribes. So when did it begin, and how did the colonists sent to the New World find themselves in such a desperate situation?
It began as a risky business venture. When James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I as the King of England (afterward becoming James I) he was confronted with an uncertain future. Although they had managed to stave off Spanish invasion during the last reign, they still had hostilities with Spain, who was at the time an economic powerhouse in Europe. Meanwhile, England’s economy was faltering and tensions between Catholic and Protestant sects had begun to flare up again, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot in the November of 1605 (Sharpe, 2009.)
With mounting pressure from without, and turmoil within, James I looked to the Americas for growth and economic opportunity. Although he took a more hands off approach than Elizabeth I, he did establish the Virginia Company of London by...
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