Jamestown: the first “successful” English settlement


    A company in London called the London Company, owned by some wealthy persons, made this colony under the name Jamestown in 1607. The name James comes from the then king of England, James I. These wealthy people wanted to accumulate more wealth, so they thought of building a colony from where they would get riches in the form of gold.

    In the beginning, Jamestown faced three problems: the first problem was ‘settlers’. The early settlers were aristocrats who believed that they would go to the land and easily collect gold. But in reality, it was not that easy. It required workers to dig them out or search them. The second problem was the geographical location where the colony was built. It was a swampy and pestilential site. It would get flooded very soon. Finally, the absence of a caretaker was also a problem; there was no one in charge, that is to say, there was no overall command.

    Company’s leadership problem was solved by John Smith, a mercenary, who came up with a policy to prevent the company from extinction in 1608. It was “you don’t work, you don’t eat”.

    After Smith’s return to England, the company was again struggling for its survival. Owing to this reason, starvation came in. The reason behind this was winter and lethargic workmanship. These factors caused a significant number of deaths. The number of people was reduced to 60 from 500 by the spring.

    When the local Indian tribes learned of the Jamestown settlers, they attacked them and caused enormous bloodshed. In the beginning, they thought the settlers would not stay longer, but when they came to know that they would stay there forever, they waged an all-out war against them.

    In 1612, owing to three reasons, the moribund colony stabilized: when it was confirmed that they would never find gold, they started looking for an alternative. First, John Rolfe experimented on tobacco and produced a mild form. Previously, the type they produced was not in demand; but this new type was conducive for the trade. Secondly, John married Pocahontas, who was the daughter of the head of the local Indian tribe. This marriage was solely based on political motives. This marriage reduced the possibility of attacks by the Indians.

    Owing to the absence of workmanship in Virginia, fewer tobacco crops were produced. More people were attracted to the colony to bolster the cultivation, which was achieved after the introduction of a representative legislature. This enabled workers to elect their representatives. This was also a reason for the amelioration of their poor condition.

    James I, a charismatic leader, also immensely helped the colony. He became head of the Virginia colony and hence reduced the security issues. It is important to note that Virginia was the most important of all and was involved in the American Revolution, later on.

    In Jamestown, labourers were inducted through “indentured servitude” in the 1660s. African labourers were also inducted through this agreement because they were reluctant to work on the English plantations. This contract was, later on, altered and took the form of African slavery (the main reason behind Bacon’s Rebellion).

Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter 

–Chinua Achebe 

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post