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The History of the Virginia Colony

The colonization of North America

Spanish pioneered the colonization of North America. Therefore, it was problematic to find an uninhabited place distant enough from the Spanish colonies and the villages of Native Americans. Moreover, England had attempted to settle in the New World before Jamestown, yet both of the attempts failed due to the lack of supply and lack of men. The selected place was close enough to Indian villages to use it as a source of trade and supply. At the same time, it was naturally protected from Spanish patrols and was easy to defend against their offense (Dries, 2018). Nevertheless, the location was a disaster because of the bad soil and dirty and salty tidal waters, which brought exhausting diseases to the colonizers.

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The purpose of the expedition

The initial purpose of the English expedition to the New World was to use it as a source of precious metals such as gold and silver and other valuable items, which could be traded with Native Americans. The conquest of Mesoamerica inspired the Virginia Company by Cortes, who provided Spain with numerous cheap trading commodities such as glass, iron, furs, pitch, tar, and many others (Dries, 2018). Therefore, the company’s idea was to find a river, which could be navigated, a deep harbor, so other English ships could use it, and the Indian villages would introduce them to their trading network. The new location needed to be distant enough from the Spanish, so they could not interfere with or attack a new English settlement. Hence, the Virginia Company pursued an easy profit.

The first decade of the Virginia colony

The first decade of the Virginia colony was a complete disaster, and nearly half of the first colonists died due to disease and starvation. Only with reinforcement from the local Indian tribe did Powhatan Englishmen manage to last for the decade as Indians highly valued the ax-heads, kettles, guns, and tools that colonists had with them. Until 1616 there was little to no improvement in the condition of the colony. It was due to tobacco that the Virginia colony was saved from ruin. In 1616, the first tobacco crops were planted in Virginia, and this business was very promising and started to attract more and more new farmers and settlers, mostly male and young, who could start their farms (Barbour, 2017). In 1618, each new migrant was promised 50 acres of land. Tobacco was becoming more and more popular in Europe. Hence, the demand for this commodity grew with the values of the Virginia Colony.

The first colonists of the Virginia colony

The first colonists of the Virginia colony were people attracted by easy profits, and one of the reasons the colony was nearly extinct was that those people were unwilling to work and were not ready to face hardships. They were inspired by the Spanish conquest of America, which included a massacre of indigenous people and was associated with a sense of supremacy over them. This has translated to the English attitude towards Native Americans. When they met the Powhatan Confederacy, who helped them with supplies and saved them from disease and starvation, English colonists did not lose the feeling of technological, cultural, and even physical superiority (Barbour, 2017). English skills in agriculture, navigation, and metallurgy allowed them to view the indigenous people of America as lower or primitive people. After the colony massacre, initiated by Indians, English settlers felt free to drive Indians off their land and did so.

References

Barbour, P. L. (Ed.). (2017). The Jamestown Voyages under the First Charter, 1606-1609: Documents relating to the Foundation of Jamestown and the History of the Jamestown Colony up to the Departure of Captain John Smith, last President of the Council in Virginia under the First Charter, early in October, 1609. Taylor & Francis.

Dries, A. J. (2018). The Trials of Jamestown: an Investigation of the External Factors Influencing England’s First American Colony. The General: Brock University Undergraduate Journal of History, 3, 101-110.

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