Lecture One: Jamestown, in the Context of Great Power Rivalries (1492-1607)
History of Jamestown: England’s First Permanent Colony in North America
(A Three-Part Lecture Series – December 2, 9, 16)
$18 per lecture or $45 for the three-part series
The history of Jamestown is characterized by death, suffering, hardship, love, hate, treachery, betrayal, and heroism. This talk divided into three periods will explore its history in context to international rivalries, the quest for supremacy, and its economy.
Jamestown, in the Context of Great Power Rivalries (1492-1607)
The Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 between Spain and Portugal divided the globe into two exclusive hemispheres, in which Spain claimed nearly all of the Americas and most of the Pacific Ocean. Spanish conquest and subjugation of indigenous cultures in Central and South yielded massive quantities of gold and silver for Spain. When England decided to establish colonies in North America (i.e., Roanoke in 1583; Jamestown in 1607), Spain suspected that these were intended as bases to attack the Spanish treasure fleets. Since Spain believed that Jamestown was destined to fail miserably on its own, Jamestown was never attacked by the Spanish.
Tobacco, Strife, and Quest Supremacy (1607-1634)
Jamestown was largely an investor-driven enterprise by the London Company that sought profitable enterprises in the New World. Despite the appalling conditions and absence of valuable minerals, immigration to Jamestown was encouraged by the London Company (until the loss of its charter in 1624) through strong public relations campaigns that extolled financial rewards and religious virtues. The English believed that the success of Jamestown depended on being worthy in God’s eyes of persevering against the Devil’s efforts (e.g., attacks by the Powhatan Indians). The concept of ‘res nullius’ adopted by the English was a precursor to the 19th century policy of Manifest Destiny.
Economic Success, Strife, and Supremacy (1634-1699)
The Headright System began in 1618 to incentivize immigration to Jamestown by awarding existing landowners with 50 acres of land for each person whose transport from England had been sponsored. Most of those English immigrants arrived under contract for seven years of indentured servitude. With the success of tobacco, indentured servitude could not meet the increased labor demands. The importation of enslaved Africans began in 1619 to slowly supplement the labor, but accelerated after 1670. Civil unrest (Bacon’s Rebellion) and sporadic conflicts with Powhatan Indians were major challenges. Williamsburg replaced Jamestown as the capital of the Virginia colony in 1699.
John Delano, Ph.D. held the rank of Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York, in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. Following retirement in November 2016, John and his wife, Susan, moved to Williamsburg, VA. He has continued to give invited talks to public audiences, is a tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg, and does trail maintenance at a nearby 2,700-acre park. John has published two professional papers on topics that he has pursued since retirement.