Thursday, August 11, 2011
The Chesapeake was a for-profit corporation headed un the Virginia Company founded to make money for English investors; however, the Crown would take over in the 1620s for reasons I will get to later on.
The Chesapeake was founded near a strong coastal empire controlled by the Powhatan Indians who had already acquired immunity to some European diseases. The Powhatan initially reach out to the settlers of the Chesapeake for trade and tribute, but the English are aggressive and are clumsy using diplomacy with people they feel are inferior to themselves.With the introduction of tobacco and livestock, competition for land increases and intercultural violence also increases. With the migration of strangers, mostly poor whites who had no other options, Jamestown was not a very socially cohesive or community-minded place. There was a short life expectancy, so Europeans introduced African slavery in 1619, although it was not dominant until the 1690s. Jamestown was a very unequal society.
The Powhatan Indians were led by a man named Powhatan--he and his family built the empire out of many villages over the last half-century before the English arrived and their empire was held together by strong family networks and the mutual need for protection. The Powhatan Indians were survivors of several decades of pandemic collapse; and they inhabited the most densely populated part of the Eastern seaboard.
Early Contact 1608-1611 (from the Powhatan view)
At first, the Powhatan perceived the English settlers to be a remnant band of survivors, because the English came without women and were thought to be culturally broken, so they made attampts to assimilate the English into their society and permitted them to occupy the swampy undesirable lands. The Powhatah and the English engaged in trade. At first, unequal exchanges were temporarily tolerated by the Powhatan because they understood the trade as tribute offerings by a weak and struggling people. The also engaged in pawn exchange, where adolescents from each group go to live among the others for a given amount of time.
Early Contact (from the English view) a la Professor William-Searle at the College of Saint Rose
~~We're from a much superior culture than you are
~~We've got better technology than you do
~~Of course, you're eager to trade with us and be friendly
~~You guys are suckers. What a bad deal you made. This must mean that your stupid.
~~Hey, why aren't you trading with us anymore?
~~You're lucky all hundred or so of us don't come and kick your butts...
~~Wait, we're all getting sick
~~And no one knows how to famr really...
~~Oh wow, we're really hungry
~~Maybe we can steal some food from the Powhatan
Diplomacy to Avert War
John Smith, one of the settlers of Jamestown, was captured by the Powhatah in 1609. Unlike Disney would like to tell us, John Smith and Pocahontas was never married. When they first met, she was 12-years-old and Powhatan was going to have Smith killed. Pocahontas interceded for his life, as is her right to do as an important woman. Instead of letting her father kill Smith, Pocahontas stopped it and she and Smith were put through a ritual adoption ceremony. By incorporating Smith into his kin network as a subordinate, the werowance (Indian chief of Virginia or Maryland, in this case, Powhatan) hoped to formalize the tribute relationship and make Jamestown one of the Powhatan villages. This, however, did not work and in 1611, the first Anglo-Powhatan War was in full swing as desperate Englishmen, who will not plant corn and do not know how to hunt, attack villages in order to get food.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
When I first heard about the lost colony of Roanoke, Virginia (now a part of the Carolinas) I was in the fifth grade and I found it fascinating how a colony could just vanish and all that was left behind was the word "Croatoan" carved into the bark of a tree. Even today, it's unknown what happened to the colonists of Roanoke, but one thing is for certain and that is that colony of Roanoke is the first English colony established in North America.
Virginia Dare was born in the short-lived English colony of Roanoke on August 18, 1587. She was the first English person born in America.
And now we come to the bread and butter of this blog, the English colonization of North America, where the rest of the 'story' can now unfold from.
King James I came to the throne in 1603 and rules until 1625, not only was he the king of England, but he was also the king of Scotland, so he united the two--hence, the "United Kingdom" or "Great Britain".
King James wanted to raise revenues but didn't want to spend his own money to do so. So, he began to charge licensing fees for overseas companies and this looked like a good, low-risk bet. He began to allow various people to travel to the Americas so they could colonize them. Some of the early colonies, as you will see, will not be as successful as the ones made famous in this time period such as Jamestown and later Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth.
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