The Tessentass Arrive--The Chesapeake--The Founding of Jamestown, England's First Permanent Colony



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.



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