The History Of The Establishment Of Jamestown Colony

In 1607, the first English settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia intending to escape religious persecution and also the intention to mine gold and silver but to their dismay, they found sickness, starvation, harassment from the Indians and death. But even with the many limitations facing them, the settlers learned to survive in the situation and with the reform program implemented by Captain John Smit saved the colony. Subsequently, their situation was made easier by the famous marriage between the leading Virginian, John Rolfe, and Pocahontas, the Powhatan ‘princess' that stabilized relations with her father. Further, the introduction of Tobacco cultivation provided the English with a staple crop that would Later boom and cause hundreds of people to make their way to Virginia. The arrival of English settlers, even with the many challenges facing them was monumental to the World's historical outcome, Jamestown colony was not only Virginia's capital for a hundred years but it would later become the United States.

Due to its geographical location, Jamestown was not only easily defendable from the Spanish attacks that had ravaged English settlements before but also due to the fact that it was up the James River meant that the settlers would have sufficient water supply and their ships would dock easily due to the deep shore along the river. Other than that, Jamestown was believed to have gold and silver mines, therefore, it was intended to become a longtime settlement core and at the same time create new wealth for London Investors and at the same time recreating the English society. However, when the first settlers arrived in Jamestown, they either failed to find mines from which they would extract the precious metals or a quick Northwest passage to lucrative East Asian trade and with the fact that the settlers were not agriculturally inclined meant that they were unable to sustain themselves and therefore were faced with the challenge of starvation. Later, with the reform program implemented by Captain John Smith, the colony was saved but even with that a further starvation time after Smith's departure worsened the situation, therefore, causing the survivors of the first desperate years to pack and return to England, but then a relief ship a new governor, Thomas West, Lord de la Ware, arrived in 1611. With time, Virginia manned public relations, and the famous marriage between the leading Virginian, John Rolfe, and Pocahontas, the Powhatan ‘princess' that stabilized the colony further. The introduction of Tobacco by Rolfe which was their staple food put the colony in a much better position and led to hundreds of people to make their way to Virginia. Besides, with the arrival of Africans that led to transatlantic slavery system improved things greatly. However, in 1622, the streaming in of white immigrants, made it difficult to feed the colonist and further antagonism of their indigenous neighbors, who attacked the colony killing a quarter of the inhabitants caused headache for the settlers. However, to the settlers, the issue of starvation, attacks, and overcrowding was not their only problem, according to Jamestown colonist Sebastian Brandt, in his letter to Henry Hovener, a Dutch merchant living in London, in 1622, the settlers were not only dying of starvation but also illnesses:

…But my brother and my wyfe are dead aboute a yeare pass’d and touchinge the busynesse that I came hither is nothing yett performed, by reason of my sicknesse & weaknesse I was not able to travell up and downe the hills and dales of these countries… (Sebastian Brandt,1622)

In the mid-seventeenth century, the settlers discovered that their fortunes lay in tobacco cultivation and with the good public connections, the colony was able to stand.

The fact that Jamestown settlement became the United States, meant that it was a successful permanent colony. The settlement also thrived for 100 years as the capital of the Virginia colony due to the different decisions made by its leaders. Firstly, the encouragement of Smith to the colonist to grow their crops for their own families to live on encouraged them to work harder for self-sustainability and this meant a great reduction of the deaths caused by starvation. Even though with the departure of John Smith rendered the situation insecure, which made many survivors want to pack and return to England, the relief ships and the arrival of the new governor remedied the situation. The famous marriage between John Rolfe and Princess Pocahontas ensured political stability in the colony, hence the settlers were not faced with the problem of political wars and for the first time, the Americans and the Indians were at peace. Later when Powhatan died, and his brother became chief the piece that reigned in the colony ended and the new chief attacked the cony and killed 347 colonists but they did survive and become the first successful English settlement. When Rolfe introduced the cultivation of Tobacco in the colony, it was a great success. Tobacco became the cash crop in the region which was sold to England for money and supplies, later the people of England loved tobacco hence making it Virginia’s ‘gold’, this in return made the colony very wealthy. These major decisions made by different leaders and the first settlers in the Jamestown settlement colony contributed a great deal to the growth of the colony and they made a great contribution to the outcome of this historical scenario.

Even though the first settlers in Jamestown colony did not find gold and copper that they were looking for in Jamestown Virginia, they were able to thrive through all the difficult situations in the settlement. Even with most of the other settlers dead, the survivors were able to establish a great colony. Even though Jamestown colony almost failed, it was the first colony set up by Great Britain in the New World, it was not only the first place that slaves were brought in North America but also, without it, there would be no precedent for successful Colonies in America.


  • Rutherford, Mildred Lewis. The South in History and Literature: A Hand-book of Southern Authors, from the Settlement of Jamestown, 1607, to Living Writers. Franklin-Turner Company, 1907.
  • Roper, Louis H. The English Empire in America, 1602-1658: Beyond Jamestown. Routledge, 2015.
16 December 2021
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