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Europeans Colonize North America (1600 – 1640)
*English Interest in Colonization*
- By the sixteenth century, many countries, including Spain, France and the Netherlands, had established colonies in
the New World. Until the foundation of Jamestown, however, the English didn’t have any successful permanent
colonies in North America.
- Prior to Jamestown,
Sir Walter Raleigh
of the Sea Dogs formed a joint stock company and received a charter to
found a colony on
in 1584. It failed, and he tried again in 1585 and 1587. Both were failures, and the
fate of the 1587 colony remains a mystery (all colonists disappeared).
- Anyhow, several factors encouraged the English to try again with Jamestown even after their
earlier failures, and motivated people to join the expeditions. These reasons include…
– England had experienced a dramatic population boom, resulting in social and economic
upheaval (inflation, falling wages, peasants losing their land b/c of the enclosure movement, many homeless
people, rapidly growing cities).
– The English government was concerned about losing ground in the competition with the
Spanish for overall power and with the Dutch for trading. Since they had colonies, it was only natural that
England would want them as well.
– This applies more to the prospective colonists than to the government. Anyhow, after Henry VIII
split from the church in 1533, he established the Anglican Church, which was subsequently taken over by
Queen Elizabeth, who swung it more towards the Protestant side. This led to the formation of many English
Calvinist [Puritan] groups, who felt that reform should go further. But under the Stuarts [the absolutists], the
church went back towards Catholicism w/o the Pope, and many of the Puritans were forced to flee in the
1620s to avoid persecution.
*The Founding of Virginia*
- In 1606 the Virginia Company was founded by a group of merchants and gentry who felt they could reap great
profits from colonizing America [it could allow them to find precious metals and new trade routes]. The Virginia
Company was a
venture [it was funded by contributions from many small investors].
- Although joint-stock companies had worked well to finance voyages, which quickly resulted in $, they wouldn’t work
as well for colonies b/c colonies required enormous amounts of funding and usually failed, or at least took a long
time, to return profits. Consequently, colonies funded by these companies were always short of capital b/c nobody
wanted to risk much $.
- Anyhow, James I decided to go ahead and charter the company in 1606, which resulted in
founded in Virginia [after a failure to start a colony in Maine] in
by 104 Englishmen.
*Jamestown’s Struggle for Survival*