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Did Jamestown’s Settlers Drink Themselves to Death?

Did Jamestown’s Settlers Drink Themselves to Death?

Life was no picnic for the Jamestown colony’s earliest founders, but at least they had enough to eat. Evidence from waste pits suggests that the settlers, who first arrived on the island in May 1607, feasted on deer, turtles and sturgeon during their first year in the New World, said historian James Whittenburg, the director for instruction at the National Institute of American History and Democracy. (“The sturgeon in the James River were so large that colonists would wade out and harvest them with an axe,” he added.) Thanks to an uneasy truce brokered by their leader, Captain James Smith, they supplemented this high-protein diet with corn received from local Powhatans in exchange for goods.

But in the fall of 1609, shortly after the arrival of new ships packed with more mouths to feed, a disastrous sequence of events plunged Jamestown into famine, said Whittenburg. Faced with their own shortages because of a prolonged drought, the Powhatans cut off trade with their neighbors after Smith returned to England for medical treatment in October. The settlers began taking food by force, and the Powhatans retaliated by laying siege to Jamestown; confined to their fort, the colonists could no longer hunt, fish or seek fresh water. “We do see in the trash bins from the ‘starving time’ that they’re eating really small animals,” said Whittenburg. “They eat up all of the domestic stock—the dogs and the horses. They get down to eating rats and even poisonous snakes.”

As the winter wore on, scores of Jamestown’s inhabitants suffered from diseases associated with malnutrition and contamination, including dysentery, typhoid and scurvy. By the time Lord De La Warr showed up with supplies in June 1610, the settlers, reduced in number from several hundred to 60, were trying to flee. The starving time’s staggering toll has led some historians to posit that various other factors decimated Jamestown’s population, either along with or instead of famine, Whittenburg said. According to one theory, agents working for the Spanish government spiked Jamestown’s wells with arsenic in a bid for colonial dominance.

While most scholars dismiss this notion, some have suggested that the wells were indeed to blame, albeit but for different reasons, Whittenburg said. The historical geographer Carville Earle, among others, believed that dirty water with a dangerously high amount of salt—a result of Jamestown’s proximity to brackish sources—sickened the colonists. “Jamestown Island is in a zone of the river that during certain times of the year is surrounded by saltwater,” Whittenburg explained. “It’s like a sewer that never gets flushed. The colonists are drawing water out of the same place where human and animal waste are being deposited.”

For the first time, researchers are approaching this hypothesis from a scientific angle, collecting and analyzing groundwater and sediment from the former site of Jamestown’s shallow wells. “Plenty of people had suggested there might be an issue with the water they were drinking, but nobody had done a study to investigate what the water quality was and where the contaminants were coming from,” said Gregory Hancock, an associate professor of geology at William & Mary, who helped start the project in 2007. He and a colleague, Jim Kaste, have been monitoring variations caused by precipitation, tidal flow and seasonality; this data can then be used to reconstruct water quality during colonial times, when a severe drought affected the region.

Hancock, Kaste and an undergraduate geology student, Doug Rowland, are finding that Jamestown’s drinking water was abysmal, and not just by today’s standards: Indeed, it might have significantly contributed to the starving time’s devastation. Lending support to Earle’s conjecture, the team determined that saltwater from the James River and a nearby swamp seeps into Jamestown’s aquifer, pushing salinity levels past the safety zone for human consumption. This problem would have been even more pronounced during the 17th century because of low rainfalls, said Kaste. Colonial accounts of life at Jamestown mention symptoms consistent with salt toxicity, such as lethargy and irritability.

But salt poisoning was only one price Jamestown’s settlers likely paid for hydration, according to the researchers. Human waste from the colonists’ outhouses probably percolated down into their water supply, Kaste said. “Any organic matter they deposited hundreds of years ago is gone,” he explained, “so we are analyzing the waters for fecal coliform and looking for goose droppings as a proxy.” This type of contamination allowed diseases like dysentery and typhoid to spread quickly through the colony and continue circulating, Hancock said.

Finally, the scientists detected arsenic at high but varying levels in groundwater near the fort. Does this mean the Spanish were poisoning the wells after all? “We aren’t in a position of disproving anything yet,” Kaste said. “However, the arsenic concentrations and the seasonal cycling of iron and arsenic that we have measured so far are very consistent with what we would expect from natural processes which have been described by others studying similar environments.” Compared to everything else the Jamestown settlers imbibed, then, a dash of naturally occurring arsenic may have been the lesser evil.

Salt poisoning

Salt poisoning is an intoxication resulting from the excessive intake of sodium (usually as sodium chloride) in either solid form or in solution (saline water, including brine, brackish water, or seawater). Salt poisoning sufficient to produce severe symptoms is rare, and lethal salt poisoning even rarer the median lethal dose of table salt is roughly 3g per kg of body weight.

Salt poisoning
Other namesSodium poisoning

In medicine, the circumstance of salt poisoning is most frequently encountered in children or infants [1] [2] who may be made to consume excessive amounts of table salt. At least one instance of murder of a hospitalized child by salt poisoning has been reported. [3]

Too much salt intake in adults can also occur from the drinking of seawater or the drinking of soy sauce. [4] Salt poisoning has also been seen in a number of adults with mental health problems. [5]

Salt poisoning can affect most species of animals, although it is more common in swine, cattle, and poultry. [6]

Early Jamestown: Why Did So Many Colonists Die?

It was a rough beginning with constant deaths throughout the colony of Jamestown. English settlers started arriving at the James River in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia in the spring of 1607. Some hoped for new homes most hoped to become rich, but for the most part, the adventure would come to a tragic end. By 1611, 400 of the original 500 colonists had died. So, the question to be answered is why so many colonists died. The answer is to why people died can be found in three basic reasons: issues with the water, the fact that the colonists came with mostly unhelpful skills, and the fact that the colonists failed to maintain peaceful relations with the Indians who were already living in the area.

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The water became a major problem for the colonists because it was not fresh water it was a harsh mixture of saltwater and freshwater enough to do some damage. The colonists tried to dig wells for fresh water, but these were subject to drought and/or saltwater intrusion. Since the colony dumped all of their waste in the water source, it became even more toxic as the weeks passed, and could have also contributed to disease. The headcount began to rapidly drop, and several of the deaths were caused by saltwater poisoning. It seems water was an important factor in the hardship of the colony, but it is not the only one.

The colonists were not very smart in whom they brought to established their new colony. For example, the largest group of one profession that came was all gentlemen, whom were people of wealth and did not know anything about hard labor. There were only twelve laborers brought in the first shipment. This made it hard for the colonists to obtain food and build shelter. Not only did they not bring enough of certain people, they also brought people who had no purpose in being there other than to eat all the food, which was scarce to begin with. Skills of tailors, barbers, and even a drummer were brought over by the English. What use could Jamestown’s foundation building have for these people other than to starve them on a daily basis? True, this did affect the water problem, due to the fact that had these settlers brought some apothecaries with them, they might have been able to cope with the saltwater intrusion better. Unfortunately, this was not on the list of importance, but this was not the only time they blundered.

The Essay on The Everglades Water Region People

The decrease in rainfall that the Everglades are projected to suffer would end up causing more problems to the ecosystem than the ones it already has. The Everglades used to be a wetland that occupied twice as much land as the amount of land it occupies now. As people started to expand to this region, they implemented complex water management systems that have affected the region's ecosystem. The .

When they first arrived, the settlers believed that their only threat was a Spanish fleet coming from behind because it seemed to them that the Indians living in the region would welcome them and supply them with food. Although, how could they when their home was being invaded by a number of snobbish Englishmen? They had quite a motive to be hostile. In 1609 however, the problem grew when another Englishman named Francis West, along with his crew of thirty-six men, “sailed up the Chesapeake bay to try to trade for corn with the Patawomeke Indians”(Hume).

It seems he “persuaded” them to trade, most likely by torturing, threatening, and even killing the Indians. He left a lot of angry Indians with a load of grain that he would take to the Jamestown colonists for a supply of food, but he decided instead to just take it back to England with himself. The death toll of the colonists increased after this event, due to the now excelled hostility of the Native neighbors.

In conclusion, it seemed that the water, the skills, and the Indians were equivalent causes in the deaths colonists, and although the lack of effective people and the rivalry with the Patawamekes were plenty to have nearly destroyed the colony, I believe the number one cause was the brackish water. The water was an everyday issue that the people themselves contributed to by their dumping of waste into their source, and it poisoned several of the colonists. Had the water been cleaner, the colonists would have probably survived with less trauma and hardship. They wouldn’t have to spend all of their time caring for the people who fell ill (who could be performing essential labor instead), had the reason for the sickness not exist. Today, we still look back on this death toll and its causes because had the settlers not survived, our nation would be entirely different right now. The majority of the people here in America would be Hispanic as they are English today if the colonists had all died off, and that is why this huge factor which decided history continues to be acknowledged.

The Essay on Athlete Dying Young People Death Life

February 28, 1996 E 2-10 Vacation Project On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three To Help You Understand 2. In the first eight lines the poet, John Milton, is talking about his character and how on the inside he still feels like a child. The character still wants to enjoy life as a kid and go around and have fun. He feels that he did not get enough time to enjoy his childhood and he .

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Tag Archives: Alcohol

To my disappointment, it turns out that no, they did not “drink themselves to death” in the way people usually mean it. This article just says that they drank contaminated water, which is a really boring thing that happened all over the place in history, as you may remember from playing Oregon Trail as a child.

I was kind of hoping to get something salacious from the article, something along the lines of, “Well, they ran out of food, but had tons of beer and whiskey on hand. So they just drank and drank until the lasses all froze to death from exposing their breasts in fits of exhibitionism. It appears that this behavior was capitalized upon by a skanky middle-aged dude who wrote down detailed descriptions of each girl’s breasts in a pamphlet called ‘Maids Gone Mad’ and then sold the pamphlets to the other creepy dudes in town. Everybody else died from losing consciousness out of doors and being murdered in their sleep by Native Americans, or, in more routine cases, just choking on their own vomit. Voila: only 60 settlers survived the winter. So now we know.”

Jamestown: The Death Colony

Why are there so many deaths in the middle of nowhere? From the beginning of 1607, an English colonization on the James River were already facing problems. The colonists had only come for gold which in result, caused people to die. Why did so many colonists die from 1607-1611 in Jamestown? Many settlers died because of these three reasons: bad environment/water, bad relations with the Indians, and the settlers’ lack of skills. The first reason was because of the bad environment and water. There was brackish water full of waste in the river and it festered. The colonists started to die because they had no clean water. The river was not clean so they could not drink it. Plus, since the river festered, the water was salty so they could not grow crops. The colonists had also came in a time of drought. They chose the wrong time to come to Jamestown. They suffered a lot because of the drought. Many people ended up dying. Also, another reason was because of the bad relations with the Indians. West cut off two of the Powhatan’s heads for grain, but it was not enough to supply the whole winter (so West ended up taking the food and fleeing to Europe).The colonist threatened the Indians for food which in caused them to retaliate using force causing the death of many colonists. In August to October of 1609, the Indians killed “neere halfe” of the men stationed near the falls, and this wasn't their only attack on them. The Indians killed about 60 colonists causing the population in Jamestown to decrease drastically because the population was only in the hundreds in the first place. Finally, the third reason was because of the settlers’ lack of skills. 75 of the 120 people who came to Jamestown in 1607-1608 where gentlemen who are people of wealth who are not used to working with their hands. Because so many people weren't okay with doing dirty work, nothing was done and many people died. Also, they didn't have great trading skills considering.

Meet Jane, eaten by her 17th century Jamestown co-settlers

Forensic scientists say they have found the first real proof that English settlers in 17th century Jamestown resorted to cannibalism during the "starving time", a period over the winter of 1609 to 1610 when severe drought and food shortages wiped out more than 80 per cent of the colony.

The remains of 14-year-old "Jane" were uncovered in 2012 during a 20-year-long excavation of the doomed fort by a team headed up by William Kelso from the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at Preservation Virginia and James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at Colonial Williamsburg. They were found in what was once a cellar room, along with butchered horse and dog bones.

"The clear intent was to dismember the body" Douglas Owsley, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Kelso took the remains - part of a skull and a tibia bone - to the Smithsonian for analysis. After dental analysis revealed her age, the team looked into the unusual markings on the bones. What they found was a pretty brutal and thorough stripping of flesh from the bone, indicated by indentations and scrapes in specific places.

For instance, whoever set about dismembering Jane wanted to get to the brain - which has been found in 17th-century recipes (at least non-human brains were) - as demonstrated by four shallow cuts across the forehead, initial attempts to hack it open. The inexperienced butcher then turned to the back of the head where other, deeper blows are visible, presumed to be made with a hatchet or cleaver. In addition, there are scrapes from a fine knife all over the side and base of the mandible (the jawbone) indicating whoever was doing the dismembering wanted every last ounce of flesh.

According to Douglas Owsley, the division head for physical anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, the marks on the bones appear to be tentative. It's assumed that this is because it was done by someone with no experiencing of butchering, but off course the act of taking apart your co-settler for consumption probably didn't sit too well either.

"The recovered bone fragments have unusually patterned cuts and chops that reflect tentativeness, trial and complete lack of experience in butchering animal remains," he said. "Nevertheless, the clear intent was to dismember the body, removing the brain and flesh from the face for consumption." "From my experience working with prehistoric skeletons where I've seen postmortem processing of remains, this is absolutely consistent with cannibalism we see in those types of cases."

There's no indication that the girl was killed - settlers were dying all over the place, so there was essentially no need.

However, the speed with which the act of dismembering her took place after her death indicates historic accounts of cannibalism are in fact accurate, and that the act was perhaps all too common. "The attempt to [remove] the brain is something you would need to do very quickly because brains do not preserve well," Owsley told the BBC.

The act, is of course one of desperation. Some of the first permanent English settlers in the colonies, the Jamestown inhabitants never had an easy go of it. After setting sail in December 1606 their ship landed in Chesapeake Bay in April 1607.

After sailing up the James river for about 80km, the group reached a marshy peninsula it chose as home. It was not a great choice. The wells within the fort were located between the James River, which has high salt levels depending on the season, and a Pitch and Tar Swap. To top it off, the settlers did not put their all into cultivating the land, preferring to trade with the local Powhatan people who welcomed them at first. As conditions worsened and droughts came, the Powhatan only had enough food to feed themselves and all but ceased trading with the settlers, causing the relationship between the two to turn sour. Without their leader John Smith, who had returned to England, the settlers grew more isolated, afraid of those outside the fort walls. With no reserves, no crops and no ties with local tribes, the community turned to eating its domestic animals - cats, dogs and horses - then snakes and rats.

"If the English had tried to find a worse time to launch their settlement in the New World, they could not have done so," Dennis Blanton, director of the Centre for Archaeological Research at the College of William and Mary, told National Parks magazine in a piece on the "starving time". "The Jamestown settlement was plagued by the driest seven-year episode in 770 years." Blanton was part of a team investigating the mystery of the lost settlers by studying the growth patterns of 1,000-year-old bald cypress trees in the region. Core samples demonstrated that drought was most severe during the settlement years at Jamestown, and earlier at Roanoke Island - also known as the "Lost Colony", for the disappearance of its settlers.









Use the Jamestown handout you filled out in class to answer the questions above. Be careful NOT to plagerize. You might want to answer the questions in a Word Document and then cut and paste.

The colony of Jamestown was doomed form the start, as many important aspects in settling a colony were wrongly executed. First of all, the location of the colony was on a peninsula. The peninsula was surrounded by swampland, which in turn bred disease-carrying mosquitoes. The malaria that was contracted from these bugs was a leading cause of death among the colonists. Furthermore, the colony had run out of food, and it had gotten to the point where it was either "eat the crops that were being planted or starve." The settlers chose to sell the crops that they had planted, mainly tobacco, due to the obsession of money and wealth. On the contrary, later on Jamestown had grown stronger and larger. This was mainly due to the money that was being brought in by the harvesting and selling of tobacco. Tobacco was popular during the settlement of Jamestown. To continue with, Jamestown had also thrived due to the effects of trading between the Native Americans and the English settlers. Many things were exchanged, such as herbs and food for tobacco. The Native Americans had also taught the settlers how to hunt and how to farm, which led to the colony's eventual success as well. The colony's eventual success was due to the arrival of John Smith.
When John Smith had arrived in the colony of Jamestown, He had made many changes which had allowed the colony to flourish under his rule. Smith and the Native Americans had sort of a love - hate relationship. It was one moment that Smith was welcomed into the tribe, where he was taught to hunt and fish, and the next moment he was being chased by the Native Americans of the Powhatan tribe. The Native Americans were said to entertain Smith with feasting and dancing, and then chase him out and try to kill him the very next day. Smith's relationship with the Native Americans wasn't exactly the best that it could be, but it was their relationship that had allowed the colony of Jamestown to eventually succeed under the command of John Smith.

Jamestown failed because its inhabitants were extremely concerned with. wait for it. GOLD. Yes the driving force behind any noteworthy European of the time, gold. They were so enthralled with the prospect of gold that all other things fell to the way side. Laziness also inhibited growth. They refused to plant crops, as any sensible Englishmen would. The Greed and Sloth that the colonists exemplified was their ultimate downfall.

Although the colonists wobbled out of the gate much like a new born deer, they did eventually get on up on their feet. It was because of one John Smith. He took the colony and turned into a well-oiled machine. He instituted a harsh communist system where you worked or you starved. A very effective plan, as Stalin demonstrated some 300 years later. Another man, John Rolfe, helped out Jamestown. After John smith left and Jamestown fell apart John Rolfe came in and saved the day. He brought tobacco and planted. Tobacco being the cash crop of the day, and today, managed to save Jamestown from themselves. Honestly the colonists act like helpless children without leadership they can't manage to feed themselves.

Back to John Smith, he was especially great with the neighboring Native American tribe. Even though the Natives thought he was a harbinger of death he was still able to set up trade with them. In the end the Natives loved him, mainly a little minx by the name of Pocahontas.

Robert Young Jr.
The settlement of Jamestown failed for many reasons. One reason Jamestown failed is that they were obsessed with finding gold and silver, that was never here. Because they were concerned with the gold and silver, they didn’t planting crops and are not hunting animals. They were relying on the gold to buy themselves whatever they needed. Another reason why Jamestown failed in its early stages is that it was founded on a peninsula surrounded by swamps. The swamps are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and malaria by nature, but the people of Jamestown use it for their everyday activities. The people use the bathroom, bathe, eat, and drink with/out of the swamps. The swamps are going to be the leading cause in death because of the various diseases created.
Jamestown eventually became a supreme colony. A reason Jamestown became a success is because the colonists got past the idea of gold and silver. This allowed the community to unite and grow as colony not as independents. Another reason Jamestown finally flourished, is that they realized they needed to plant crops in order to eat, and make money by selling them. The main product in Virginia was tobacco. Tobacco soon began to be grown in every farmer’s garden as well as vegetables.
John Smith is a veteran in the military, and comes to restore order within the colony. He runs the colony like a general would run his troop group. He has a rule, “No work, no food. “ This encouraged many people to work thus the beginning of a thriving plantation. John Smith fortifies their defense before making friends with the chief of the nearby Indians. By making friends with the chief of the nearby Indian tribe, Jamestown received help and or crops in hard times.

Jamestown failed for many reasons. One reason was that the people who first came over from England were nobles and people of high ranking. They did not want to work and would rather find gold than hunt and farm. They drank and used the bathroom in the same water and only cared about becoming rich. Another reason that the first English settlement in the New World failed at first was because they built Jamestown in a horrible location. On a swampy penninsula in the middle of the Powhatan Empire, was not the best choice for a settlement. Crops didn't do well, water was disgusting, and they were constantly being bombarded with angry natives. But Jamestown later succeeded, thanks to John Smith. Although an amazing liar and a no-nonsense soldier, Smith raised Jamestown from the ashes. He made the colonists work and befriended the natives. Later, John Rolfe came to the setlement. He started the tobacco industry and boosted Jamestown's economy. Instead of becoming rich off of gold, Jamestown made its living on tobacco, thanks to John Rolfe.
Before John Smith came to the New World, natives were constantly attacking the weak settlement of Jamestown. But when Smith came, he made peace with the natives. He learned their language and learned to hunt and farm like them. And in turn, the natives gave Smith food for the white colonists. Although sometimes they wanted to kill John Smith, the colonists were on much better terms with the natives after Smith came and didn't have to worry if the "savages" were going to attack them in the middle of the night.

When Jamestown was first established, they endured many hardships and failures. Not only did it take four long months on three ships to get there, when they arrived the drinking water was impure and the land was swampy. The swamp carried mosquitoes that spred disease. Aside from the disease carrying mosquitoes, the gentlemen refused to work because they were not used to working hard. People chose to live in tents and since everyone was interested in gold instead of planting crops, food was scarce. Men grew weak and diseases like pneumonia, malaria and dysentery spread. Only nine months after being discovered, Jamestown had a mere thirty-eight people alive.
A bitter sweet victory for Jamestown arrived in 1608 and his name was John Smith. His dictator like leadership forced people to work for food and he made people plant crops and strengthen their defenses against hostile Indians. Another blessing for Jamestown was John Rolfe. Because of him planting a new type of tobacco seed from the West Indies, Jamestown thrived. People from England would buy as much as possbile making Jamestown rich. Thanks to both John's, Jamestown was saved.
John Smith and the Native Americans liked and disliked each other at the same time. Thanks to the Native Americans, John was able to learn how to fish and hunt. But the Native Americans also tried to kill John Smith and chase him out of their town. Though their relationship was not strong, their relationship was part of the formation of Jamestown.

Jamestown wasn’t successful for numerous reasons. The first settlers of Jamestown were fixated on finding gold and silver. Being so they we preoccupied. The Settlers were so fascinated by the thought of finding gold and silver that they didn’t even think about hunting or planting crops. Another reason was the first settlers were wealthy and contumacious people whom believed they should not do manual-labor.
The success for Jamestown eventually came around. Captain John Smith became the leader of the English settlement, and ran it as if it was a dictatorship. His motto was "no work, no food." Once Captain Smith was injured in a explosion and sent back to England, then John Rolfe emerged. In 1612 John Rolfe arrived as an aggressive, zealous settler. He began to plant tobacco seeds and had acquired from the West Indies. Captain Smith interacted with the Native Americans in a very civil way. He learned from them, he spoke a very small portion of their complex language. Captain Smith also traded with them food for blankets. Various trades took place, which the Natives American and the settlers benefitted from.

Jamestown wasn’t a great success because many things. First of all, many people died because of the voyage to the “New World” and in the new world because of disease. Many people died of malaria, pneumonia, and dysentery. Not many settlers were smart they didn’t know that you shouldn’t drink the water you bathe and go to the bathroom in, that’s why the people got the disease of dysentery. Another reason why the Jamestown society didn’t work was because they lost a great leader. John Smith held that whole town together. He was the person to have a great connection with the Native Americans. As soon as John left to England because he was injured the town went down the toilet.
The only two reasons why Jamestown was a success were because of two men. The first man was John Smith. He established a great relationship between the Natives and the Jamestown society. John smith led Jamestown to victory. After Smith left all of a sudden John Rolfe came and brought over the tobacco plant. Which brought the economy up and production was booming and everyone wanted tobacco. John Smith made a deal with Pocahontas. In this deal John would get in trouble get the plenty of death and right before he gets his head chopped off Pocahontas would stop her father and tell him that John is a great person and that they both care for each other. That’s why Jamestown had its advantages and disadvantages.

Two reasons why early hardships played a very special part in Jamestown was a lack of food supply, and different diseases. I choose these two because they played an important role during the 1609 they were low on food because settlers spent most of their time searching for gold and silver. Another reason is disease that caused many people to get sick for example malaria, and dysentery that caused many to get weak or either die. Since they didn’t have as much antibiotics that we have today to cure the diseases over a half of settlers died because of this. Jamestown had many failures such as lands, and also settlers got put through a lot. The land made many sick because of the water, it made them very sick this water wasn’t fresh these people bathe, wash their clothes, and also bathe themselves in this water.
Two reasons why Jamestown became success by John Smith searching for gold and silver but didn’t capture any but did reach food. The food went short in a little amount of time. They had to trade with other villages to get more food. Thomas Dudley is another reason for success because he signed the charter, which meant who ever signed the agreement could take over. John Smith dealt with the Native Americans by tagging his English soldiers around, which eventually let John Smith take control of the settlement. John Smith did the best he could so he told them to plant crops and built them a strong army to fight off the Indians.

Jamestown had many flaws when it was first established. 2 of the major failures of the Jamestown. the most biggest one is because people worked more on trying to find gold in the new world. most of the people wear trying so hard that they neglected to find food. therefore leading to the population to starve. the other major problem was with the English settling inside of an Indian tribe land. this made the Indians mad and they attacked the English many times. then there came 2 major reasons that made Jamestown prosper. one major reason was the first money plant which was Tobacco. the other major reason was the new leadership of John Rolf.

john smith one of the leaders of the Jamestown colony had a bipolar relation with the Indian tribe. with there help he learned many new trates like how to fish and grow food. things took a turn when they tried to murder him. in the end he had a lot of ways to deal with the Indians. this is the story of the Jamestown colony.

The settlement of Jamestown failed for many reasons. One reason Jamestown failed is that they were obsessed with finding gold and silver. They weren’t worried about plating crops and feeding themselves because all they cared about was finding gold. Another reason why Jamestown failed is that it was founded on a peninsula surrounded by swamps. They drank, washed their clothes and used the bathroom in the same water. Nine months after being discovered, Jamestown had thirty-eight people alive. A success in Jamestown was that they planted and sold Tobacco. Tobacco was very popular and it helped them gain success.

John smith helped turn Jamestown around. Because of the Native Americans, John was able to learn how to fish and hunt. John smith and the Native Americans had a love hate relationship. One day they were teaching smith how to farm and another day they were chasing him out of the village. Towards the end, the Native Americans loved john smith because of Pocahontas. Because of john smith, Jamestown was a successful settlement.

The colony of Jamestown failed because of the colonists’ greed and stubbornness. They were so focused on searching for gold, that they ignored the fact that they were dying from disease and starvation. They were also too stubborn to grow their own food. Most of them came from wealthy families so the rich snobs refused to do manual labor for food, thus they died of starvation. They were also dying from malaria and dysentery because the water they used was the same one they used for bathing, drinking, and using the bathroom.

By some miracle Jamestown was saved, not once, but twice by John Smith and John Rolfe. John Smith cracked down hard on the colonists. He didn’t give food to those who didn’t work. Many of the colonists hated him for this, but it worked. John Smith also treated the Natives with respect and was friendly with them. These was great for the colonists since the Natives would help them every once in a while. Jamestown was finally succeeding because of John Smith. However, when John Smith left everything fell apart. Just as things seemed to be hopeless, John Rolfe arrived with tobacco seeds. Jamestown’s environment was perfect for growing tobacco and because only the Spanish had tobacco, this changed everything. The American colonies began to sell tobacco as its main export. Without John Smith and John Rolfe, Jamestown would be a ghost town.

For fellow Europeans, the Americas offered a new start and innovative way to draw benefits for themselves and their country. They hoped to utilize this newly discovered land to increase the size of their empire, their wealth, and their overall dominance in Europe. England was especially fond of this idea. When the English arrived in America, they decided to institute a permanent colony in which they named Jamestown however, the settlement differentiated greatly from the idea that many had developed in their heads. Jamestown was destined for failure towards the beginning of its development. One reason for this initial failure was that upon arrival, the English settlers were nobles, the aristocracy of England. This would prove to be detrimental as they were indisposed to perform any of the hard work that was required if the colony was to be a success. The settlement needed hard workers that were more inclined to survive than they were to increasing their wealth. Additionally, the colony was established in a poor location. Although it was strategically placed on a peninsula which would allow for easy defending against a potential enemy, the detriments significantly outweighed the benefits. They were in a swampy landscape which encouraged the production of mosquitoes that introduced many lethal diseases, like malaria, that proved to be fatal for many of the colonists.

Despite these factors that were against the success of Jamestown, eventually the settlement was able to improve its situation. One reason that led to the ultimate triumph of the colony was tobacco. Without the introduction of this plant to the colony, it would have most definitely failed. The crop was able to flourish in the environment that the land offered, allowing for high quantities of it to be grown. Because of the high demand for this plant, Jamestown was able to flourish and prosper. Another reason that would lead to the eventual success of Jamestown was when the people were allowed to own their own land and accumulate their own money. Because the colonists were now working for themselves and their families, they became more prone to work thus increasing their chance of survival as well as the overall endurance of Jamestown itself.

Although these factors greatly aided in the eventual success of Jamestown, the settlement received its initial first step to success when a former English soldier named John Smith was sent to the colony. Despite his seemingly harsh and unorthodox methods, the colony would probably have been a failure without him. His relationship with the fellow Native Americans that shared the land was complicated. The Natives would often develop differencing opinions about him and the colonists. They either hated him or worshiped him. John smith was able to trade with the Natives, which benefited the colony. Moreover, he acquired many skills learned from these peoples that were able to be applied to Jamestown.

Jamestown wasn't filled with your average,everyday, salt of the earth people, it was filled with wealthy English noblemen. English noblemen aren't necessarily the hard working type as they refused to plant their own crops. They were also only interested in finding gold so that they could get even richer. This ultimately led to the complete and utter failure, since you can't really survive that long without food.
This all changed when John Smith arrived. John Smith whipped Jamestown into an efficient and prosperous civilization. But once John Smith left Jamestown fell apart once again. Enter John Rolfe, the new savior of Jamestown. When John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown he brought with him tobacco, the crop that would turn Jamestown around once and for all.
But enough of John Rolfe, lets get back to John Smith. John Smith was able to trade with the Native Americans, even though they tried to kill him a couple of times. When the Native Americans put their murderous tendencies aside they really did love John Smith, at least enough to trade with him that is.

Jamestown failed for many reasons. One reason why Jamestown failed is that it was founded on a peninsula surrounded by swamps. The people of Jamestown did their every day activities in the swamps they would go to the bathroom, drink and bathe in the swamps. The swamps were the place where the mosquitoes and malaria would by nature. The swamps were the principal cause on deaths in Jamestown. Another reason why Jamestown failed is because they were obsessed with finding gold and silver, that wasn’t in that land, they were so concerned with the gold and silver that they didn’t hunt animal or plant anything. They were just looking for the gold that they wanted to buy themselves anything they wanted.
Jamestown became a successful colony when Captain John Smith became the leader of the English. When he was the leader he put every to work if they wouldn’t work they wouldn’t get any food he said “no work, no food”. When he went back to England because he got hurt in an explosion came another leader his name was John Rolfe and he mad a very nice friendship with the Native Americans, he learned their language and traded food with the natives.
John Smith made the people from Jamestown stop being so obsessed with the gold and silver and told them that the way they could make money is by planting crops and selling them in order to get the food they needed. The main product was tobacco. Soon all the farmers had tobacco in their gardens as well as other vegetables.

Jamestown had some failures. One of them being was that they were too focused on finding gold and silver then planting and hunting for themselves. The promlem with that was there wasn't any gold and silver to find. Another promblem with Jamestown was the disceases. Jamestown was surrounded by swamps which had a colony of mosquitos around them. This caused malaria which many people died from.

Jamestown also had some successes that saved them. Everything change when John Sith showed up in the picture. John Smith had everybody work on planting then working on finding gold and silver. Another man who save Jamestown was John Rolfe. He planted a tobacco plant which lead to everybody else doing it. It alowed people to sell it and make money. The way that John Smith treated the Native Americans was different than everybody else did. Instead of mistreating them he bonded with them.

Even though at the end of the reformation of Jamestown everything turned out well it was a rough ride. Jamestown did not have enough food. The people were too lazy to plant crops so no crops were being produced. The people also did not feel like hunting. A reason that could make someone understand them was they were surrouded by a swamp. This swamp had diseases spreading around. This caused many people to die. Being surrounded by a swamo is not the best way to start off a town.
Even though Jamestown was not a big success at first they began to improve. John Smith helped settle down the problems with Native Americans. Him and Pocahontas made a plan together. Her father captured him and she came right when they were about to lill him and told her father that she cared for him. Her and Smith did not have feelings for each other. Her and Rolfe did get married. Rolfe brought tobacco plant and that heped bring up the econmy. Little by little people began to come and even Africans came to work as slaves. Later on they would spread out in Virgina and claim their own land. Jamestown had gone through rough times but at the end everything worked out.

When settelers first came to America, they werent excactly the hard working kind of people. They were the type of people who didnt really like to sweat. Why someone would send people who didn't like to work hard to a place where you would be working hard to survive..i don't understand the logic. Since the people neve worked they never planted crops which means food was scarce. That is one reason why Jamestowen wasn't the most sucessful place at first. A second reason would be that they were so concentreted on finding gold and siolver, which never excisted there. Finding gold was the most important thing to them and nothing more. Eventually Jamestown became more sucessful thanks to John Smith, who was previously in the military, which woulkd explain how he kept people in order. Smith made a simple rule which was the motto "No work, No food". Due to him being the way he was, people finallty started to work, and things began to get done. John Rolfe is another person to thank for Jamestown's sucess. John originally came to Jamestown to search for gold, but he found there was none. John somehow got his hands on some tobacco seeds only obtainable in Spain. Eventually there was over a million dollars of tobacco, in todays money. It isn't to surprising to now hear that America was founded on tobacco.
John Smith and the NAtives had a love-hate reationship. They were usually very civil. When the other settelers wanted John Smith killed one of the Natives, Pocohantis, brought him to her people and vougded for him. Although they thought he is up to no good, they accepted him.

At first, Jamestown failed as a society. The people were obsessesd with looking for gold and silver instead of planting there own crops. The people did not want to work and because of this they lacked a descent food supply. Another factor that caused Jamestown's failure is the location. They built it around a swampy area. There drinking water was dirty and it was a breeding ground for disease carrying mosquitos. Over half of Jamestown's population died of malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, and dystentery.

Jamestown's success came when they got a new leader Captain John Smith. When Smith came he made the people work which caused success. He made the people work for their food. His motto was "no work, no food." Many people didn't like this but it was effective. He also made the people stop concentrating on gold and silver and made them start planting crops. Later John Rolfe came to Jamestown after John Smith left. He planted tobacco crops which boosted Jamestown's economy and helping out the people. Both men also developed a relationship with the Native Americans who helped them with the land and helped the people grow crops.

Due to lack of foresight and common sense among those who colonized Jamestown, the colony was destined to fail from the start. For the most part, only wealthy men who had no interest in doing anything except searching for gold came to Virginia. Their inhibition to plant any crops or make any other attempts to provide food caused their food supply to dwindle at excessively drastic rates. The colonists had also picked a poor location to build their town, for the stagnant water of the swamp they chose did nothing more than fester with disease and their wastes. Due to the combination of disease and lack of food, more than half of Jamestown's population succumb to the impending forces.

Jamestown's eventual success only came when a new leader stepped up: John Smith. While most colonists held hostile feelings towards the Indians, John Smith sought help from them. The Indians taught the colonists how to plant crops and keep themselves alive. Soon after, John Rolfe came to the settlement of Jamestown with tobacco seeds. The seeds were planted and grown to produce a tobacco crop which would bring Jamestown untold amounts of wealth.

The reason that Jamestown was a failure at first was because the settlers didn’t want to work or farm. They just sat around and looked around, if they decided to do something it could have been different. Jamestown was successful because of John Rolfe. He brought what would change the entire settlement and would kick start the development of our nation, tobacco. After he began to grow tobacco the town started to grow in size and population, they began to export more and gain more wealth.

John Smith made good friends with the natives. He wanted their help while others hated them and called them savages. John asked them to help the settlers survive in any way possible such as farming.

Common sense and better plamning among those who colonized Jamestown could have prevented the inevidable failure that was early Jamestown. The majority of English settlers were only wealthy men who had no interest in doing anything except searching for gold. Their failure to provide food caused their food supply to drastically deteriorate. The location of Jamestown also could not have been settled in a worse place, for the stagnant water of the swamp they chose to settle strictly festered with disease and bodily waste. Due to the Ppor planning of the oligophrenic King, more than half of Jamestown's population was wiped out.

Jamestown's eventual success only came when John Smith stepped up. While most colonists held hostile feelings towards the Indians, John Smith sought to llearn their ways. The Indians taught them how to plant crops and fish. Soon after, John Rolfe came to the settlement of Jamestown with Spanish tobacco. The crop would bring Jamestown untold amounts of wealth

Luke Harshaney
The British settlement in Jamestown Virginia during the early 1600's faced innumerable trials and tribulation. One of the main problems faced by the settlers was a complete lack of a desire to perform manual labour an example of this is a lack of crops and building construction. Furthermore, most of the land around Jamestown, which sat on a peninsula, was a stagnant, still pool of water this water soon became ripe with bacteria, which spread sickness and death.

Though the faliures of Jamestown were massive, it soon became an incredibly wealthy and powerful English Settlement. Tobacco, introduced by John Rolph, made for an incredibly profitable endeavor and with limitless potential. Another one of the successes of Jamestown was John Smith's reforms which led to a stronger and more ambitious group, all leading to the growth of the English Colonies stretching along the eastern seaboard.

When the English Settlers first went to jamestown, they suffered many hardships and failures. First of all, they went only in search of gold, which was roomered to be underground. They brought no livestock with them, so they were starving. Also, Jamestown was built in the center of the Pohatan empire, and the Natives quickly became enemies with the settlers. The Natives had bows and arrows that were faster to load and fire than an English Musket. When John Rolf arrived, only roughly 60 out of 500 settlers were remaining. Because of Him, Jamestown became very wealthy and successful with the introduction of tobacco.
John Smith was another cause of Jamestown becoming more successful. He was a tough, militaristic man who believed that everyone must work, or they will starve. Smith also dealt with the Natives by learning their language, hunting and fishing with them. He basicly became one of them.

Jamestown was the first English settlement in the Americas that was located on the coast of Virginia. This settlement was made for disaster. As it was said during class, if there were ten things you could do wrong when settling in land, the settlement of Jamestown did eleven things wrong. Hardships and failures in Jamestown came from the location and the people. First of all, Jamestown was located on a peninsula. While being surrounded by water is good when it came to security and protection, the land was very swampy and the water was impure, so it was not good to drink. Along with that, the swamp carried many mosquitoes that would go on to spread disease, thus killing many of the colonists. The next reason Jamestown ended up with hardships were the values of the colonists. All they cared about was searching for gold and silver. The men were well educated that did not want to do any work or put an effort into making their lives better. They decided that it would be easier to build tents instead of houses and it seemed to them that it was not worth raising crops. Later, when the men had no profit from gold and they ran out of food to eat because they did not plant crops, they got weak from hunger and died. The men were lazy and all they wanted was the gold and riches, and that desire made their lives miserable.

Eventually, Jamestown began to gain success. While it was not the perfect colony, the settlers’ spirits’ were uplifted when good things started to happen. First of all, the arrival of Captain John Smith changed the ways of Jamestown. He made sure that the men planted and he strengthened their defenses against the unfriendly Indians. Another reason Jamestown finally became successful was the discovery of tobacco by a settler John Rolfe. The settlers learned that the growing of tobacco was very profitable. This led to tobacco being grown in each garden in Jamestown. Jamestown prospered ever since tobacco was introduced. When it comes to John Smith, he was a great leader in Jamestown. The colony grew and became much stronger under his leadership. When he was forced to go back to England due to an injury during a gunpowder explosion, Jamestown went back into the hard times they were in previously. Jamestown was at its best with John Smith and that ended when he left.

Ryan Tunison
When the English colony of Jamestown was first established, it faced many hardships. First off, the chosen location for the settlement was poor, being a swampy area with impure drinking water. Furthermore, the settlers who came, being noble ranking Englishmen, spent most of their time searching for gold and silver when they should of used the time they had to plant crops. Although Jamestown suffered from its failures, the colony was improved by the actions of two people. To start with, John Smith arrived to the colony and took control with the simple motto, "You don't work, you don't eat." With this Smith rebuilt Jamestown into the strong colony it was meant to be. However, once Smith left to return to England due to injury, the colony resulted back to failure. Secondly, after John Smith, a man by the name of John Rolfe came to the almost hopeless colony with a product: tobacco. This new kind of tobacco (a mix of the South American seed and the one the English already had) brought Jamestown out of failure once again, giving the colony a main crop to thrive off.
One aspect significant about John Smith was the way he treated Native Americans. Differing from other Europeans, Smith saw it best to create good relations with the native kingdom. His effort is proven by the moments of respect and love the Native Americans showed for Smith even though there were times of hate. This hate, for example, was most severe to the point the natives wanted to kill him. Despite this, John Smith would always talk his way out of his troubles, gaining the Native Americans trust once again. This trust allowed Smith to obtain food from the natives in order to save Jamestown. Other accomplishments Smith did among the natives was hunting with them and learning their language.

When settlers came over from England most of them were rich so they weren't used to working. When the first arrived there location was not in the right place, they settled on a peninsula. They regularly use the same swamp to drink, wash clothes, and also produced waste. No one in Jamestown thought about eating when they got there, they just wanted to find gold. After people started dying by the thousands, a man named John Smith came along. John Smith helps the English tremendously he starts planting crops and trying to get along with the native Americans. The most famous crop was the tobacco crop which was a mixture of a South American seed. John Smith saved the English from another failure.
John Smith liked the Native Americans. He put in a lot of effort to learn there language and to rationalize with them. The native Americans did not really know what to think of John Smith sometimes they hated him and other times they loved him. He learned how to farm from the Native Americans. John Smith influenced Jamestown heavily.

Jamestown was a poor location for a settlement period. They expected everything to be so simple and easygoing with gold as their main motivation. No one took into consideration on what they were going to eat, or how they were going to survive as a group. So, the men dug wells for water, but the drinking water was bad. Also, the land was wet and had too many mosquitoes which later lead to the spreading of disease throughout the colony. After one year, about half the colonists had died of disease tribes of the Eastern Woodlands Indians  lived in Virginia. The Indian tribes formed a confederation led by Chief Powhatan.
A man by the name of Captain John Smith  became leader of the Jamestown Colony. He saved the colony by making a rule that anyone who did not work did not eat. So, colonists built a civilization and planted crops with tobacco as the most important of all that single handedly saved Jamestown from plummeting to the bottom.John Smith maintained a peace with the nearby Algonquian Indians  keeping a healthy, manageable relationship. At the time, almost 30 tribes of the Eastern Woodlands Indians lived in Virginia. The Indian tribes formed a confederation led by Chief Powhatan. One day, Captain John Smith was captured by the Indians. A legend says that Pocahontas, the chief's daughter saved his life.

There were many difficulties in the first English settlement in North America, James Town, but there were two that stuck out above the rest. The first was that the settlers that came over where high ranked and were gentlemen. This effected the growth because they didn’t know anything about planting crops or living in the “wild” so they had an extremely hard time surviving. The other reason that the town almost failed was because since the “gentlemen” of the English colony didn’t know anything about living in areas like these, they picked the worst possible location for a settlement, a swampy, gross area. The crops did not grow because of the ground, and the water was disgusting and people would die when they would drink it. Also they built it right in the middle of the Powhatan Empire which angered the Natives.

There were also plenty of successes in Jamestown after John Smith landed in America. He was a very strict but effective leader. Johns Smith’s motto, if he had one back then, would probably be “if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” He made sure that the colonists all worked and grew food. He was a main component in making Jamestown successful. He also made the colonists befriend the natives. He knew that if they befriended the natives then they could trade for Native goods like fur and food. The second thing that saved Jamestown from turning to dust is tobacco. When John Rolfe planted tobacco it saved Jamestown’s financial struggle because know they could sell the tobacco to other colonies and gain money from it. This really helped Jamestown because they could know flourish and buy what they need.

In the beginning of Jamestown the Natives despised the English, but when John Smith came, he made peace with the Natives and eventually learned there language and learned how to survive like them, by hunting, fishing, and farming. This was the first step to living peacefully with the natives. Because John Smith was learning their language and how they hunt, fish, and farm, the Natives provided food for the English colonists. Before John Smith came the colonists were afraid to close their eyes at night because the natives might try to kill them in their sleep, but when John Smith came and made allies with the Natives they could rest easy. Even though sometimes the Natives still wanted to kill John Smith, it was a lot better than staying on the edge of the colonists seats waiting for an attack.

Walter Padilla. Iigbt let's get this started. James town was a really big mistake. They are really stupid and are a bunch of idiots that them people build it in a peninsula. What's even worse is that it was near swamp. Did they think because in the swamp there were desease that caused most of the people to die. They had a tought time in this world. I don't blame e'm. Some respect for those who suffered out there. The second one is that they be running out of food mad quick for some reason. No joke they fat or something cause I thought they were skinny people. Ok now for thir success in Jamestown. Some dude came out of no where to be the best thing to ever happen in Jamestown. This guy had some seeds in his pockets and them seeds were tobacco. YEAH NOW WE TALKING. ). Back to Jamestown. This savior a name was John smith. Since bringing tobacco Jamestown became the main product for them. John smith became leader of the colony. HE A REAL BROTHA. John smith and tobacco was the best thing that helped Jamestown from drooping to the bottom. They later met a tribe whose chief was powhanta. They captured John smith and took him as a prisoner. Powhatan didn't like him, pro ally because John smith might have been ugly teehee :D , so they decided to execute him him .since John was like a pimp and got some girl to follow up on the plan to save John smith. Smart man. Powhatan was like " ok spare this ugly dudes life, my daughter thinks he's worth letting him live". That girl was Pocahontas.
iight then that's my awnser Mr.Orsucci. I Got this cause I'm that nice . Ok ummm. That should all FOR NOW. I'm outtie.

Two reasons for the early hardships for Europeans could be many things. One of the main reasons was their extreme laziness. they didn't want to do any manual labor. Another reason is that they lived near still water. Mosquitoes were carrying malaria. The mosquitoes began infecting the settlers and most of them died. Jamestown seemed like a huge failure
Two reasons for the success of Jamestown were the leaders it had and tobacco. Leaders such as John Smith and John Rolfe. John Smith was a powerful military dictatorish leader he made the lazy settlers work. Sadly he got injured and had to leave, never to return to Jamestown again. John Rolfe came in during "the starving time" everybody was either hungry or dead, kinda like Detroit ( John Rolfe brought with him tobacco seeds. These seeds changed Jamestown into a flourishing economic center. If it wasn't for the men who took Jamestown and shaped it up, it would have been a wate of time and money for England

The first English settlement in North America was Jamestown. The Virginia Company of London sponsored 104 men and boys to come here, hoping to profit from the resources in the New World. During the first few years, more than half of the settlers died, but later on, more settlers came, and they formed a colony. This was the first English colony meant that there were many colonies that followed. Starting here, English settlers started to spread all over east America. The arrival of many important figures such as John Smith and john Rolfe helped Jamestown out of despair. There were success and there were failures during the development of Jamestown, which lead to its ultimate accomplishment.
The early settlement of the English was not successful. People died from diseases, such as malaria, pneumonia, and dysentery. They also got sick from drinking unclean water and the mosquitoes from the swamp also helped to weaken the settler’s health, since mosquitoes do carry sicknesses. In addition to that, the reason settlers came here was to look for gold and silver therefore, they spent most of their time searching for gold and silver and did not plant crops for food. This caused them to eat poorly and weakened their health. Though, the series event started to turn for good after the arrival of John Smith, a former English soldier. He convinced settlers to start planting crops, which allowed the settlers to become healthy. He also helped the colonist defend against Native Americans, who wanted to get rid of these foreign men. During an attack, Smith was captured, but released a month later and gained the trust of the tribe leader Powhatan. With the trust of Powhatan, the Indians began to provide the English settlers with food. However, after an explosion, Smith had to return to England due to an injury. During this time, the conditions for the settlers became bad again with starvation, droughts, and attacks from other Indian tribes. Despite this, there were successes for the colonists. One of them is that the colonist started growing tobacco using the seeds brought over by John Rolfe. Tobacco eventually became the foundation of Jamestown’s economy. Due to this, England started sending slaves over to America to help with the plantations, which helped Jamestown thrive. Lastly, the formation of the House of Burgesses helped make laws for Jamestown. This was the first representative government in history. This idea later spread to other European countries. The success and failures are all building stones to the Jamestown, which still thrives today.

Jamestown went through many difficult times. All the English thought about was gold. The English made a bad decision settling in Jamestown since many wars were there and many property was damaged. Jamestown had many problems. Many of the English men got sick from diseases such as swellings, flixes, burning fevers and many other diseases. Tobacco was the main crop in Jamestown,they made profit from it. John Smith and John Rolfe both helped to make Jamestown a better place.
James Smith was very nice towards the Native Americans. He wanted to gain their trust and respect. He wanted to improve the colony and make it a better place. That's exactly what he did. The Native Americans began to trust him. They always had doubts of him though.

The first area where people settled in what was called the "New World," was called Jamestown. Making Jamestown a nice place to live wasn't easy. Most of the rich men who lived there didn't want to do any work. Also, all they looked for was gold and not looking for anything that really mattered. The English settlers were also struck with diseases like burning fever. Times in Jamestown were hard. Until one man came, his name was John Smith.He was very strict, he made sure that if you didn't work, you didn't eat. This motto stuck with the settlers and made them good workers. He turned Jamestown around. Smith gained the trust of the Native Americans. Before, the natives were afraid the settlers were going to attack them in their sleep. Overall, John Smith turned the town around and improved everything.

English settlers mainly came to the New World, in the hope of finding gold. Explorers searching for gold did little to no farming causing a starving period of time to come about. Unfortunately, if there are no people growing crops/food, no one will have anything to eat. The food supply eventually became scare as winter started to approach. During winter, malaria and the harsh weather conditions caused many colonists to become ill, and die off. After spending an entire year in Jamestown, 38 of the 144 settlers survived the starving period and cold winter.

After this period of time finally ended, success in Jamestown started to bloom. The new leader, John Smith, devised a new plan, stating "if you don't work, you don't eat." Fortunately, that statement frightened the Native Americans enough to make them realize they had to start working. The natives planted many crops such as, tobacco, which allowed the colonists to trade among others for food or other goods. John Smith gradually tried to fit in with the Native American group. Smith learned the language of the natives and tried to adjust himself to their customs, following their way of living. Keeping a state of peace with the natives, gave Smith a chance to live his life within their colony and receive food, as gifts, from the natives.

Question 1: Was Jamestown a good investment?

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in what eventually became the United States. Established on the swampy edge of a river that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, Jamestown nearly didn’t survive. In the end, though, the Jamestown settlers who survived winters of famine found that they could grow and sell tobacco to Europeans back home. It turns out that selling drugs is not a new phenomena.

Jamestown was a business venture. Wealthy investors in England pooled their money and financed the creation of the colony. Ships and supplies were expensive and there was no guarantee of success. When they set out, no one knew exactly what they would find, and no one predicted that tobacco would eventually become the cash crop of Virginia.

What do you think? Was Jamestown a good investment?


Before we start talking about the English-speaking colonists who came to America, and laid down the foundation of what eventually became the United States, we need to take a moment to talk about the many names that get used to describe the people and the place they came from, because it is complicated.

Let us begin with geography. Two islands make up the British Isles off the coast of Europe. The larger island in the east is Great Britain and the small one to the west is Ireland. Great Britain is divided into three nations: England, Scotland and Wales. England is the largest, most populous, most developed, most wealthy, and has dominated its neighbors for much of their shared history. The city of London is in England.

However, England is not a country today. In modern times, all three parts of Great Britain are in the United Kingdom, along with a corner of the island of Ireland, called Northern Ireland. The rest of the island of Ireland is the independent country of Ireland. All these areas and the people who live there have a long and complicated history, which is quite interesting, but not the subject of our course.

Sometimes we call this country England or Great Britain although the proper name is the United Kingdom. You will see it written as UK for short. However, because it has carried different names at different times, we sometimes call the entire place England, or Great Britain, and we call the people there English, or British. In these readings we may use the names interchangeably.

Suffice today, most of the people of the British Isles speak English and many of the White settlers in America came from these two islands. I am sorry if this is confusing. Like many things in history, there is just not one easy way to describe the whole of human experience.

Secondary Source: Map

A map of the British Isles. The nation of Ireland is in grey. Note that the northeast corner of the island of Ireland is one of the four regions of the United Kingdom.


By the time British arrived in the New World and established their first permanent settlement at Jamestown in 1607, much of the continent had already been claimed by other European nations.

All of the modern Southwest, including Texas and California, had been peopled by Spanish settlers for about a century. The entire expanse of land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains had at one point been claimed by France.

Many factors contributed to Britain’s tardiness. England was not the most powerful European nation in the 16th century. Spain was most influential. Along with Portugal, Spain dominated New World exploration in the decades that followed Columbus. France, the Netherlands, and Sweden all showed greater interest in the Western Hemisphere than England did.

A voyage by John Cabot on behalf of English investors in 1497 failed to spark any great interest in the New World. England was divided in the 1500s by great religious turmoil. When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in 1533, decades of religious strife ensued. Finally, under Henry’s daughter Elizabeth, the English were prepared to stake their claims.

Although England was an island and therefore a seafaring nation, Spain was the undisputed superpower of the seas in the 16th century. Many of England’s adventurous sea captains found that plundering Spanish ships was a far simpler means of acquiring wealth than establishing colonies.


Sea Dogs, or Privateers were English mariners of the Elizabethan era employed by the queen to harass the Spanish fleets and establish a foothold in the New World. Essentially, the privateers were pirates operating with the permission of a king or queen. What they did was considered legal so long as they only attacked the enemy.

Among the most prominent sea dogs were Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Humphrey Gilbertand, and Walter Raleigh. These sea captains possessed exceptional maritime and military skills as well as a burning desire for capturing Spanish treasure. They and their crews were highly motivated since, as privateers and not members of the Royal Navy, they were allowed to keep whatever treasure they could steal from the Spanish. They helped provoke the eventual showdown between Elizabeth I’s England and Philip II’s Spain.

One of these privateers, Sir Francis Drake became the first to sail around the world since Ferdinand Magellan when he completed perhaps the longest escape route in the history of the world to avoid capture by the Spanish.

Philip was certain that his great fleet of ships would put an end to England’s piracy. In 1588, one of the greatest turning points in world history occurred when Spain’s “invincible” Armada of 130 ships sailed into the English Channel. Despite their numerical inferiority, the English ships were faster and easier to maneuver than the Spanish fleet. With the aid of a great storm, Elizabeth’s ships humiliated Philip’s navy, which returned to Spain with fewer than half their original number.

The defeat of the Spanish Armada marked the beginning of the end of Spain’s domination of Europe and the Western Hemisphere. More importantly for England, it marked the dawn of the era of permanent English settlement of the New World.

With tensions high between England and Spain, it soon became sensible for England to establish permanent settlements in the New World to rival the Spanish. If nothing more, they could serve as bases from which to raid Spanish ships.

Primary Source: Painting

The assembly of the mighty Spanish Armada as it departed on its way to attack England. The Armada was defeated, tipping the balance of power in Europe away from the Spanish.


Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to Roanoke did not fare well. In 1585, Raleigh’s men settled on the small island off the coast of modern-day North Carolina. Relations with the Native American inhabitants were peaceful at first, but as the colonists’ supplies dwindled, amity dwindled too. The colonists left in 1586 after beheading the local Indian chief, Wingina.

Raleigh arranged for governor John White and a group of families to return to live in peace with the natives in 1587. Violence, however, is not easily forgotten. Within one month, hostilities resumed, and White was forced to return to England to ask Raleigh for reinforcements.

Time was not on White’s side. When the war with Spain erupted, White could not return to the colony for three years. When he set foot on Roanoke Island in August 1590, he searched frantically for the settlers, including his daughter and granddaughter, the first English New World baby, named Virginia Dare.

All that could be found was the remains of a village and a mysterious word, “croatoan,” engraved on a tree. White concluded there must be a connection between the word and a nearby Indian tribe, but before he could investigate, a violent storm forced him out to sea and back to England.

This lost colony remains one of American history’s most intriguing mysteries, despite the fact that was not particularly important in the long run.


Compared with other European nations in 1600, England was relatively poor.

As new agricultural techniques made fewer farmers necessary, the poor multiplied in the streets of cities such as London and Bristol. Much to the dismay of the wealthier classes, the impoverished were an increasingly burdensome presence and problem.

Richard Hakluyt, a 16th-century geographer interested in explorers and travel narratives, suggested to Queen Elizabeth that New World colonies could serve two purposes. First, they could challenge Spanish domination of the New World. Second, the ever-growing poorer classes could be transported there, easing England’s population pressures.

But Elizabeth was not persuaded to invest public money in a venture that wasn’t guaranteed to be successful. She was not opposed to private investors taking such a chance, however. Raleigh had tried and failed. When it became clear that the wealth of an individual was not enough, the joint-stock company arose.

The joint-stock company was the forerunner of the modern corporation. In a joint-stock venture, stock was sold to wealthy investors who provided capital, or money. These companies had proven profitable in the past with trading ventures. The risk was small because each investor only put up a small about of money so if the venture failed, only a small amount would be lost. However, the returns were quick when the enterprise did well. It was a way for the wealthy to use their money to make money without doing the work themselves.

Investing in a colony was an altogether different venture. The risk was larger as the colony might fail. The startup costs were enormous and the returns might take years. Investors in such endeavors needed more than a small sense of adventure.


Who led these English colonial expeditions? Often, these leaders were second sons from noble families. English law supported the idea of primogenitor, which meant that only the first-born male could inherit property in a family. As such, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert were all second sons with a thirst to find their own riches.

Merchants who disagreed with the teachings of the official Church of England were also willing investors in New World colonies. There were plenty of English who disagreed with the way the official church was run. Some of these Puritans had the necessary capital to support colonies where they could practice their own version of Christianity.

With an excess landless population to serve as workers, and motivated, adventurous, or devout investors, the joint-stock company became the vehicle by which the English finally settled in the Western Hemisphere.

This starkly contrasted with Spanish and French settlements. New Spain and New France were developed by their kings. The English colonies were developed by their people. Many historians argue that the primary reason the relatively small and late English colonization effort ultimately outlasted its predecessors was because individuals had a true stake in its success.


The first joint-stock company to launch a lasting venture to the New World was the Virginia Company of London. The investors had one goal in mind: gold. They hoped to repeat the success of Spaniards who found gold in South America.

In 1607, 144 English men and boys established the Jamestown colony on the banks of the James River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in what would eventually become the United States. Located in the modern state of Virginia, the colonists named it after King James I.

The colonists were told that if they did not generate any wealth, financial support for their efforts would end. Many of the men spent their days vainly searching for gold. Consequently, the colonists spent little time farming. Food supplies dwindled. Malaria and the harsh winter besieged the colonists, as well. After the first year, only 38 of the original 144 had survived.

The colony may well have perished had it not been for the leadership of John Smith. He imposed strict discipline on the colonists. “Work or starve” was his motto, and each colonist was required to spend four hours per day farming.

An accidental gunpowder burn forced Smith to return to England in 1609. After his departure, the colony endured even more hardships. A new boatload of colonists and supplies sank off the coast of Bermuda on its way to help the hungry settlement. The winter of 1609-10, known as the Starving Time, may have been the worst of all.

Disease and hunger ravaged Jamestown. Two desperate colonists were tied to posts and left to starve as punishment for raiding the colonies’ stores. One colonist even took to cannibalism, eating his own wife. The fate of the venture was precarious. Yet still more colonists arrived, and their numbers included women.

Secondary Source: Photograph

This photograph shows the reconstructed Jamestown Fort. The original site of the fort has mostly been overtaken by the shifting James River. Today you can visit a rebuilt version a few hundred yards from the original site.

Virginia’s economic future did not lie with gold. There was too little gold to be found there. Looking for new ways to make its investments pay dividends, the Virginia Company of London began encouraging multiple ventures by 1618.

Jamestown settlers experimented with glassblowing, vineyard cultivation, and even silkworm farming. Despite efforts to diversify Virginia’s economy, by the end of the 1620s only one Virginia crop was drawing a fair market price in England: tobacco.

Tobacco is one of the plants that can be found on a list of flora that crossed between the Old World and New because of the Columbian Exchange. The Spanish, who had learned to smoke it from Native Americans, introduced it to Europe. Despite some early criticism of “drinking smoke,” tobacco became popular among the middle classes in England. Much of the tobacco smoked in England was grown in the West Indies.

John Rolfe thought that Virginia might be an outstanding site for tobacco growth. Early attempts to sell Virginian tobacco had fallen short of expectations. Smokers felt that the tobacco of the Caribbean was much less harsh than Virginian tobacco.

Rolfe reacted to consumer demand by importing seed from the West Indies and cultivating the plant in Jamestown. Those tobacco seeds became the seeds of a huge economic empire.

By 1630, over a million and a half pounds of tobacco were being exported from Jamestown every year.

Primary Source: Advertisement

This print advertisement promotes Virginia-grown tobacco. Note that the workers in the field are African slaves.

The tobacco economy rapidly began to shape the society and development of the colony. Growing tobacco takes its toil on the soil. Because tobacco drained the soil of its nutrients, only about three successful growing seasons could occur on a plot of land. Then the land had to lie fallow for three years before the soil could be used again. This created a huge drive for new farmland.

Settlers grew tobacco in the streets of Jamestown. The yellow-leafed crop even covered cemeteries. Naturally, the colony began to expand.

Despite the introduction of tobacco cultivation, the colony was a failure as a financial venture. The king declared the Virginia Company bankrupt in 1624. About 200,000 British Pounds were lost among the investors. The charter was thereby revoked, and Virginia became a royal colony, the first in America to be ruled directly by the Crown.

Investments in permanent settlements were risky indeed. The merchants and gentry paid with their pocketbooks. Many colonists paid with their lives. For every six colonists who ventured across the Atlantic, only one survived.


By choosing to settle along the rivers on the banks of the Chesapeake, the English unknowingly placed themselves at the center of the Powhatan Empire, a powerful Algonquian confederacy of thirty native groups with perhaps as many as twenty-two thousand people. The territory of the equally impressive Susquehannock people also bordered English settlements at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay.

Many cultural differences separated the Native Americans from the English. The most important contrast was each side’s differing view of land ownership. According to Powhatan’s people, land was owned by no one. Rather, it was collectively used by the tribe. Because land could not be owned, it could not be sold or yielded in treaty. Selling land was the equivalent of selling air.

The English view of individual land ownership was completely foreign to the Powhatans, who could not understand being pushed off tribal lands so it could be sold to individuals. To the Powhatans, the loss of their land was a matter worth fighting for.

To most Native Americans who first encountered them, the English seemed harmless at first. If it were not for the good nature of Powhatan’s people, the Jamestown settlers never would have survived their first few seasons in the New World.

Powhatan, the leader of the nation that shared his name, regarded the English settlers suspiciously, as he had previously regarded Spanish settlers.

However, Powhatan understood that good relations with these new inhabitants might help forge a powerful alliance. The English had guns and powder. These items might just give him the advantage he needed to defeat surrounding tribes.

Before long, Powhatan’s hopes of peaceful cooperation were dashed. During the Starving Time, colonists took to raiding Native American food supplies. In retaliation, Powhatan ordered an attack.

he First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614) resulted not only from the English colonists’ intrusion onto Powhatan land, but also from their refusal to follow native protocol by giving gifts. English actions infuriated and insulted the Powhatan.

Primary Source: Map

John Smith’s map of Virginia drawn in 1624. North is on the right side of the map. Smith included illustrations of Powhatan and local Native Americans and labeled the areas controlled by various tribes.

In 1613, the settlers captured Pocahontas, also called Matoaka, the daughter of a Powhatan headman named Wahunsonacook, and gave her in marriage to Englishman John Rolfe. Their union, and her choice to remain with the English, helped quell the war in 1614. Pocahontas converted to Christianity, changing her name to Rebecca, and sailed with her husband and several other Powhatan to England where she was introduced to King James I. Promoters of colonization publicized Pocahontas as an example of the good work of converting the Powhatan to Christianity. Pocahontas died in England at that age of 21. She and Rolfe had one son and it is a mark of some distinction to be able to claim that one is a descendent of Pocahontas.

Peace in Virginia did not last long. The Second Anglo-Powhatan War of the 1620s broke out because of the expansion of the English settlement nearly one hundred miles into the interior, and because of the continued insults and friction caused by English activities. The Powhatan attacked in 1622 and succeeded in killing almost 350 English, about a third of the settlers.

The English responded by annihilating every Powhatan village around Jamestown and from then on became even more intolerant. The Third Anglo-Powhatan War (1644–1646) began with a surprise attack in which the Powhatan killed around five hundred English colonists. However, their ultimate defeat in this conflict forced the Powhatan to acknowledge King Charles I as their sovereign. The Anglo-Powhatan Wars, spanning nearly forty years, illustrate the degree of native resistance that resulted from English intrusion into the Powhatan Confederacy.

Regardless of the individual people involved, the story of the relationships between English settlers and Native Americans is usually one of initial friendship, and then violent conflict over control and access to land. The war between the Jamestown colonists and the Powhatan Confederacy is simply the first in this pattern.

Secondary Source: Photograph

The capitol building in Williamsburg, Virginia. As the Virginia colony grew, the government moved inland to the town of Williamsburg. The House of Burgesses met at this building, which stands at the opposite end of a long mall from the home of the royal governor.


Although many differences separated Spain and France from England, perhaps the factor that contributed most to distinct paths of colonization was the form of their government.

Spain and France had absolute monarchies, but Britain had a limited monarchy. In New France and New Spain, all authority flowed from the Crown to the settlers, with no input from below.

The English kings who ruled the 13 original colonies reserved the right to decide the fate of their colonies as well, but not alone. The colonists drew upon their claims to traditional English rights and insisted on raising their own representative assemblies. Such was the case with the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first popularly elected legislature in the New World.

Modeled after the English Parliament, the House of Burgesses was established in 1619. Members would meet at least once a year with their royal governor to decide local laws and determine local taxation.

King James I, a believer in the divine right of monarchs, attempted to dissolve the assembly, but the Virginians would have none of it. They continued to meet on a yearly basis to decide local matters.

What is the importance of a small legislative body formed so long ago? The tradition established by the House of Burgesses had a powerful effect on colonial development. Each new English colony demanded its own legislature in turn, and colonists became accustomed to having a say in the way their colonies were governed.

Starting with the Virginia House of Burgesses, Americans had 157 years to practice democracy. By the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they were quite good at it.

So, the wealthy men who first invested in the Virginia Company lost their money, and many of the first settlers lost their lives. But in the end, Jamestown survived and the Virginia colony eventually thrived. For those who owned the tobacco plantations, life was good. For those who did not, and especially for the Native Americans who were pushed out of their ancestral lands by the English, life was less pleasant.

What do you think? Was Jamestown a good investment?


BIG IDEA: The English developed their first colony in America at Jamestown. It was a business venture that nearly failed until the colonists discovered that they could grow and export tobacco.

Although the land that is now the United States was occupied by Native Americans, and settled by Europeans, Africans, and Asians from many places, the United States as a nation has its roots in settlement from England. The English were late arrivals in America. The Spanish and French had already established colonies in the Americas and had been there for more than 100 years before the arrival of the first English colonizers.

Spain had been the most powerful nation in Europe for many years due in large part to the riches discovered in the Americas. However, when the Spanish tried to invade England, her giant navy was sunk in a storm and defeated in battle. It was an important turning point in European and American history.

The English started attacking Spanish ships carrying gold, silver, and other treasure from America back to Europe. Many of these attackers were privateers who later helped found the first English settlements in America.

The first English settlement in America was at Roanoke, but it failed. No one knows exactly what happened to the settlers since they all disappeared.

English businessmen pooled their resources to form joint-stock companies to share in the cost and risk of investing in America. The first such company paid for the establishment of Jamestown in Virginia.

Jamestown was a failure in the beginning. The settlers did not know how to farm so they starved. Only with help from the local Native Americans did some settlers survive. However, they discovered that they could grow tobacco, which they could sell back in Europe. Tobacco make Jamestown and the surrounding Chesapeake Bay region profitable.

The area around Jamestown was settled by the Powhatan Native American people. They had a tense relationship with the English settlers. Sometimes they helped the settlers, but when the English took Native lands they went to war.

An important tradition established in the Chesapeake Bay region was the House of Burgesses. Neither England nor Virginia were democracies since the poor had little influence in both societies. However, the wealthy plantation owners in Virginia meet regularly to make laws for their colony. This House of Burgesses helped establish a tradition of self-rule that the colonists were willing to fight for in the 1770s.


Spanish Armada: The Spanish navy that sailed to attack England in 1588. It was damaged by a great storm and humiliated by Queen Elizabeth’s navy, thus ending the threat of Spanish conquest of England.
Joint-Stock Company: A business in which wealthy individuals invest in order to raise funds for a venture. The Virginia Company of London is a famous example.
Primogenitor: An English tradition that a family’s property would pass down to the eldest son. Many of America’s first settlers were second and third sons who did not inherit money or land in England.
Tobacco: Crop that saved the Virginia colony.
Absolute Monarchy: A system of government in which a king or queen has total control.
Limited Monarchy: A system of government in which a king or queen shares power with elected officials.
Divine Right: The belief that a king or queen derived power from God. It contradicts the Enlightenment idea that governments derive power from the consent of the people.

London: Capital city of England and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom: The nation made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Roanoke: Walter Raleigh’s failed English colony in Virginia.
Jamestown: First successful English colony in America. Settled in 1607, John Smith helped save the settlers from starvation. Eventually the colony became financially successful when John Rolfe learned to grow quality tobacco in Virginia’s soil.


Privateers: Pirates that operate with a “Letter of Marque” from a monarch that gives them official protection, so long as they only attack ships from enemy nations.
Francis Drake: Prominent English privateer. He was the second person to circumnavigate the world.
Walter Raleigh: English privateer who founded the Roanoke colony.
John Smith: Leader of the Jamestown colony. He is famous for ordering that the setters would not eat if they did not work, and dealing with Powhatan. He also wrote a famous memoir his experience in the colony.
John Rolfe: Jamestown colonist who learned how to successfully grow quality tobacco in Virginia. He married Pocahontas.
Powhatan: Leader of the Native America tribe that shared his name. They lived in Virginia around the Jamestown settlement and went to war with the English settlers. Pocahontas was his daughter.
Pocahontas: Daughter of Powhatan. She married John Rolfe and died in England.
Virginia House of Burgesses: A legislative body created in colonial Virginia. It was an early example of democracy in America.

Starving Time: The winter of 1609-10 in Jamestown when many settlers starved to death. Later the colonists learned to grow their own food.
Anglo-Powhatan Wars: A series of three conflicts between 1609 and 1646 between the English settlers in Virginia and the neighboring Native Americans.

Virginia Company of London: Joint-stock company that funded the Jamestown colony.

Starving Settlers in Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism

The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.

“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”

Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling "Jane" was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it's clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”

It’s long been speculated that the harsh conditions faced by the colonists of Jamestown might have made them desperate enough to eat other humans—and perhaps even commit murder to do so. The colony was founded in 1607 by 104 settlers aboard three ships, the Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed, but only 38 survived the first nine months of life in Jamestown, with most succumbing to starvation and disease (some researchers speculate that drinking water poisoned by arsenic and human waste also played a role). Because of difficulties in growing crops—they arrived in the midst of one of the worst regional droughts in centuries and many settlers were unused to hard agricultural labor—the survivors remained dependent on supplies brought by subsequent missions, as well as trade with Native Americans.

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert) Detail of cut marks found on the girl’s jaw, or lower mandible (Smithsonian Institution / Donald Hurlbert) Detail from a scanning electron microscope image showing fine details of the trauma found on the girl’s jaw. (Smithsonian Institution / Scott Whittaker) The young girl's features were reconstructed based on the forensic evidence gathered at Jamestown. (Studio EIS / Don Hurlbert) Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley at Jamestown. (Courtesy of NMNH, SI) 17th-century remains excavated from James Fort, Jamestown, Virginia, by William Kelso, chief archeologist at Jamestown Rediscovery Project and analyzed by the Smithsonian’s Douglas Owsley. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

By the winter of 1609, extreme drought, hostile relations with members of the local Powhatan Confederacy and the fact that a supply ship was lost at sea put the colonists in a truly desperate position. Sixteen years later, in 1625, George Percy, who had been president of Jamestown during the Starving Time, wrote a letter describing the colonists’ diet during that terrible winter. “Haveinge fedd upon our horses and other beastes as longe as they Lasted, we weare gladd to make shifte with vermin as doggs Catts, Ratts and myce…as to eate Bootes shoes or any other leather,” he wrote. “And now famin beginneinge to Looke gastely and pale in every face, thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them. And some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.”

Despite this and other textual references to cannibalism, though, there had never been hard physical evidence that it had occurred—until now. Kelso’s team discovered the girl’s remains during the summer of 2012. "We found a deposit of refuse that contained butchered horse and dog bones. That was only done in times of extreme hunger. As we excavated, we found human teeth and then a partial human skull," says Kelso.

Kelso brought them to Owsley for a battery of forensic tests, including microscopic and isotope analysis. “We CT scanned the bones, then replicated them as virtual 3D models and then put them together, piece by piece, assembling the skull,” Owsley says. Digitally mirroring the fragments to fill in the missing gaps allowed the team to make a 3D facial reconstruction despite having just 66 percent of the skull.

The researchers used this reconstruction, along with the other data, to determine the specimen was a female, roughly 14 years old (based on the development of her molars) and of British ancestry. Owsley says the cut marks on the jaw, face and forehead of the skull, along with those on the shinbone, are telltale signs of cannibalism. "The clear intent was to remove the facial tissue and the brain for consumption. These people were in dire circumstances. So any flesh that was available would have been used," says Owsley. "The person that was doing this was not experienced and did not know how to butcher an animal. Instead, we see hesitancy, trial, tentativeness and a total lack of experience."

He’s probably one of the researchers best qualified to make this judgment. As one of the country’s most prominent physical anthropologists, he’s analyzed many cannibalized skeletons from ancient history, and as an accomplished forensic investigator who works with the FBI, he’s also worked on much more recent cases, such as one of the victims of 1980s serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. In total, he estimates that he’s examined more than 10,000 bodies during his career, oftentimes people who were killed in tragic circumstances, including victims of 9/11 and journalists who were kidnapped and murdered in Guatemala. Most of his time, though, is spent working on more inspiring cases, such as the 9,000-year-old “Kennewick Man” discovered in Washington State, and the mysterious remains of ancient Easter Islanders. “I love the moments when you come up with something that you're just totally in awe of," he told Smithsonian magazine when he was named one of 󈬓 Who Made a Difference.” “Something that gives you an overwhelming sense of wow!”

Owsley speculates that this particular Jamestown body belonged to a child who likely arrived in the colony during 1609 on one of the resupply ships. She was either a maidservant or the child of a gentleman, and due to the high-protein diet indicated by his team’s isotope analysis of her bones, he suspects the latter. The identity of whoever consumed her is entirely unknown, and Owsley guesses there might have been multiple cannibals involved, because the cut marks on her shin indicate a more skilled butcher than whoever dismembered her head.

It appears that her brain, tongue, cheeks and leg muscles were eaten, with the brain likely eaten first, because it decomposes so quickly after death. There’s no evidence of murder, and Owsley suspects that this was a case in which hungry colonists simply ate the one remaining food available to them, despite cultural taboos. “I don’t think that they killed her, by any stretch,” he says. “It's just that they were so desperate, and so hard-pressed, that out of necessity this is what they resorted to.”

Kelso’s team of archaeologists will continue to excavate the fort, searching for other bodies that might help us learn about the conditions faced by some of the country’s first European colonists. This might be the first specimen that provides evidence for cannibalism, but Owsley is pretty sure there are more to come. Percy’s letter also describes how, as president of the colony, he tortured and burned alive a man who had confessed to killing, salting and eating his pregnant wife—so the remains of this woman, along with other victims of cannibalism, may still be waiting to be found underground. “It’s fairly convincing, now that we see this one, that this wasn’t the only case,” he says. “There are other examples mentioned here and there in the literature. So the only question is: Where are the rest of the bodies?” 

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About Joseph Stromberg

Joseph Stromberg was previously a digital reporter for Smithsonian.

Jamestown Cannibalism

Maybe the rest of her body had already been devoured. I can't imagine that if you were going to dig up and eat a corpse, that the first thing you would go to eat would be the brain, so maybe hacking at her skull and face was a last act of desperation.

Boy is this thread morbid.


Maybe the rest of her body had already been devoured. I can't imagine that if you were going to dig up and eat a corpse, that the first thing you would go to eat would be the brain, so maybe hacking at her skull and face was a last act of desperation.

Boy is this thread morbid.

Jim Casy


My Colonial America history professor discussed this as well. Apparently this was done during what she called 'The Starving Years'.

Very interesting. Guess the reports of cannibalism, as written by the settlers of Jamestown wasn't exaggeration at all.


Over the years I have visited a bunch of these sort of colonial sites, including Williamsburg, VA, Jamestown, St Mary's City MD and the grand-daddy of them all, "The Lost Colony" in Roanoke Island, NC. What has always made me chuckle at these places is their sepia-tinted romanticism about life back then. Williamsburg is the most egregious in that, what with all their tasteful decor and great paint jobs. What the often miss, however are some basic facts about life back then ---

* A lot of animals, a lot of sh*t and no sewage system. This would have gotten really rank in the long, muggy summers of the Tidewater and the insects would have been legion

* No heat, no fans, no air-conditioning and even no window screens..if you allowed yourself any ventilation in the hot weather, the legions of bugs would have come indoors.

* In Jamestown, especially, being too close to tidewater resulted in brackish drinking water. Drinking that stuff results in what was called at the time "bloody fluxes" (the squirts). The other option was to drink nothing but alcoholic beverages and it's results.

European, Christian people like to think they would never resort to cannibalism, in spite of examples like the Donner Pass party or the whale ship Essex, in which they did.

In short, the girl in the picture would not have been so pretty. Conditions in Jamestown were terrible. In all likelihood, like most europeans, she had some measure of smallpox scars, was constantly under assault by salt marsh mosquitos and deer flies, which bite hard enough to make a horse bleed. In the conditions of starvation, she would have been emaciated and probably had some missing teeth.

It's safe to assume that those sad people would not have resorted to eating her unless they were totally traumatized mentally and completely desperate for food. It's really a sad story of people who came to a new land completely unprepared for the natural conditions, with no knowledge of how to feed themselves and too rigid-minded to ask the Natives for help.


Over the years I have visited a bunch of these sort of colonial sites, including Williamsburg, VA, Jamestown, St Mary's City MD and the grand-daddy of them all, "The Lost Colony" in Roanoke Island, NC. What has always made me chuckle at these places is their sepia-tinted romanticism about life back then. Williamsburg is the most egregious in that, what with all their tasteful decor and great paint jobs. What the often miss, however are some basic facts about life back then ---

* A lot of animals, a lot of sh*t and no sewage system. This would have gotten really rank in the long, muggy summers of the Tidewater and the insects would have been legion

* No heat, no fans, no air-conditioning and even no window screens..if you allowed yourself any ventilation in the hot weather, the legions of bugs would have come indoors.

* In Jamestown, especially, being too close to tidewater resulted in brackish drinking water. Drinking that stuff results in what was called at the time "bloody fluxes" (the squirts). The other option was to drink nothing but alcoholic beverages and it's results.

European, Christian people like to think they would never resort to cannibalism, in spite of examples like the Donner Pass party or the whale ship Essex, in which they did.

In short, the girl in the picture would not have been so pretty. Conditions in Jamestown were terrible. In all likelihood, like most europeans, she had some measure of smallpox scars, was constantly under assault by salt marsh mosquitos and deer flies, which bite hard enough to make a horse bleed. In the conditions of starvation, she would have been emaciated and probably had some missing teeth.

It's safe to assume that those sad people would not have resorted to eating her unless they were totally traumatized mentally and completely desperate for food. It's really a sad story of people who came to a new land completely unprepared for the natural conditions, with no knowledge of how to feed themselves and too rigid-minded to ask the Natives for help.

Damn. I've always known it wasn't exactly romantic and pretty, but the way you put it. no wonder life was tough.

And that is what you call tragic irony. The Natives were right there, they may have been more than willing to offer aid, but those people were just too proud to do it. I'm not trying to imply that they deserved this or anything, but still. if I were a Jamestown settler, and I was starving to death, I'd do anything, even run to the Natives for help. Screw what my elders say, I'm hungry and those other people seem to know how to survive, so I'm running to them.

But I still feel bad for them. I can't imagine just how desperate they were to even consider eating one of their own.

Watch the video: Did Jamestown Drink Itself to Death? History (January 2022).