English Colonization of the New World
The first English attempt to found a colony in the New World was made by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in Newfoundland in 1583, and it was a complete failure. So, the first English attempt at a colony in the New World did not succeed.
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Then, Sir Walter Raleigh led two more failed attempts at founding a colony on Roanoke Island in 1586 and 1588.
So, in 1586, he tried, that colony failed. In 1588, he set up another colony. And the second of these colonies, the 1588 one, is known as the Lost Colony because it disappeared without a trace while Raleigh was gone.
So, you may have heard about Roanoke before, and it was the second colony set up at Roanoke. But this one, no one knows what happened to it. Raleigh left it, it was functioning smoothly, he came back, everything was gone, all the people were gone without a trace. There’s no note, there’s nothing, they couldn’t find bodies or remains to see if something had happened to them. So, there are a lot of different ideas of what happened to them. They just wandered off somewhere. If they were taken by Indians. If they had to leave for some kind of environmental reason, or because the Indians drove them away, and it was so quick that they didn’t have time to say anything or write a note for Sir Walter Raleigh whenever he returned, but in any case, he came back and there were no more people from his settlement. It was just completely vacated with no trace of any of them. So, it is known as the Lost Colony. So, that would be a third failed attempt at setting up a colony in the New World for England.
Finally, the British were able to establish a permanent settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and King James was the king at this time, King James I, and so, they named the settlement after him – Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. So, it took a while. We had 1583, it failed. One in 1586, one in 1588, both at Roanoke Island, those both failed. And then, finally, in 1607, we had a permanent one. Now, it still had trials. It wasn’t easy for these people. They started out in an area that was kind of marshy, had a lot of expanding water, and so, they had to deal with mosquitoes and the malarial conditions.
And they also had to deal with the Native Americans that lived in that area. At first, the Native Americans helped them, but eventually, the English people started trying to take too much by force, and there was a lot of violence that ensued. So, more people died than survived the first few years of this colony, and supply ships had to keep coming in with more colonists and more supplies, until finally, there were enough people and supplies there to maintain a steady settlement. So, this was a settlement that succeeded, but it was very close to a failure itself.
The settlers in Jamestown came for gold. So, they came for riches. They thought they could find some wealth over in the New World, and to convert the Natives to Christianity. So, some came as missionaries. And one of the most important events of the early years of Jamestown was the issuing of the Virginia Charter, and the Virginia Charter was important because it declared that English settlers in the New World would be treated as Englishmen with full English rights. So, even though they weren’t in England, they were still treated like Englishmen, and they were still given the same rights as the people living in England.
So, this is important. It wasn’t saying that the people who were living in the colony of Jamestown were any less than the Englishmen living in England. It was telling them, “You are still considered English citizens of a sort. You are still Englishmen, you still have full English rights, but you’re over across the ocean.” So, it was just a different colony, but still was supposed to be part of England with the settlers there still maintaining all of their English rights.
So, England had already lagged behind in exploration of the New World, and their first few attempts at a settlement were failures, and that was kind of an additional setback for England. But eventually, after several years of trying, in 1607, a permanent settlement was established at Jamestown, Virginia.