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The Web of EmpireEnglish Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660$

Alison Games

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195335545

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195335545.001.0001

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Virginia, 1607–1622

Virginia, 1607–1622

(p.117) 4 VIRGINIA, 1607–1622
The Web of Empire

Alison Games (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the Virginia settlement, which set a new style of English overseas venture — the plantation colony — in the context of the trading world that produced it. Because of the heightened interest some English investors showed in colonies in the wake of Virginia's successful establishment, by the 1610s and 1620s a new population of experienced colonial governors emerged, men who ventured from one post to another.

Keywords:   Virginia Company, English settlements, plantation colony, trade

In late April 1607, three English ships carrying some 108 passengers and a score of mariners tacked into the Chesapeake Bay five long months after the fleet had left London. Their voyage shared the features of so many transatlantic crossings from northern Europe in this period. Storms delayed their departure from England, forcing the fleet to dawdle along the coast of Kent in what must have been miserable conditions for those passengers who were prone to motion sickness. With fair winds, the ships finally sailed south toward the Canaries in preparation for their southwestern route into the Caribbean and then up the North American coastline to their destination. More storms marked the end of the trip, causing the sailors to lose their way and framing the voyage as it had begun, in a tempest. Those seeking God's will in the natural world must have wondered with some trepidation at His plan for their American venture.

But there were mortal plans to worry about as well: what economic activity would sustain this new venture? Virginia was launched in a world of trade whose center still lay east in the Mediterranean and Asia. The men who invested in the Virginia Company of London had secured a monopoly from James I to pursue profitable enterprises along the southern coastline of North America, but the source of these imagined profits was unknown. Jamestown even had a twin whose parallel development reveals the uncertainty of the era's new projects. In the winter of 1607, an English venture got underway with 120 men in southern Maine, at the mouth of the Kennebec River. This was the Sagadahoc settlement, and it endured only one dismal winter: all European enterprises in North America were plagued in this period by the terrible cold winters of the Little Ice Age. When the king signed (p.118) the charters for the two Virginia Companies (of London and of Bristol) and their projects in 1606, it was unclear to observers which one might flourish, or what economic activities might sustain either enterprise. Virginia Company investors envisioned their Chesapeake settlement in multiple ways: as a trading post, characterized by the amicable and cooperative relations English traders employed around the world; as a place where the English could extract minerals; as a chance to emulate Spanish successes by capturing their own Tenochtitlán, the populous and fabulous Aztec capital claimed by the Spanish in central America; and as a base for the quest for the elusive north‐west passage.

The wide reading, knowledge, and experience of investors, employees, and settlers alike shaped these varied goals. Forty percent of the Englishmen who invested in the Virginia Company also owned shares in other companies. Their most popular investments were in the East India Company, which forty‐six percent invested in, followed distantly by the Irish, Levant, and Northwest Passage Companies.1 When they turned to their Virginia enterprise, and when they drafted the charter for their Company, they emulated other prototypes, including charters for the Muscovy Company and the East India Company.2 Even the physical space of Virginia was defined by competing commercial interests: the boundaries of the new charter stretched south to thirty‐four degrees N latitude, which was the northern limit of Spanish exploration in Florida, and north to forty‐five degrees, which kept the Virginia enterprise well away from the lucrative Newfoundland fisheries.3 The English crown and the Company's investors viewed Virginia, like all overseas enterprises in this period, as part of a multipronged geopolitical strategy designed to undermine Spanish power and to divert Spanish wealth to English strongboxes.

The Virginia Company's early goals revealed multiple paths to profit. It signaled its expectations for lucrative trade in the orders that accompanied the first fleet by instructing the men to select a treasurer to manage the many warehouses that would be stuffed with “goods, wares and commodities.”4 The instructions given to the first fleet in 1606 and three years later to Sir Thomas Gates, the new governor of Virginia, identified three further ways to enrich the venture, and all were embedded in the diverse experiences the English brought with them from other enterprises. They were first to explore rivers in order to find the northwest passage.5 Second, the English hoped to secure tribute from Indian subjects. In this aspiration, the English revealed their expectation that another great indigenous empire awaited discovery. Spanish examples were always foremost in the minds of Virginia's literate and cosmopolitan inhabitants. Governor Edward Maria Wingfield's interest in the Spanish was so pronounced that he was even accused of plotting with them against the settlement. In his defense in 1608, (p.119) he admitted that he had “alwayes admyred any noble vertue & prowesse as well in the Spanniards (as in other Nations)” but reiterated his distrust in them.6 The Virginia resident William Strachey fueled this expectation of tribute from Virginia's Indians in his own writings, believing that the English would do better to adhere to the Spanish example of conquest and tribute than to condemn it.7

Yet the people of the Chesapeake proved inadequate for English tribute needs. Some 15,000 Indians occupied the territory they called Tsenacommacah, a number more than sufficient to satisfy English visions of Indian tributaries. While subject tribes were accustomed to paying tribute to Wahunsonacock, their paramount chief and the leader the English called Powhatan, English efforts to force tribute payments were generally thwarted. Moreover, the tribes were not sedentary. John Smith was the first to realize that people who were fully prepared to shift their place of settlement, to “fly into the woods,” could not be relied on as a steady source of labor or tribute.8 The Spanish model dictated a relentless search for gold and hopes for a Chesapeake El Dorado. These aspirations toward Spanish emulation did not fully erode until the 1620s, a period when the grim economic realities of the region—with no tribute populations or mineral deposits or lucrative tropical crops available—intruded.9

And, finally, the Virginia Company believed that it could rely on men's labor to procure marketable commodities, including naval stores such as pitch, tar, and timber, or grapes for wine.10 Investors anticipated that they would find the precious metals that Spanish rivals appropriated in central and south America, or perhaps commodities for lucrative marketing in Europe. Laborers would be required to extract these commodities, but the vision was limited to extraction.11

The story of Virginia's early years is a tale of death, of experimentation, of trial and error, and, ultimately, of the success of plantation agriculture and of England's first permanent colony. In light of the goals that shaped it, however, the colonization that came to define the enterprise emerges as a surprising form of economic and social organization, even if this kind of relocation of English men and women to America was precisely what the vocal English promoter Richard Hakluyt and others had called for since the late sixteenth century. Yet for all of this lip service to the benefits idle and underemployed Englishmen might accrue by American residence, the commercial companies that sought profit from American investments were unsure where profits might lie.12 Settlement was only one possibility, and an expensive and inefficient one at that. In fact, everything central to English expansion in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century—the pursuit of commercial advantage over rivals, the desire to dislodge the Spanish and Portuguese from their territories—should make us wonder why a small (p.120) group of Englishmen might want to travel three thousand miles to farm and especially to cultivate tobacco—a crop the English did not know how to plant.13 Viewed at the time, Virginia was an embarrassing failure, one whose weakness made the English vulnerable to Spanish rivals in North America, although it turned out that the real vulnerability was to Indian attack. Amid politically charged accusations of mismanagement in the wake of a deadly attack led by the Powhatan leader Opechancanough in 1622, which killed one‐third of the English settlers, King James himself disbanded the Virginia Company and took direct control of the colony.

In order for Virginia to succeed as a colony, it had to fail in all of its original goals. This chapter explains Virginia's ultimate development as a colony by looking at why trade aspirations foundered in the Chesapeake. To do so requires recapturing lost conceptualizations of a world where the English were weak and vulnerable, and where, thanks to extensive experience traveling and trading in just such perilous places, from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, they knew precisely how to comport themselves within such a power dynamic.14

By 1607, when the English reached Virginia, the people of the Chesapeake were already familiar with Europeans and the English were already accustomed to different ways of interacting with strangers around the globe. The Company's experienced investors and employees tried to apply their knowledge to Virginia, but the terrain ultimately proved too different and the challenges of adaptation too severe to recreate the conditions that sustained trade elsewhere.15 There were cumulatively a series of departures from the possibility of the amicable relations pervasive in trading cultures: 1611, when the English undertook an aggressive policy of defense and settled new towns, primarily in response to external, European threats; 1614–1616, when the colonist John Rolfe married Pocahontas and perfected hybrid tobacco cultivation, twin turning points in opposite directions, one toward interracial harmony and the other toward agricultural practices that precluded or at least challenged cohabitation; 1618, when the Virginia Company sought to diversify the colony's economy, turning it away from tobacco and encouraging European migration. Opechancanough's attack in 1622 embodied an indigenous effort to curtail expanding English settlement. It similarly inaugurated the clear commitment by the English to an adversarial and violent model of habitation, marked by the separation of populations and the vast exploitation of appropriated land. In short, Virginia came to define an intensive style of colonization that characterized English settlement in North America and the Caribbean and that departed from the trade model pervasive almost everywhere else the English went. Virginia may have established a pattern of colonization in North America and in the Caribbean, but it was an anomaly among English overseas ventures at the time.

(p.121) As was so often the case when the English reached new trading posts in places such as Hirado or Bantam or Surat or Aleppo, other Europeans had been there first, and indigenous people were already familiar with them. This was also true in Virginia, and prior knowledge contributed both to English expectations about the people of the Chesapeake and to Indian assumptions about the English. For indigenous people in the Chesapeake, knowledge of Europeans predated Jamestown, reaching at least as far back as 1560, a time of Spanish forays in the region. The Chesapeake was a place of strategic value for the Spanish in their effort to maintain their exclusive claim to Florida, which was part of the territory given them by the pope in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. This treaty divided the new discoveries in the Americas between Spain and Portugal. But other kingdoms had long rejected the principle of the division. King Francis I of France purportedly asked to see the will that made Spain's monarchs Adam's sole heirs as outlined in the papal bull. Subsequent rivals such as the English and Dutch whose Protestant faith led them to reject papal authority in any guise perceived no need to respect the pontiff's division.16 By the 1560s, the Spanish had to fight to keep the land given to them as other Europeans competed for American riches. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the governor of Florida—as the Spanish called the entire swath of American territory north of the Gulf of Mexico—was eager to fortify the region in the 1560s in order to keep out English and French rivals. He pursued the land's development for the two years he remained in Florida. He also believed that the Chesapeake was close to a passageway that led to the far east and its commercial riches.17

The Spanish had sailed through the region in 1561 and picked up a captive, a man whose Indian name was Paquiquineo, and who was later known after his conversion and baptism as Don Luis de Velasco.18 He was the first (as far as we know) of many Chesapeake Indians who were ultimately taken to Europe, either voluntarily or as captives. Don Luis lived among the Spanish in Spain, Havana, and Mexico City. He converted to Christianity. He seems to have contrived to persuade the Jesuits he met to settle a mission near his old home. Here his interests coincided with missionary ambitions among the order, which participated in Spanish conquests and occupation of Florida.

Once Don Luis led his mission companions to the place they called Ajacán, however, he abandoned them, returning to live with his people who, the Jesuits reported, had thought him dead and were “greatly consoled in him.” The Jesuits imposed their Christian vision on the Indian response to Don Luis' return, insisting that they thought he had risen from the dead and descended from heaven. Don Luis may have found a warm welcome among his kin, but his Jesuit companions arrived at what they described as a time of prolonged famine.19 Historians are unsure what exactly caused this famine, but it was likely connected to an extensive drought in the region, (p.122) coupled by the shorter growing seasons of the Little Ice Age that gripped the planet, freezing the waters of the Thames and spelling doom for countless colonial enterprises. Possibly epidemics caused by Eurasian diseases also played a role in disrupting agricultural cycles. Jesuit demands for food from a population already straining to sustain itself forced the Jesuits to beg their superior in Havana for supplies.

But Paquiquineo had his own resolution in mind. He seems to have elected to reject many aspects of his recently acquired Christianity once he returned home. He adopted, for example, his people's practice of polygamy, despite the direct criticism of the Jesuits.20 According to the report of the single survivor, a child named Alonso, he instigated the murder of the Jesuits in 1571.21 This violence terminated Spanish missionary attempts, but not Spanish incursions. A year later, the Spanish took their revenge, although not on the people directly responsible for the attack. Instead, they hanged several Chickahominy on board their ship, in full sight of shore, and slaughtered and wounded scores of those standing along the coast. The Chickahominy bore an understandable animosity to the Spanish for years in the wake of these murders, or so they later told one Jamestown resident, Ralph Hamor.22 The Spanish returned in 1588, taking two more boys away with them, and continued to make occasional visits to the region.23 So far, from an indigenous point of view, Europeans had proved undesirable and predatory visitors, the violence of their appearances mitigated only by their brevity. Little of what they had seen other Indians experience, however, persuaded the Powhatans that they should immediately fear Europeans when more of them washed ashore in 1607.24

Indian knowledge of Europeans and their technology was enhanced by those Chesapeake Indians who, like Don Luis, visited Europe in the very early years of English settlement. The information these visitors and spies gathered was important in helping Indian leaders shape their diplomatic policies. Initially, Europeans kidnapped Indians in order to force them to learn European languages to facilitate trade and exploration. These captives also assisted in investors' public relations efforts, and to that end the first captives from the Chesapeake paddled a canoe in the Thames. But Wahunsonacock also sent his own emissaries, and the historian Alden T. Vaughan has argued that more Chesapeake Indians visited England voluntarily, as travelers, spies, and emissaries, than by force. Wahunsonacock had sent Namontack as early as 1608, but complained later that he did not learn enough from this spy. This accumulated knowledge, whether from captives or emissaries, bilingual Indians or Englishmen, shaped indigenous responses to the English in their midst. Wahunsonacock, for example, insisted in 1610 that the English show him the respect enjoyed by the “great werowances [or leaders] and lords in England” by bringing him a coach and horses, to enable (p.123) him “to ride and visit other great men.” So he had been told by Indians who had been in England.25

For Indians, the story of what became the English settlement in Virginia had a long preface, reaching back to the first Spanish incursions in the 1560s. What of the English? When and where did Virginia begin for them? Historians have answered this question by looking to Ireland, Roanoke, the Caribbean, and all around the Atlantic. Historians have especially turned to Ireland and the English conquest there that began in the 1560s to make sense of English colonization in North America.26 In Ireland, as part of their occupation of the rebellious kingdom, the English resettled loyal English families to establish models of fealty and to control the Irish. Pockets of English settlement dotted the Irish landscape. The colonization of Ireland was a crucial component of a more urgent enterprise, conquest. Inspired by Spanish examples, Sir Henry Sidney suggested a plan for colonization in order to make England's tenure more secure. It was not a model for harmonious cohabitation, and thus it was diametrically opposed to the assimilationist style of trading cultures. When Sir Humphrey Gilbert first presented the scheme to Queen Elizabeth, she was apprehensive, worrying that such an adversarial approach might hinder reconciliation between the English and Irish.27

In Ireland the English learned to assume the mantle of conquerors. Conquest and colonization there involved thousands of soldiers possessed of a suitably ardent and bloodthirsty religious zeal, the displacement of the indigenous population, and the migration of ultimately 100,000 Protestant settlers from Scotland and England before 1641 to reshape the economic and cultural geography of the kingdom. English occupation of Ireland also gave the English an opportunity to fit the Irish into an emerging ethnography in which the Irish were understood to be at a lower stage of human development than the English, and could be profitably and violently yanked toward civilization with the improving and edifying example of English settlements in their midst. Historians have seen in this brutal conquest a useful rehearsal for North American enterprises, although in fact these colonization efforts failed in Ireland, so it is unclear why the English would seek to adopt a model of failure for their new exploits.

Ireland would be a useful rehearsal only if the English ventured to North America expecting to establish colonies in the Irish model. No evidence suggests that they did. The Irish connection might explain the timing of English intervention in the western Atlantic, since the English were distracted closer to home and thus latecomers as settlers (although not as fishermen or traders) to America. Perhaps it also tells us something important about the cultural expectations about Indians that some English brought with them overseas. But the oddity is that Ireland has become a canonical assertion of fact as (p.124) formative in English invasions of America despite the pronounced absence of direct evidence that the English drew on Irish experiences or models at Jamestown or elsewhere.28 Some people went from Ireland to America (primarily to Roanoke) but some (such as the Roanoke settlers Thomas Harriot and John White) went the other way, making Ireland “an alternative colony to America for certain Englishman.”29 If the English sometimes compared the people of America to the Irish, they also understood the Irish in light of their reading about America, thus using the catch‐all insult of the sixteenth century, “cannibal,” to describe the Irish. These two enterprises in Ireland and North America were part of a larger struggle against Catholicism, a struggle with many different strategies and manifestations, including trading posts, Irish conquest, and Caribbean piracy.30

None of the Virginia Company's original aspirations nor the experiences employees brought with them depended on the large‐scale relocation of English men and women that defined English settlement in Ireland. One source of modern confusion about the Company's goals is that the Virginia Company used the word “colony” to describe its enterprise. William Strachey spoke of the settlement as “our Colony,” despite his admission that it contained “but of a handfull of men.”31 One puzzle, then, is to determine what these men meant. As Karen Kupperman has observed, in this period a colony was a place for making gold.32 Participants also used the language of commerce, referring to their undertaking as the “business.” When the Virginia Company used “colony,” however, it was always paired with “plantation,” the word most frequently used in the period to describe forms of settlement that modern readers might associate with colonies (which is why colonists were known as planters). The Company's instructions for the new government reiterate the words “Colony and Plantation” in tandem, and the Letters Patent speak of the “severall colonies and plantations.”33

The pairing of words suggests that each had different meanings: the attributes that historians now associate with colonies were, in the seventeenth century, the attributes associated with plantations (which was the term used to describe English settlements in Ireland). The configuration of colonies was less certain. Only in their propaganda efforts to shore up the faith of a skeptical public in the future of their visibly faltering venture did the Virginia Company use colony primarily in the sense of plantation. In 1610, the anonymous author of the Virginia Company's True Declaration wrote that “a Colony is therefore denominated, because they should be Coloni, the tillers of the earth, and stewards of fertility.”34

The very first Englishmen in the western Atlantic pursued not colonies but fish, a high‐protein commodity in enormous demand in Europe, especially in its portable dried form. These fishermen stayed only seasonally. They were later joined by men interested in acquiring commodities, characterized in (p.125) the Caribbean by the theft of foreign ships and goods and on the mainland by clumsy exchanges as the English sought new world treasures, especially pelts, through licit and illicit means. There was extensive English activity in the Caribbean, including 300 different voyages between 1550 and 1624 comprising as many as 25,000 sailors on 900 ships.35 Many of these voyages engaged in plunder and raids on Spanish settlements. The English also learned about crops there, including tobacco, cotton, and indigo. In their voyages along the North American coast, English mariners and merchants engaged in the casual trade of English goods. However casual the trade, the American populations suffered mortality rates as high as ninety percent in the most devastating outbreaks that resulted from contact with Europeans and their unfamiliar pathogens. None of these ventures required permanent habitation of any sort.

As part of these coastal visits, the English had explored the North American coastline before their attempt to establish Jamestown. James Rosier took part in a voyage to New England in 1605 that included men who “had beene…in sundry Countries, and in the most famous Rivers, yet affirmed them not comparable to” what they saw in New England. “Some that were with Sir Walter Raleigh, in his Voyage to Guiana, in the Discovery of the River Orienoque, which eccoed fame to the worlds eares; gave reasons why it was not to be compared with this, which wanteth the dangers of many Shoalds and broken grounds, wherewith that was encombred. Others preferred it farre before that notable River in the West Indias, called Rio Grande: some before the Rivers of Burdana, Orleance, and Brest in France.”36 If Rosier's companions give us any hint about the kinds of men who found themselves on ships to the Chesapeake, we can imagine that the region was visited and later populated by well‐traveled individuals.

Beyond their casual coastal visits and explorations, the English also attempted settlements. On the barrier island at Roanoke, the English established what they hoped to be a base for plunder of Spanish ships: the settlement's location was dictated by tantalizing proximity to Spanish shipping lanes through the Caribbean and across the Atlantic. With this predatory goal, the colony required men with extensive military experience, and in fact it is Roanoke that provides the most persuasive example of a possible Irish connection. Several of the men at Roanoke, particularly leaders such as Ralph Lane, Sir Richard Grenville, and Arthur Barlowe, had prior experience in Ireland, and the expectations of these men and their quick recourse to violence help explain the degeneration of English relations with the Roanoke Indians.37 This experiment failed, famously abandoned during the three years the colony's governor, John White, spent in England on his resupply mission. White was unable to return to North America because of the attack of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which occupied all available English ships. (p.126) By the time he reached Roanoke, the inhabitants (including his daughter and granddaughter) were gone. But the settlement there encouraged the English to sail north into the Chesapeake to explore. They took one trip there in 1603 (when five English were killed on shore) and another before 1607 (with another skirmish).38 It is difficult to know how to assess the impact of these prior European experiences in the region of the Chesapeake on the Europeans who settled at Jamestown in 1607. The English seem to have known nothing of the Spanish mission, and their interest in the Roanoke colonists remains clouded in mystery, worried as they were about the bad press that might result in England if the fate of the colonists proved too dismal.

Within the Atlantic alone, from Ireland to the fisheries of Newfoundland to a series of thwarted settlements in Guyana, the English already had a range of strategies to draw from in their new venture in Virginia. But as the preceding chapters have illustrated, Englishmen traveled east from England in equally large numbers, and experiences there were equally formative, whether in trading ventures or military encampments. The Englishmen who settled Jamestown brought a world of experiences with them to match the Virginia Company's diverse goals. Some came from Ireland, others from the Caribbean, from pirate raids, from thwarted settlements, from Istanbul and Aleppo and the East Indies. They had traveled by caravan and caravel and camel; they had bowed before sultans and kissed the rings of sheikhs. They had witnessed or negotiated complex treaties and they had endured life‐threatening perils. They had seen elephants and monkeys and terrifying serpents. They had survived typhoons and hurricanes, droughts and floods. They had beheaded enemies and experienced slavery and written treatises on agricultural production. Virginia was one of many adventures for them, and one for which they were well‐equipped.

In their eastern voyages, some English who later ended up in Virginia served as soldiers, for example, fighting on the continent during the Eighty Years' War, the protracted effort of the Spanish subjects of the Netherlands to expel the Spanish between 1568 and 1648, in what John Pory described as “that university of warre the lowe Countries.”39 Some of these soldiers then found their way west across the Atlantic. This military background was crucial for men such as Thomas Gates, Edward Maria Wingfield, Lord De La Warr, John Smith, and Thomas Dale, just to name individuals who led the Virginia settlement in its first five years of existence All of them fought in the Netherlands, and Dale, Gates, and De La Warr also had served in Ireland.40 John Bargrave conveyed the ecumenical and opportunistic interests of such men whose colonial service was an interlude amid other actitives: “after 10 yeares service in the warres in the summer tyme and at my study in the wynter,” he developed an interest in Virginia, and acquired a plantation there in 1618.41 The Virginia Company hired these captains not to fight an unknown (p.127) indigenous enemy but rather to discipline English inhabitants and to fend off the anticipated attacks of a familiar adversary, the Spanish. Early trade forays into the region's interior, led by these military men, reveal the amity that the English pursued, as they wooed Indians and especially their children with free trade goods.42 If the Indians who lived around the Chesapeake Bay knew something about Europeans, the Europeans who tried to establish a profitable settlement at Jamestown knew something about the opportunities and challenges of a world of trade, travel, and adventure.

Setting Virginia in the context of the many simultaneous ventures the English pursued around the world casts a different light on an old story of failure and mistakes. It has been too easy for historians, focusing primarily on the outcome of tobacco‐intensive settlement, to characterize the early years at Jamestown as a series of blunders as men fumbled their way toward the ultimate goal of plantation agriculture: men with unrealistic expectations and inadequate skills attempting to reap impossible riches from an unyielding land. It is a tale of stupidity and recklessness, populated by gentlemen who would not plant or engage in manual labor; deluded fools seeking gold mines; ragged and impoverished vagrants and waifs rounded up from city streets and shipped thousands of miles away; thirsty men who settled on brackish water, sickening themselves by their choice of habitation while better informed indigenes watched in wonder. No image has proved more enduring than that of starving men bowling in the street, the sight that greeted Dale when he reached the colony in 1611. In fact, the most celebrated images of Virginia's disasters center around food, or its absence: one Mr. Collines allegedly salted his dead wife's corpse in order to survive during the famous “starving times.”43 The familiar and striking icons of the colony's catastrophic misfortunes make the settlement a series of ghastly cautionary tales, particularly if one expects these men to settle down, finally, and plant some tobacco. All of these exploits and misjudgments emerge as dead ends and ludicrous fantasies, not as realistic pursuits.

Yet it is important to find another way to describe these early years, to think not in terms of foolish and deadly mistakes that emerge so clearly in hindsight but rather in terms of the expectations the English brought with them—as logical, we have to believe, as the expectations Indians had about what these uninvited arrivals might do in their new home.44 These were not ill‐prepared men with reckless visions.45 It was imperative for their survival that each group, English and Indians alike, try to understand the other, and their frequent failure to do so reflects neither a wilfull ignorance nor a narrow ethnocentrism but rather the tenacity of prior understandings and expectations. When necessary, gentlemen and those unaccustomed to manual labor could plant. Governor Wingfield boasted in 1608 of the thirty‐seven chickens he raised “by (his) owne huswiferie.”46 The minister Alexander Whitaker (p.128) similarly marveled with transparent pride at the corn he was able to plant with three others, despite his lack of experience, sowing enough during “the idle howres of one weeke” to last for one‐quarter of the year.47 That he made this boast in 1613 in a promotional text designed to enjoin others to follow him to Virginia reinforces English acceptance of acclimatization to new circumstances. The English could adapt, and indeed they did, departing from all of the Virginia Company's original expectations, experimenting with agriculture, and fashioning a new type of overseas settlement, one rooted primarily in English responses to the indigenous economies they found and in the gradual dismantling of prior expectations.

Although Virginia ultimately developed as a place of English settlement, in its first few years it adhered more closely to a trade model. Such were the hopes of the London investors. They wanted to establish settlements capable of procuring the commodities that the English otherwise were required to import from southern Europe, including fruits, dyes, olives, and sugar.48 Trade was important not only to sustain the enterprise, but also to legitimate it. William Strachey justified trade with the Indians by comparing that trade with England's “rich and necessary Trades into Turkey, and the East Indies.”49 Strachey argued that the law of nations allows men to trade, which permitted trade in Virginia. Although the Indians were ignorant of these laws, “we that are Christians doe know how this lawe (enriching all kingdoms) gives priveledges to Ambasadours, keepes the Seas common and safe, layes open Ports and Havens, and allowes free scales and liberal accesse” for those who wished to import and export excess goods. In Strachey's vision, trade would elevate the Indians.50 Moreover, he wanted English rights to this new land to depend on its proper acquisition through purchase. “Every foote of Land which we shall take unto our use, we will bargayne and buy of them for copper, hatchetts, and such like commodityes,” which would then let the Indians turn around and sell goods to their neighbors.51 Trade justified English presence in the region and legitimated their access to foreign territory—theirs not through theft, but through exchange.

Strachey's infusion of morality into commerce echoes the complex motives guiding colonial and commercial ventures in this period.52 The Virginia Company was a business enterprise, one involving high risk and considerable uncertainty. Motives for profit were always intertwined in this period with language concerning the good of the state, in the same way that people conceptualized travel outside of England in terms of its public utility and benefit. These motives were inseparable, and it hardly misrepresents the interests of Virginia Company investors to suggest that they readily linked concerns about domestic economic hardship, England's trade balance, the loss of specie, the benefit to indigenous Americans if they could be liberated (p.129) from the horrors of Catholicism, aspirations for personal profit, and nationalist hopes for England's strength.

The first English inhabitants busied themselves identifying lucrative commodities. Christopher Newport sailed home with samples of ore, and Gabriel Archer insisted that the English could produce as much clapboard as could be sold in England, a kingdom with an alarmingly inadequate supply of timber for fuel, construction, or shipbuilding.53 John Smith's accounts describe his own preoccupation with trade as he traveled the country exchanging commodities. The Company echoed the business hierarchies of trade settlements in designating one leader as its “cape merchant,” clinging to the title well after the settlement's inhabitants started planting tobacco in earnest.54

In their hopes for trade to be convenient, easy, and profitable, the adventurers were likely misled not only by their expectations but also by their experiences as they traveled to Virginia through the Caribbean. Francis Perkin described his visit there to a friend in England in 1608. He stopped at Dominica, where “we spent the whole day there trading with the savages.” The Dominicans boarded Perkin's ship laden with wares, foods such as potatoes, bananas, cassava bread, hens, and other items including linen and parrots. They traded for useful goods for their personal use or to exchange to their own trading partners.55 In Perkin's recollection, the English did not even have to get themselves to shore to get the goods they desired, and all departed the exchange content with their loot. If the English expected the people of Virginia to be similarly prepared to accommodate English commercial needs, they were mistaken. The Caribbean had limited utility in this respect as a model for Virginia.

Commerce was similarly undermined by a problem familiar to all English ventures, private trade by merchants or sailors on their own behalf, with their own goods, not on behalf of employers in London. Like any trading consortium, the Virginia Company preferred to monopolize all commercial exchanges, and worried about this leakage by unauthorized entrepreneurs. The Virginia Council's original instructions to the new government in the colony urged leaders to be sure that the mariners “do not marr your trade,” because the sailors sought only whatever gain they could get, and not the long‐term goals of the Company, and the risk of their selling and buying goods at low, quick, prices was the hindrance of trade “for Ever after.”56 The leakage was immediately apparent: some sold for profit, but others, John Smith reported, stole Company goods to sell to the Indians for food, an obvious rebuke of English aspirations to self‐sufficiency.57 Observers blamed trading difficulties on precisely this problem. When Strachey reached Virginia in 1609, he reported that the Indians asked for too much copper to pay for the commodities the English so desperately needed, and Strachey blamed the mariners for their insistence on an “East Indian increase, four for (p.130) one, all charges cleared.”58 Governors repeatedly sought to quell these ambitious amateur merchants.59

As was true in all East India Company and some Levant Company trading posts, life for the English in Virginia was routinely truncated by death. Virginia's early years were so deadly and debilitating that the survival of the venture was wholly uncertain. New arrivals died at high rates, as many as forty percent succumbing in their first year in residence, largely because of the hostile disease environment they joined; colonies were as lethal to newcomers as cities were in this period. This deadly pattern endured for decades. Virginia's English residents died of familiar endemic sicknesses (like smallpox or measles) that plagued people in England but also from maladies spawned in their new American setting: salt poisoning from drinking brackish water, malaria, malnutrition, and the dysentery (what they aptly if gruesomely called “bloody fluxes”) that resulted from poor sanitation. And the English starved. In the terrible winter of 1609–1610, the population plummeted from 500 to 60.60 They expected the Indians to provision their food needs, and neglected to plant corn for themselves. Indeed, how could they, when the Virginia Company failed to send experienced farmers? Instead, the men and boys of the first fleet (no women reached the colony in 1607, and even by 1620 men outnumbered women by a ratio of about seven to one)61 included gentlemen (men who by definition would not engage in manual labor), specialized craftsmen (who in this era of tight guild regulations performed only the job they were trained for) and unskilled laborers, an inauspicious collection of people poorly prepared to labor for their own survival.

High mortality and private trade were customary impediments to successful and profitable trade and they plagued all commercial enterprises. To smooth trade relations, the English in Virginia adopted numerous strategies central to trading culture. They placed boys in Indian communities to learn languages. These boys could serve as hostages to good English behavior (if the English cared about the fate of the children) but the policy was also consistent with trade practices. One young boy placed among the Powhatan Indians in 1609 to learn the language experienced an apparent cultural conversion in the same way that a trader's apprentice placed in a Portuguese household might convert to Catholicism. Henry Spelman spent a year with the Indians, returned to England, but then sailed again to Virginia where he worked as a trader and served as an interpreter for the colony. In 1619, the Virginia government accused him of treasonous loyalty to Opechancanough. His familiarity with Indian ways explained his actions to contemporaries, who recorded that he “had in him more of the Savage then of the Christian.”62 Moreover, John Rolfe speculated that Spelman's fault derived from his “Childish ignorance,” an interesting evaluation of a man of Spelman's age (p.131) (he must have been at least in his early twenties), and possibly an indication that the English believed that Spelman's maturation was atrophied by his residence with Indians.63 Spelman's language skills were too valuable to permit his execution, so he was demoted and bound to serve the colony as an interpreter for seven years.64 Spelman was not alone in his cultural preferences. The child Thomas Savage, also delivered by the English to the Indians as an interpreter, was befriended by an Accomac leader who gave him land on Virginia's eastern shore, and he settled there as an adult in the 1620s.65

The English pursued a second strategy common in trading communities: cultural assimilation and commercial advantage through sexual alliances. The most famous wedding in early Virginia might have been such an alliance, the marriage of the settler John Rolfe and the Indian Pocahontas. The Spanish conquistadors had quickly established a pattern of using indigenous women from noble families to cement their authority at the top of preconquest hierarchies. Tecuichpotzin, the daughter of Moctezuma II, and renamed Doña Isabel by the Spanish, was married five times in succession by Hernando Cortés to bolster Spanish authority over the toppled Aztec Empire.66 These Spanish marriages were characteristic of the first generation of Spanish invasion. When Spanish women finally started to migrate to America, Spanish men dispensed with their legal marriages to powerful Indian women and married other Spaniards instead.

The English, then, had at least two models of sexual alliance available to them in their own American adventures. They could adhere to the familiar model of the trading post, pursuing informal or formal, long‐term or short‐term sexual alliances for companionship, advantageous family connections, and practical benefits. Or they could emulate the Spanish model of marriage for diplomatic and strategic purposes. Some of John Smith's friends apparently suggested the latter possibility when they proposed an alliance with Pocahontas in order to “(make) himself a king.” Smith understood the Powhatan inheritance system, and knew that he would gain no right to the territory through such a marriage.67 Governor Thomas Dale apparently entertained this idea as well. Ralph Hamor described a mission to persuade Wahunsonacock to marry another daughter to Dale. The daughter, it turned out, was, like Dale himself, already married, and despite Hamor's suggestion that she be reclaimed from her marriage for this English match, Wahunsonacock demurred, replying that the English already had one of his children.68

Informal sexual alliances are difficult to trace in Virginia records. The East India Company traders may have written frankly about their women and children, but Virginia visitors and residents were not similarly candid—or, at least, their correspondence on these subjects has not survived. But certainly such unions existed. Strachey's extensive vocabulary lists offer us a clue: one (p.132) Algonquin phrase he included was “to lye with a woman.”69 Another hint comes from a letter written in 1612 by the Spanish ambassador in London to Philip III of Spain, who heard news from “a friend, who telles me the truth,” about affairs in Virginia. Some of the men in Virginia were thinking of marrying Indian women, he reported, and some forty or fifty were already married. He was apparently incorrect about the marriages, but might well have been accurate about the English pursuit of and partnership with Indian women. He reported that the cleric Alexander Whitaker was critical of the sexual behavior of some of the men at Jamestown. Interest in Indian women was hardly unique to Virginia. Some thirty years later, the inhabitants of Providence Island, an English settlement off the coast of Nicaragua, proposed to their employers in London that they bring Indian women to the island from the Mosquito Coast, a plan the Company rejected.70

The case of John Rolfe illustrates a slight departure from the trade model. Although some relationships endured for years in trade settlements, and men fathered children whom they recognized and named and provided for in their wills, these relationships were also entered into casually, and men cast aside old partners and acquired new ones. Rolfe had no interest in this kind of informal sexual union. He wanted to marry Pocahontas. She has become one of the most celebrated names of seventeenth‐century North America, yet much about her remains obscure.71 Historians do know that she was the daughter, apparently a favorite, of Wahunsonacock, the paramount chief of the region. Sent as her father's emissary to the English to secure the freedom of Indian captives, she quickly grew acquainted with the English, and became a playmate of children at the English settlement. John Smith later claimed that it was Pocahontas who rescued him from execution, but the veracity of this account remains disputed: Smith was famously rescued by women in many of his life's mishaps, with an Ottoman Pocahontas liberating him from slavery in the Ottoman Empire. He embellished his colorful life history and added this account of Pocahontas's rescue only after she had acquired some fame of her own during her visit to England in 1616.72

Pocahontas was someone the English knew well during her childhood, or at least as well as these adult English men who came from a culture that valued children little and small girls even less would bother to get to know any American child. They came to know her better when they kidnapped her and imprisoned her in 1613. During her captivity, Pocahontas lived with Alexander Whitaker, a minister who had been eager for the opportunity to convert someone to Christianity and who—it seems—was kind to his pupil. Pocahontas was instructed in Christianity. She donned English style clothing, encumbering her limbs with long skirts, and she apparently came to know John Rolfe very well. Within the constraints of her life in captivity, she chose to convert, and at her baptism in 1614 she took the name of Rebecca. (p.133) And again within the constraints of captivity, isolation from her family, and total immersion in English culture, she consented to marry Rolfe. With the Powhatans and English at war, Pocahontas's and Rolfe's marriage in 1614 (the second for each party) cemented an alliance which brought about peace.

Rolfe apparently agonized over his desire to marry Pocahontas. Rolfe and his first wife had traveled to Virginia in 1609 on the ill‐fated Sea Venture, which wrecked on Bermuda. Rolfe's wife bore a daughter there, but little Bermuda died, and the mother soon followed, leaving Rolfe a widower. After almost a year on Bermuda, these resourceful people built a new ship for themselves and found their way to the American mainland. Their ordeal inspired William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and prompted the Virginia Company to settle and develop Bermuda in tandem with Virginia.73

As Rolfe, comfortably established in Virginia, contemplated this second marriage, he labored to separate his motivations from carnal desire—“so farre forth as mans weakenesse may permit.” Instead, he pursued this match “for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our countrie, for the glory of God, for my owne salvation,” and for Pocahontas's conversion. And yet these noble goals were immediately followed by the frank admission that it was she “to whom my hartie and best thoughts are, and have a long time bin so intagled and inthralled in so intricate a laborinth.”74 Rolfe's language revealed his distress over his attraction to Pocahontas: he prayed faithfully to God for cures from “so dangerous an ulcer.” He had biblical examples in mind, thinking of God's displeasure when the sons of Levi and Israel married “strange wives.” He marveled that he should “be in love with one whose education hath bin rude, her manners barbarous, her generation accursed, and so discrepant in all nurtriture frome my selfe,” and concluded at times that his love was sparked by the Devil. Rolfe resolved his quandary with the commitment to support her conversion. It would be unnatural and uncharitable to decline to assist so needy a soul. Assured that his conscience was “clean from the filth of impurity,” he trusted his motives were honorable. If it were sex alone he wanted, he stated frankly, he could satisfy his desire with far more suitable partners.

Rolfe's interest in marriage was a pattern that the English in general did not elect to follow in Virginia, although elsewhere English traders found numerous advantages to establishing sexual alliances with indigenous women. But his conviction that marriage was a desirable and viable arrangement points to yet another road not taken in early Virginia. It is obviously absurd to argue that sexual alliances necessarily led to harmonious relations between people of different cultures, particularly when these encounters were embedded in asymmetrical power relations, as was the case, for example, for enslaved women and their masters or overseers. Yet in those many instances in the early seventeenth century when the English (p.134) reached outposts as a weak and dependent population, sexual relations provided an entrée to unfamiliar societies and into the kin networks that sustained trade and livelihood, and a quick way to learn about the languages, cultures, and customs that would further trade. Such had been the case at Hirado in Japan. In Virginia, the English were weak, and the potential that sexual alliances might further a dynamic more akin to that of the trade community was real. In the case of Rolfe's and Pocahontas's marriage, the alliance cemented harmonious relationships for a while, but simultaneous activity revealed the real incompatibility between English ambitions for their settlement and indigenous use of the land and waters of the bay.


The English soon departed in Virginia from the trade model pervasive around the globe. They did so for two reasons. First, the English inhabitants failed to act like good traders: all of the lessons that traders learned and applied in other parts of the world had too little resonance in what the English regarded as the much more alien world of Virginia. Second, various pressures, both internal (hunger) and external (security from enemies and pressure from the Virginia Company for a diverse and profitable economy), encouraged the English to occupy land in new ways and to pursue more adversarial relations with the Powhatans. Even if English investors brought to their Virginia enterprise an understanding of what made trading ventures successful in other parts of the world, that did not mean that this knowledge could be successfully or easily applied in Virginia. To be sure, the language of trade permeated the first years of settlement and experimentation, and in some ways the English acted like traders. But these patterns were rapidly, even immediately, overlaid with other responses to unfamiliar places. In the end, the population that achieved the greatest cultural understanding of the other was the Powhatans, and they deployed their knowledge in an effort to constrain and destroy the English settlement.

The multiple meanings the English and Indians brought to exchanges immediately complicated trade. The Company expected its employees to pursue opportunities for commerce. Here the English drew directly on the trade model so central to English expansion and wealth in this period in Asia and Europe. And in the Powhatans, they found willing trade partners eager for metal goods, which were of great practical utility in all sorts of daily activities, including hunting, food preparation, and farming. The Indians also valued European textiles, and in return for these products offered the corn that sustained the English and pelts for export. Yet the Indians had (p.135) their own mechanisms of exchange. Indian alliances were secured with gift exchanges, and so chiefs sought to establish alliances for precisely that reason. English “trade,” then, operated within a particular indigenous idiom, one requiring ritual surrounding it and a different cultural logic from the commodity exchange the English envisioned.75 The Powhatans saw the English as people of great richness because of their abundant goods; they were therefore expected to give generously. The English followed a different economic philosophy, one which maintained that the universe contained only a fixed amount of wealth. So they pursued a different logic, one in which their goal was to benefit as much as possible from any exchange with the least possible expenditure of goods.76 These conflicting philosophies were problematic for an amicable trade relationship and similarly challenged the English ability to implement the Virginia Council's instructions not to offend the Indians.77 Incompatible ideas extended, of course, well beyond trade. In Powhatan eyes, the inability of the English to feed themselves attested to their helplessness and inferiority. That the English simultaneously saw themselves as superior to the Indians bore no reflection of their relative ability to survive in their shared environment.78

The accommodating culture of the trading post was similarly thwarted by English efforts to impose rituals drawn from other contexts, rituals that emphasized English power and dominion, not their adaptation to indigenous norms. Take, for example, the odd case of Wahunsonacock's coronation, a peculiar ceremony arranged by the English in 1608. It echoed the custom of “Surrender and Regrant” that the English started to use in the sixteenth century to extract loyalty from Irish rulers. In these rituals, the English compelled Irish lords to submit to English authority, but then bestowed new authority upon them. The ceremony for Wahunsonacock similarly sought to place Wahunsonacock in a tributary role.79 The English insistence on “crowning” Wahunsonacock and on regarding him as the main Indian authority reflected their misunderstanding of Powhatan politics. Like most Indian leaders in the region, Wahunsonacock in fact had modest power over the daily activities of his people. This English confusion had violent consequences for Anglo‐Powhatan relations, since the English regarded all Indians who failed to comply with a treaty made between the English and any single leader as savage and treacherous, both justifying reprisals and shaping English perceptions of Indians as unscrupulous people unbound by law and treaty.80

Smith's description of his first meeting with Wahunsonacock emphasized the chief's authority. Wahunsonacock greeted Smith “with such a Majestie as I cannot expresse, nor yet have often seene, either in Pagan or Christian.”81 Yet Smith described the subsequent coronation in comic detail. The English sought Wahunsonacock's compliance by promising him support against his (p.136) enemies, the Monocans. Wahunsonacock, who had witnessed feeble English efforts to sustain themselves in Virginia, replied that he did not require their help. Wahunsonacock also refused to play his subordinate role by insisting that Captain Christopher Newport travel to him. And so Newport did, sending ahead the presents procured for Wahunsonacock. Only at the urging of Namontack, who had been to England, would Wahunsonacock consent to don the scarlet robe given him for the occasion, and further farce ensued when Wahunsonacock refused to kneel. “At last by leaning hard on his shoulders,” John Smith recalled, “he a little stooped, and Newport put the Crowne on his head.”82 And so a man who was not a king was crowned by an authority he did not recognize.

The departure from the culture of trade continued. Englishmen were capable of drawing on a wide range of demeanors when they encountered foreigners. They could subordinate their pride, their nationality, and their religion if it were necessary and expedient to do so, as they had learned in the Mediterranean. They could work to make themselves charming companions, as they did in Japan. Jamestown emerged out of this malleable trade context but quickly took a different turn. Virginia failed as a trading post for reasons well beyond failed diplomacy and the more apparent challenge of insufficient desirable trade goods. The Englishmen in Virginia first and foremost failed to act consistently like traders. Traders needed to settle among their trading partners, but the English were ambivalent about this prospect in Virginia. At Jamestown, their first conduct vacillated between the diplomatic caution and obsequiousness of the new head merchant and the bullying of a soldier or a timorous stranger. John Smith had two dimensions to his Indian diplomacy: he hoped to avoid warfare, and he tried to instill fear.83 Neither goal suited the imperatives of a long‐term trade relationship.

Rather than prepare for midnight banquets, as Richard Cocks did in Japan, ready to welcome all comers, the English in Virginia hid in their fort, afraid to leave to get food or fresh water. The London Council's first orders to the settlement's leaders in 1606, before the English had even established themselves in Virginia, urged them to make strenuous efforts to prevent Indians from seeing any kind of English weakness, whether poor marksmanship or sickness. The Council similarly warned the English to settle away from any woods that the Indians might use as cover in an attack.84 Their inability to distinguish at first who were friends and who might be foes increased their anxiety. Appearances were forever deceiving them. Ralph Hamor encountered an Englishman named William Parker who looked so much like an Indian that Hamor knew him only by his language—and even language might not be a clue once some English and Indian boys had become fully bilingual.85 And language failed the English in another way. John Smith, captured in the Ottoman Empire, was able to communicate with his owner in (p.137) Italian. In the Chesapeake, with no established trade pidgins or lingua franca in place, the English relied on their child‐interpreters, boys like Savage or Spelman, who too often identified with their Indian hosts.86

Jamestown was unlike any trading post the English had established. In trading ports, the English socialized with other Europeans, even those who were trade rivals. Wherever they went, other Europeans were in residence and could teach the English the customs of the country. With no prior European inhabitants to lend the English the assistance they counted on in foreign trading posts, Indians shaped how the English learned about the region, serving as guides and as local experts about the mineral wealth of the region.87 Indians also worked as cultural interpreters for those English who wrote about the Chesapeake, as Thomas Harriot did at Roanoke and William Strachey did in Jamestown, both relying heavily on native informants. In Virginia, the English who sought lessons in other European endeavors in America had only their reading and some largely irrelevant lessons from the Caribbean, Roanoke, or the fisheries to rely on.

A trading and extractive venture populated by men ill‐prepared to act like traders was destined for trouble. These were also traders without access to that most crucial component of commerce: marketable goods. John Smith had alerted the Company to the dearth of commodities in one of his first reports. When he wrote home to the Virginia Company in 1608, he compared with frustration his experiences trying to get commodities in Virginia with the easier efforts of the merchants of the Muscovy Company in Moscow. Smith warned the Virginia Company against great expectations from Virginia, for “though your Factors there [in Moscow] can buy as much in a week as will fraught you a ship, or as much as you please; you must not expect from us any such matter.” Smith offered a blunt assessment of the English participants in the Virginia venture, whom he dismissed as “but a many of ignorant miserable soules, that are scarce able to get wherewith to live, and defend our selves against the inconstant Salvages: finding but here and there a tree fit for the purpose, and want all things els the Russians have.”88 As no lucrative commodities appeared, and no Indians presented themselves willing to pay tribute in the marketable goods the English coveted, original expectations receded, and Richard Hakluyt's imperial vision, centered around commodities produced by English workers, ascended.89 If the Indians would not willingly trade for the corn the English desired, the English turned to force. Moreover, faced with this unreliable supply of food, the English had to grow their own, and that required land. After enduring a turbulent period known even then as the “starving times,” the ill‐chosen assortment of men at Jamestown finally—but only under the draconian discipline of a new governor, Thomas Dale—settled down to feed themselves, planting corn under penalty of death for noncompliance.

(p.138) In its earliest years, when the English in Virginia were most interested in finding commodities and trade goods, the settlement was weak, and could have been easily destroyed. But it was not: Wahunsonacock could not see how these helpless men incapable of feeding themselves could pose a threat to him. Moreover, in the midst of expanding his own confederacy, he identified possible advantages of an English alliance. Pedro de Zúñiga, the Spanish ambassador in London, urged Philip III in 1607 to do just what Wahunsonacock would not: “It will be a service to God and Your Majesty to expel those rogues from there, hanging them while so little [effort] is needed to make it possible,” just as the Spanish had done to French Protestants who settled in Florida in 1565.90 And this was precisely the attack of which the English were most concerned. They dreaded the arrival of the Spanish, the “strangers” whom Governor Thomas Gates had been warned in 1609 were one of his two great enemies (the other being the Powhatans).91 They oriented their forts to the sea, where an enemy might approach. And so they did. In 1611, a Spanish ship sailed into the Chesapeake, asking for a pilot and leaving three men behind as hostages.

The fear of Spanish attack encouraged the English to devote more resources to fortifications. The Virginia Company sent Dale to Virginia in 1611 for precisely this reason. After the Spanish ship sailed into the river and anchored at Point Comfort, Dale cast his gaze first at the weak English, with bodies “so diseased and crazed” that little work could be expected of them, and then at the “subtle, mischievous, Great Powhatan,” and knew a third menace when he saw it. He recommended strategic locations to command the rivers. He established new settlements at Henrico and Bermuda Hundred, which the English expected to be more easily defended from Spanish attack than was Jamestown.92 Dale built his new fortified towns precisely where the Indians did not want them, exaccerbating hostilities in Virginia. This was not the first nor the last time that English territorial expansion antagonized the Powhatans. When the English had dispersed from Jamestown in 1609, they built their fort at Nansemond on the site of an Indian temple.93 Together, Dale's changes placed more emphasis on the importance of soldiers to protect the colony.94

By 1615, there were numerous indicators that a trade model would never take hold. The English failed to find the commodities that made trade profitable. They neglected to comport themselves as traders should, failed in Indian diplomacy, and fortified themselves in palisaded villages. They seized Indian territory, and their need for corn put new demands on indigenous land. Hostilities were intermittent between 1609 and 1614; in periods of peace, the two parties traded. Further pressure on land came from the actions of none other than John Rolfe, the man whose marriage suggested more harmonious possibilities, because of his experiments with tobacco. Even before the English (p.139) sought to plant their own tobacco, they enjoyed consuming the plant in Virginia. Strachey recorded numerous words and phrases related to tobacco use in his extensive Algonquian vocabulary lists, compiled between 1609 and 1611 while he lived in Virginia. “I have noe Tobacco,” “I must putt Tobacco in yt,” “The Tobacco is good,” and “the tobacco is naught” were phrases Strachey thought useful enough to record for the edification of future visitors and of readers in England, in addition to including the words for tobacco bag, tobacco pipe, and the wishful instruction, “Fill the pipe with tobacco.”95

Tobacco was popular in England (despite the opposition of James I and many others), but English consumers depended on Spanish tobacco. Trinidado was the preferred weed, celebrated in a contemporary song and noted for its wonderful physical effects and medicinal value, making the smoker dizzy, sweaty, miraculously curing all ills.96 The English tried to smoke the local Virginia variant, but could not stomach it. John Rolfe experimented with the plant and produced a hybrid. Moreover, he learned how to harvest tobacco (possibly with the assistance of his wife), hanging each leaf individually in Indian fashion. By 1617 the crop dominated colonial trade with England.97

Rolfe's experiments led to a tobacco craze so furious that colonists once again neglected to plant food crops. Cheap and able‐bodied workers, including indentured servants, apprentices, and wage laborers, were abundant in this period for Virginia and all other English overseas commercial and military ventures as the English population grew amid stagnant economic opportunities at home. And the colony finally thrived. Or, more accurately, it began to generate some profits for farmers and investors. Englishmen still died at high rates and the colony's population grew feebly despite the infusion of newcomers, reaching some one thousand people by 1622. Tobacco also placed pressure on land, as colonists sought to put more into production, and further strained indigenous subsistence economies. Rolfe himself had come to believe that the Indians held title to their lands, and that it was incumbent on the English to purchase it, but this philosophy competed with other ideas that the English held that people derived their title to land from their efficient and appropriate use of it. The English prized agriculture over the range of activities (including hunting, fishing, and gathering) pursued by the Indians of the Chesapeake, and believed that their use of land gave them superior claim.98

In the wake of Rolfe's experiments with tobacco, Virginia Company members pondered the direction of their American investment. Their reforms, called the Sandys reforms after the Company's leader, Edwyn Sandys, centered on the settlers' personal conduct (gambling, idleness, drunkenness, violation of sumptuary laws) and on diversifying the colonial economy.99 Dale had sought a more diverse economy as early as 1611, when he requested a permanent population of mariners in Virginia who could engage in the (p.140) fur trade with Indians further afield and could also fish.100 But not until the emergence of tobacco monoculture did the Company focus so fully on the settlement's economic structure. The Company tried to limit tobacco production and force people to plant corn, but tobacco was the only reliable lucrative crop the colonists could produce. With all of their spare time focused on food production, they had little time or energy left for the economic experimentation the Company pursued in new industries such as glass, silk, wines, and dyes.101 The Company also shored up its funding through a national lottery.

To stabilize and diversify the colony's economy, the Company shipped thousands of new migrants to Virginia, many on vessels with inadequate supplies, and with similarly insufficient reserves in Virginia to tide them over for their first year.102 The Company recognized the difficulty it had attracting the numerous people it envisioned because of scarce supplies, and these people were crucial elements in the Company's vision of the “flourishing State” they hoped the colony would become.103 In contrast to the painstaking recruitment and interviews commercial companies exhibited in their quest for suitable overseas traders, the Virginia Company's attitude was considerably more casual. But their interest in launching new industries encouraged the Company's aggressive pursuit of suitable men. They cast their eyes east toward the European mainland. John Pory urged the Company to look in the Low Countries for men experienced at managing flax.104 In 1620 the Company discussed a scheme to bring Dutch millwrights from Hamburg to go to Virginia to build mills, and by June, four carpenters were ready to embark.105 They were joined by other Europeans. In 1621 the Virginia Company sought to hire some French vintners from Languedoc to go to Virginia to plant vines and to raise silkworms. One English adventurer planned to bring four Italians and their families to the colony to set up a glassworks. He hoped to make beads and glass, with the beads specifically targeted for the Indian trade.106 Captain Norton and his Italian companions sailed to Virginia in 1621. We know little about how these Italians fared in the colony: we can safely assume that they were Catholics in a jurisdiction that officially allowed no accommodation of their worship but that must have made some private arrangement in order to recruit them to the colony.

The Virginia Company recognized the expertise that foreigners provided in the production of desirable commodities and crops, and so sought men who had been in the East Indies. One such hire was Robert Carles, who after sixteen years in the East Indies and even more in the West Indies was an expert in a whole range of coveted crops, including rice, sugar cane, indigo, and cotton, and had even written a treatise on cultivating these plants.107 These continental Europeans and global traders contributed to a cosmopolitan presence in the colony at the same time that the colony moved in a new (p.141) direction, away from the commercial and cultural heterogeneity of the trading post and toward intensive agricultural settlement.

The surprise, in retrospect, is the tenacity of the alternative vision of the trading post. Even as the English started planting corn with more enthusiasm, colony leaders continued to believe that the colony's prosperity might yet lie in trade and mineral extraction. The minister Alexander Whitaker reminded those who read his sermon, Good Newes from Virginia, in 1613 not to be discouraged by adversity, but rather to look to the tenacity of the Spanish and Portuguese, who struggled before they flourished and profited in the West Indies. He listed Virginia's commodities and praised its interlocking network of waterways, making riverine transportation of goods easy, as advantageous, he noted, as it was to the people of that great trading powerhouse, the Low Countries. With ore nearby, evidence of other metals such as iron, steel, and aluminum, and the south sea certainly somewhere off to the west (it was just a matter of finding it), Virginia in Whitaker's mind continued to harbor the multiple paths to prosperity first envisioned by the Virginia Company in 1606, reaffirmed in 1609, and echoed in Whitaker's aspirations.108

For all the fear that kept inhabitants sequestered in their fort, early residents were enthusiastic about the trade prospects of the region. William Strachey, who reached the colony at a particularly low moment in its fortunes, precisely when the inhabitants were in the process of evacuating themselves from their American deathtrap and turned back only at the appearance of the new governor, was nonetheless exuberantly optimistic about the advantages there. “If the business be continued,” he wrote, “I doubt nothing…but to see it in times a country, an haven, and a staple fitted for such a trade as shall advance assureder increase” than the English trade with the Mediterranean. Strachey had arrived to find the colonists starving, and—afraid to go into the woods for firewood—burning instead the houses of the dead. The Indians killed some English soon after his arrival as well.109 Yet he optimistically wrote with continued hopes of the “business” and believed that Virginia might eclipse the Mediterranean.110

The reasons for the failure of trade and the new direction of the colony had everything to do with indigenous economies and viable commodities, but deceit, as Strachey's self‐deception attests, played a role as well. The English distorted their knowledge of and experiences in Virginia in order to shape public perceptions of the place. They sent back reports exaggerating and misrepresenting the bounty of the country, repeating rumors of gold mines and of passageways to Asia. The English also lied to the Powhatans, with the pattern commencing as soon as they arrived. Wahunsonacock asked John Smith what the English were doing in the Chesapeake, and Smith prevaricated, telling him that the English had fought the Spanish and washed (p.142) ashore by bad weather, biding their time only until Captain Newport could ferry them away.111

Successful trade relations hinged on quick and, if possible, deep cultural understanding. Such understanding best existed among the Indians in Virginia, not the English. The attack launched by Opechancanough in 1622 permanently transformed Indian and English relations, clarifying and solidifying growing cultural divergences. It certainly made an indelible impression on the English. One‐third of the colonists were killed. His attack recognized the clear shift in the settlement's economic enterprise. By 1622 Virginia had become a new kind of English overseas enterprise, a colony based on export agriculture, and that transformation required an accompanying alteration in indigenous economies. No longer even trying to perch gently like traders, adapting to the world around them, the English instead sought dominion. And their dominion was aided by another deviation from English experiences in trading posts overseas: the high mortality of indigenous people. While the English succumbed to disease, the Indians died at far higher rates as they confronted unfamiliar pathogens—smallpox, diphtheria, measles, influenza. Indian plans to curtail English settlement took place amid the dislocation of calamitous epidemics.

Opechancanough's attack in 1622 took the English by surprise in part because during a period of intense missionary activity by the English, and apparent acceptance by the Indians, Opechancanough had lulled them into a belief in Indian acceptance of their presence. Despite English fears of Indians, and a commensurate desire to separate themselves from them, Indians lived among the English.112 The Indians had become dependent on convenient English commodities and were forced to conform to English methods of exchange in order to get them. Some Indians worked for the English—learning English in the process—in order to procure desired trade goods.113

Indian knowledge of England furthered this process of cultural comprehension. Uttamatomakin, one of Wahunsonacock's emissaries to London who had traveled there in 1616 with Pocahontas, proved invaluable in shaping future Powhatan diplomacy. He returned home after his journey and spoke against the English: he was particularly repelled by their religious intolerance.114 There is a story—apocryphal, it seems, and the kind of condescending anecdote that the English liked to invent about Indians—that Uttamatomakin tried to count the English he encountered in order to deliver an accurate reckoning to Wahunsonacock.115 The story tells us that he tried to notch a stick for each person he met, but that he quickly gave up at the vast numbers. The larger point—Wahunsonacock's urgent need for accurate information about the English—nonetheless remains important. The report of such a populous kingdom, capable of replenishing any diminution of the (p.143) colony's population, would have been vital information that helped guide Indian strategies. Uttamatomakin's news confirmed a fear the Powhatans had from the very earliest appearance of the English: how many were there? John Smith's Map of Virginia, first published in 1612, included an Algonquian sentence translated into English that conveyed this concern: “In how many daies will there come hether any more English ships?”116

The attack in 1622 liberated the English from pretensions of amity. To be sure, it posed a public relations problem for the Virginia Company, but imaginative interpreters explained the advantages of the attack. One writer proclaimed that the massacre would actually end up being good for the plantation. Whereas before English hands were “tied with gentlenesse and faire usage,” now they were “set at liberty by the treacherous violence of the Sauvages.” Again the Spanish precedent came to the fore: drive the Indians on their enemies, the author urged, as the Spanish had exploited fights among Indians. He credited these divisions for giving the Spanish two kingdoms, those of Peru and Mexico.117 Even as the English embarked on their own style of American settlement, one characterized by its departure from Spanish precedent, they drew on the useful examples of their rival. English reprisals for the 1622 attack lasted two years, and there were two more major conflagrations with Virginia Indians during the seventeenth century, but it was clear by 1622 that the English were well on their way to developing a new kind of overseas venture. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the Virginia settlement came to be defined by extensive export agriculture and intensive English migration. None of the many English models available in 1607 predicted this outcome. No one in the settlement's first years could have anticipated that the colony's prosperity (and the Powhatans' downfall) would come with a dried leaf and a puff of smoke.


And yet, while the Virginia settlement solidified its departure from all original goals and demonstrated the evolution of a new kind of English overseas venture, not a trading post with a few English merchants living in an international community but rather a settlement defined by the displacement of an indigenous population and its replacement by English settlers, older frames of reference endured. It is impossible to see the world as Virginia's first English inhabitants perceived it. The vast majority was not literate; the few who wrote rarely reflected on their perception of themselves and the world they lived in. But clues help us to see how the English assimilated this strange American world into preexisting conceputalizations. What is (p.144) startling to realize—in light of what we know happened in Virginia—was how slow residents and visitors were to reshape their worldview to accommodate the real circumstances around them. This remained a world oriented toward the East, toward the ancient heart of Christendom. Before Christian Europeans “discovered” the Americas, their world maps placed Jerusalem at the center. These two‐dimensional maps shifted slowly as new geographies came into view. But the mental map shifted slowly as well. The eastern frame of reference is intriguing in its Virginia application because it reinforces the legacy of an eastern orientation (toward the European continent, and toward the trade cultures of the Mediterranean) in English exploits to the west even after new circumstances emerged that made eastern models irrelevant. People who went to Virginia and who experienced cultural innovations there turned to other foreign places in order to explain their American world to others. They used comparisons that would resonate with readers. And the world they evoked was that of the Mediterranean.

The first men to make the comparison were those who had been in both places, so the frame of reference is hardly surprising. The practice was evident as early as the 1580s, when the English established their settlement at Roanoke. There, Thomas Harriot reported, the people ate maize, called “Guinney wheate or Turkie wheate” by the English.118 In Jamestown, the Turkish comparisons expanded well beyond staple crops. In his Historie of Travel into Virginia Britania, a text which was never published but circulated only in manuscript at the time, William Strachey drew regularly on Turkish comparisons to describe the Algonquins of Virginia. Since Strachey had spent a year in Istanbul, his knowledge of the Ottoman Turks was extensive by English standards. He compared Wahunsonacock's justice to Turkish justice; he distinguished between Wahunsonacock's living arrangement with his many wives, who lived scattered in his domains, and the Sultan's seraglio. He compared the winter clothing of Indian men and women to Turkish (and Irish) trousers. As the Turks spread a carpet for visitors, so too did Indian chiefs spread mats for their own guests and supplicants. Like the Turks, the Powhatans drank water, and they played a pipe like that of the Greeks. Ritual life also reminded him of his other foreign experiences. He described a dance, with its shouting and stamping and sweating and yelling like that of dervishes in their mosques.119 But even men who had not lived in both places made a similar conflation. Mediterranean metaphors spread into the language used to describe the Algonquin Indians, characterized in Virginia Company records as late as 1620 as “infidels,” the language of Christian and Muslim opposition, not as heathens, as Indians were often called elsewhere.120

Obviously, no one confused Istanbul with Virginia. Istanbul was the largest city in Europe, a polyglot, polyethnic, multireligious trading port of some (p.145) 700,000 people. In 1622, Virginia as a whole contained just a thousand Europeans, and each could be counted in the list of the living and dead compiled after Opechancanough's attack. The differences could not have been more stark. John Pory's letters indicate the difficulty he had linking his two experiences. He had lived for several years in Istanbul before he journeyed to Virginia. The “solitary uncouthnes” of Virginia, particularly compared “with those partes of Christendome or Turky where I had bene” struck him forcefully, as did his sense of isolation. Pory lamented the paucity of news, which “did no a little vexe” him. Those eleven ships that arrived—and Pory's careful count suggested how significant these events were—came “fraighted with ignorance.” The sensory stimulation of the “Christall rivers, & odoriferous woods” proved some comfort. Yet he chafed at the solitude of Virginia, and took care “to have some good booke alwayes in store, being in solitude the best and choicest company.”121

Despite the glaring differences between rustic Jamestown, with its newly built homes and palisaded fort, and Istanbul, its urban skyline defined by the spires of minarets, those who had lived in both places continued to draw on Mediterranean people in order to understand and to explain Virginia. The delayed assimilation of new circumstances is immediately apparent if we look at what some Virginians said and wrote about slavery. The Mediterranean gave the English their first extensive context for slavery, an institution with which they acquired considerable familiarity: they saw slave markets, were accompanied by slaves, rowed by slaves, captured and sold into slavery, and threatened with enslavement. Some became slave traders there. When the English in Virginia wrote about slavery, they did so in this Mediterranean idiom. In 1620, the Virginia Company in London learned about a man who was defaming the colony by saying that the people there were “used with more slavery then if they were under the Turke.”122 The incantation of slavery appeared whenever someone wanted to find the most damning way possible to critique the colony. In the 1620s, critics of Sir Thomas Smythe's control over the Virginia Company and the colony drew on the metaphor of slavery to condemn the treatment of English in the colony. They claimed that Dale's strict laws, sent over by Smythe, had created great misfortune and kept the colony in “extreme misery and slavery” for all of Dale's tenure. Slavery functioned as a code, a single word conveying horrors no Englishman should have to endure.123

As late as the 1670s, fifty years after the first enslaved African reached Virginia, the image of Mediterranean slavery remained dominant.124 When a minister recorded the tale of Thomas Hellier, a servant in Virginia who murdered his master and mistress in 1678 and was executed for his crimes, he sought to extract a cautionary tale not just in Hellier's violent solution to his servitude but also in Virginia's social dynamics. The clergyman (p.146) chastised those Virginia masters who abused their servants, treating them not as fellow Christians, but rather employing tyranny, “as Turks do over Galley‐slaves, compelling them unmercifully beyond their strength.”125 Even after seventy years of settlement—and by the 1670s a greater familiarity with enslaved Africans—the Mediterranean metaphor was the most powerful indictment this clergyman could muster, and it showed the tenacity of this model. The endurance of the Mediterranean frame of reference is especially intriguing because we know that English laborers worked alongside others—Africans—who endured real enslavement. Another servant, James Revel, described his ordeal in Virginia in lengthy verse, and pointed to the paired labor of English and African: “We and the Negroes both alike did fare/Of work and food we had an equal share.”126

These Mediterranean comparisons were obviously not sufficient to turn Indians into Ottomans, indentured servants into galley slaves, or Jamestown into a Levant Company trading post, whatever the aspirations of investors or the hopes of some English inhabitants. As was the case around the globe, wherever the English went, indigenous conditions—defined in Virginia's case by the failure of trade and the opportunity for agriculture—shaped how the English occupied new territory. In this instance, the colony that developed in Virginia turned out to be the first successful English colonial experiment in the Americas. It introduced the English to new and violent ways of claiming and exploiting territory overseas, and provided a crucial model of coercion and aggression that the English drew on in later ventures. But when the colony of Virginia had evolved into a new kind of English settlement, one with export agriculture, high rates of European migration, and ultimately an enslaved population of non‐Europeans, inhabitants and observers nonetheless understood this new venture in the context of what they had known before. And what they had known before was not only English, and not only Christian; these models did not prove relevant, it seems, as the English made sense of the new slave‐based society they had created in North America. Instead, they embedded this North American colonial experiment fully within a global and multipronged effort to enhance English power and to diminish that of its rivals, part of a strategy that reached back into the sixteenth century and reached outward toward the Mediterranean and beyond.


(1.) This percentage placed them somewhere in the middle of all overseas companies. One hundred percent of company members in six other companies, for example, held investments in other companies, down to a low of 35 percent for the Irish Company. At 40 percent, the Virginia Company was at a low end. T. K. Rabb, Enterprise & Empire: Merchant and Gentry Investment in the Expansion of England, 1575–1630 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967), table 12, p. 108. There are many excellent histories of Jamestown. For an interpretation that shares my emphasis on setting Jamestown in the context of English overseas ventures more generally, see Karen Ordahl Kupperman, The Jamestown Project (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007).

(2.) Philip L. Barbour, ed., The Jamestown Voyages under the First Charter 1606–1609, two volumes, Hakluyt Society, second series, vol. 136–137 (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press for the Society, 1969), vol. 1, 14.

(3.) Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 17.

(4.) Instructions for the government, 20 November 1606, Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 41.

(5.) Ibid., 51.

(6.) Edward Maria Wingfield, Discourse, 1608, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 229.

(7.) Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004), 43.

(8.) Townsend, Pocahontas, 81.

(9.) April Lee Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 7.

(10.) Instructions to Gates, May 1609, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 22.

(11.) Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton, 1975), 45.

(12.) Richard Hakluyt, “Discourse of Western Planting,” in Peter C. Mancall, ed., Envisioning America: English Plans for the Colonization of North America, 1580–1640 (Boston: Bedford Books, 1995), 54.

(13.) Kenneth R. Andrews posed a similar question for the plantation colonies of St. Kitts, Nevis, and Barbados. Andrews, Trade, Plunder, and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480–1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 280.

(14.) Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), 14.

(15.) Wesley Frank Craven, The Dissolution of the Virginia Company (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932), 26.

(16.) There was some disagreement on this legal position in England. Ken MacMillan, Sovereignty and Possession in the English New World: The Legal Foundations of Empire, 1576–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 68–69.

(17.) On this mission, see Clifford M. Lewis and Albert J. Loomie, The Spanish Jesuit Mission in Virginia 1570–1572 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953); Charlotte M. Gradie, “The Powhatans in the Context of the Spanish Empire,” in Helen C. Rountree, ed., Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500–1722 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 154–172; and David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 71–72.

(18.) My thanks to Camilla Townsend for providing Paquiquineo's name.

(19.) On the six‐year time frame, see Luis de Quirós and Juan Baptista de Segura to Juan de Hinistrosa, from Ajacán, 12 September 1570, in Lewis and Loomie, Spanish Jesuit Mission, 89. Frederic W. Gleach, Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 91.

(20.) “The Relation of Luis Geronimo de Oré” reports the efforts of Fr. Baptista to rebuke Don Luis's new habits. Lewis and Loomie, Spanish Jesuit Mission, 180–181.

(21.) Historians offer various interpretations for Don Luis's actions. Gradie, “Powhatans,” suggests that he needed to prove himself as Indian when he settled back among his own people, and thus took several wives (169). His retaliation was part of that proof. Gleach, Powhatan's World, proposes that Don Luis felt no such conflicted loyalties, but rather was able to reconcile these different parts of his life. He interprets the attack as Don Luis's effort to give the Jesuits the martyrdom they always spoke of (95), reminding us yet again that it is important to be careful what you wish for. Some historians have believed that Don Luis was the same person as Opechancanough, the leader of the famous 1622 attack on the Virginia colony. But such a connection seems improbable and, moreover, unnecessary: the Spanish presence shaped Indian expectations without the particular linkage of one powerful individual. And had Don Luis been Opechancanough, the Powhatan confederation would likely have understood a great deal more about who the English were and what they wanted.

(22.) See Ralph Hamor, A True Discourse of the Present Estate of Virginia (London, 1615), 13; Townsend, Pocahontas, 10.

(23.) Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 20.

(24.) Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2005), 49.

(25.) On this population, see Alden T. Vaughan, “Powhatans Abroad: Virginia Indians in England,” in Robert Appelbaum and John Wood Sweet, eds., Envisioning an (p.329) English Empire: Jamestown and the Making of the North Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 49–67; and on those who preceded them, see “Sir Walter Ralegh's Indian Interpreters, 1584–1618,” William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 59 (April, 2002): 341–376; Louis B. Wright, ed., A Voyage to Virginia in 1609; Two Narratives: Strachey's “True reportory” and Jourdain's Discovery of the Bermudas (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1964), 92.

(26.) See especially David Quinn, The Elizabethans and the Irish (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966); Nicholas Canny, “The Ideology of English Colonization: From Ireland to America,” William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 30 (October, 1973): 575–598; and James Muldoon, “The Indian as Irishman,” Essex Institute Historical Collections 111 (1975): 267–289.

(27.) Quinn, Elizabethans, 107.

(28.) On the Irish‐American connection as a self‐evident assertion, see for example Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 32–36; and Eric Hinderaker and Peter C. Mancall, At the Edge of Empire: The Backcountry in British North America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 1.

(29.) David B. Quinn, Ireland and America: Their Early Associations, 1500–1640 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991), 17.

(30.) Andrew Hadfield, “Irish Colonies and the Americas,” in Appelbaum and Sweet, 173–190.

(31.) William Strachey, The Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania, ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia Freund (London: Hakluyt Society, 1953), 90.

(32.) Kupperman, Indians and English, 13.

(33.) Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 24–34, 41.

(34.) Quoted in Jeffrey Knapp, An Empire Nowhere: England, America, and Literature from Utopia to The Tempest (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 231.

(35.) Philip D. Morgan, “Virginia's Other Prototype: The Caribbean,” in Peter C. Mancall, ed., The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550–1624 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 349.

(36.) Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, Or Purchas his Pilgrimes (London, 1625), chapter 13, 1664.

(37.) Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony (New York: Rowman & Allanheld, 1984).

(38.) Rountree, Pocahontas's People, 24.

(39.) John Pory to Sir Dudley Carleton, Virginia, 30 September 1619, reproduced in William Stevens Powell, John Pory, 1572–1636: The Life and Letters of a Man of Many Parts (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), 106–107.

(40.) Darrett B. Rutman, “The Historian and the Marshal: A Note on the Background of Sir Thomas Dale,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 68 (1960), 290–291.

(41.) Quoted in Alexander Brown, The Genesis of the United States, two volumes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1891), vol. 2, 824.

(42.) Smith, True Relation, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 175

(43.) Robert Appelbaum, “Hunger in Early Virginia,” in Appelbaum and Sweet, 195–216.

(44.) Edmund S. Morgan called these mistakes a “formula for disaster.” Morgan, American Slavery, 70.

(45.) Andrews faults the merchants who expected to run Virginia as if it were a trading company for the colony's failures (Andrews, Trade, Plunder, 339), but these were perfectly reasonable expectations from men with a direct hand in foreign trade and a conviction that lucrative commodities were awaiting their purchase in Virginia.

(46.) Edward Maria Wingfield, Discourse, 1608, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 231.

(47.) Alexander Whitaker, Good Newes from Virginia (London, 1613), 43.

(48.) James Horn, “The Conquest of Eden: Possession and Dominion in Early Virginia,” in Appelbaum and Sweet, 31.

(49.) Strachey, Historie, 18.

(50.) Ibid., 22–23.

(51.) Ibid., 26.

(52.) Andrews, Trade, Plunder, 322; Andrew Fitzmaurice, Humanism and America: An Intellectual History of English Colonisation, 1500–1625 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 1–2; Craven, Dissolution, 24.

(53.) Gabriel Archer's Relation, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 101.

(54.) Instructions for the new government, 20 November 1606, Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 41; Craven, Dissolution, 51.

(55.) Perkin to a friend, 28 March 1608, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 159.

(56.) London Council's Instructions for the new government, written between 20 November and 20 December 1606, Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, p. 53.

(57.) Smith, Map of Virginia, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 2, 417.

(58.) Strachey, True Reportory, 72.

(59.) See, for example, Thomas Dale to the President and Council of Virginia, 25 May 1611, in Brown, Genesis, vol. 1, 493.

(60.) Morgan, American Slavery, p. 73.

(61.) James Horn, A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 245.

(62.) Records of burgesses, as transmitted to Virginia Company and recorded there, Court meeting, August 4, 1619, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 175.

(63.) John Rolfe to Sir Edwyn Sandys, January 1619/20, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 242.

(64.) Company meeting, February 16, 1619/20, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 1, 310. Similarly attracted to Indian cultures, and similarly dismissed as spoiled, was the Spanish child, Alonso, who had survived the Indian attack on the Jesuit mission (p.331) at Ajacán in 1571. He lived among the Indians until the Spanish reclaimed him in 1572. A priest named Juan Rogel thought little of the boy, claiming that “he has been quite spoiled after living alone with the Indians. He does not want to be one of us, he is not suitable.” Juan Rogel to Francis Borgia, from the Bay of the Mother of God, August 28, 1572, in Lewis and Loomie, Spanish Jesuit Mission, 114.

(65.) Rountree, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough, 99.

(66.) Donald E. Chipman, Moctezuma's Children: Aztec Royalty Under Spanish Rule, 1520–1700 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005), chapter 2.

(67.) Smith, Map of Virginia, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 2, 458–459; Rountree, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough, 142.

(68.) Hamor, True Discourse, 40–42.

(69.) Strachey, Historie, 192.

(70.) Townsend, Pocahontas, 112; Pedro de Zúñiga to Philip III, London, 1 August 1612, in Brown, Genesis, vol. 2, 572–573. Letter to Captain Bell, 20 April 1635, CO 124/1, fol. 77recto, TNA: PRO.

(71.) See Townsend, Pocahontas, and Rountree, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough, for two good recent assessments of Pocahontas.

(72.) There is general skepticism of the veracity of the “rescue,” with the exception of Gleach, 116–121. Of his Ottoman rescuer, Smith remembered that “all the hope he had ever to be delivered from this thraledome, was only the love of Tragabigzanda.” John Smith, The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captain John Smith (London, 1630), in Philip L. Barbour, ed., The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, 1580–1631, three volumes (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), vol. 3, 200.

(73.) See Barbara A. Mowat, “The Tempest: A Modern Perspective,” in Mowat and Paul Werstine, eds., The Tempest (New York: Washington Square Press, 1999), 185–199; Wright, ed., A Voyage to Virginia in 1609.

(74.) “Letter of John Rolfe,” in Lyon Gardiner Tyler, ed., Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606–1625 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907), 239–244.

(75.) Townsend, Pocahontas, 62; Rountree, “The Powhatans and the English: A Case of Multiple Conflicting Agendas,” in Rountree, ed., Powhatan Foreign Relations, 178–179.

(76.) Gleach, 54–56.

(77.) Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 51.

(78.) Rountree, Pocahontas's People, 29.

(79.) Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 45–47.

(80.) Rountree, ed., Powhatan Foreign Relations, 18–19.

(81.) Smith, True Relation, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 191.

(82.) John Smith, Map of Virginia, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 2, 413–414.

(83.) Alden T. Vaughan, American Genesis: Captain John Smith and the Founding of Virginia (Boston: Little Brown, 1975), 46.

(84.) Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 52.

(85.) Hamor, True Discourse, 44.

(86.) Kupperman suggests that much of the English bad behavior can be explained by their fear. Kupperman, Indians and English, 214.

(87.) Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia, 9.

(88.) Capt. John Smith to Treasurer and Council of Virginia in London, between 10 September and early December, 1608, Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 243.

(89.) Horn, “Conquest,” 42.

(90.) Pedro de Zúñiga to Philip III, 6/16 October 1607, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 121. On this Florida venture, see John T. McGrath, The French in Early Florida: In the Eye of the Hurricane (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).

(91.) Instructions to Sir Thomas Gates, May, 1609, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 17–18.

(92.) Thomas Dale to President and Council of Virginia, 25 May 1611, Brown, Genesis, vol. 1, 488–493; Gleach, 133.

(93.) Rountree, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Openchancanough, 138.

(94.) Horn, “Conquest,” 43.

(95.) Strachey, Historie, Appendix A, 174–207

(96.) Thomas Weelkes, “Come, Sirrah Jack, Ho,” Philip Ledger, ed., The Oxford Book of English Madrigals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 70–71.

(97.) Peter C. Mancall, “Tales Tobacco Told in Sixteenth‐Century Europe,” Environmental History 9 (October 2004): 648–678.

(98.) John Rolfe, A True Relation of the State of Virginia…in 1616 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1971), 6.

(99.) Craven, Dissolution, 50.

(100.) Dale to President and Council of Virginia, 25 May 1611, in Brown, Genesis, vol. 1, 493.

(101.) Craven, Dissolution, 177–188.

(102.) Craven, Dissolution, chapter 6.

(103.) November 18, 1618, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 98.

(104.) John Pory to Sandys, January 14, 1619/20, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 254.

(105.) 31 May 1620, 23 June 1620, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 1, 368, 372.

(106.) 13 June 1621, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 1, 493.

(107.) July 3, 1622, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 2, 74–75.

(108.) Whitaker, Good Newes from Virginia, 33, 37–39.

(109.) Strachey, True Reportory, 70–71.

(110.) Strachey's ambition was not accomplished in the seventeenth century. In 1686, English exports to the Chesapeake (Virginia and Maryland) totaled £35,107; imports of tobacco totaled £141,606. For the Levant Company some twenty years earlier in 1668, goods exported to Turkey totaled £466,703, and goods imported from Turkey totaled £191,458. See Nuala Zahediah, “Overseas Expansion and (p.333) Trade in the Seventeenth Century,” in Nicholas Canny, ed., The Origins of Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 410, 415; Alfred C. Wood, A History of the Levant Company (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1964), 102.

(111.) Smith, True Relation, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 1, 185–186.

(112.) Desires to separate themselves from Indians were evident early on. Sir George Yeardley was instructed by the Council for Virginia to push the Chickahominy further away from English territoy “by all lawfull meanes” in the wake of violence. Letter to Sir George Yeardley, 21 June 1619, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 147.

(113.) Rountree, Pocahontas's People, 67.

(114.) Rountree, “The Powhatans and the English,” in Rountree, ed., Powhatan Foreign Relations, p. 186.

(115.) Townsend, Pocahontas, 150.

(116.) Smith, Map of Virginia, in Barbour, ed., Jamestown Voyages, vol. 2, 332.

(117.) “A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affaires in Virginia (1622)” in Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 556–557, 558. The document drew at length on Spanish experiences and histories.

(118.) Thomas Harriot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (Frankfurt, 1590), 13.

(119.) Strachey, Historie, 60, 71, 73, 81, 84, 85, 87. Strachey also made Irish comparisons. See, for example, Historie, 72.

(120.) Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 1, 348, 1620. For an exception, see George Thorpe and John Pory to Sir Edwyn Sandys, May 15–16, 1621, in which Thorpe wrote that he believed that the people of Virginia were not as serious as they should be about their conversion of the “heathen.” Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 3, 446.

(121.) John Pory to Sir Dudley Carleton from Virginia, 30 September 1619, reprinted in Powell, John Pory, 109.

(122.) April 8, 1620, Records of the Virginia Company, vol. 1, 334–335.

(123.) Brief Declaration of the plantation of Virginia, July 1624, CSPC CD‐ROM. “Slavery” appears in a similar context as an expression of government opposition in Bermuda, where five men fled the oppressive rule of Governor Tucker, resolving to escape than to endure such “slavery.” Nathaniel Butler, The Historye of the Bermudaes or Summer Islands (London: Hakluyt Society, 1882), 83.

(124.) To be sure, not all Africans in Virginia in the seventeenth century were slaves, and a rich historiography exists on the issue of the status of Africans and people of African descent there, and the evolution of a legal code for enslavement. See especially T. H. Breen and Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640–1676 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

(125.) T. H. Breen, James H. Lewis, and Keith Schlesinger, “Motive for Murder: A Servant's Life in Virginia, 1678,” William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 40 (1983), 120.

(126.) James Revel, “The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon's Sorrowful Account of his Fourteen Years Transportation at Virginia in America,” in Warren M. Billings, ed., (p.334) The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1689 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), 137–142, quotation from 140.