English Colonization Begins

During the early to mid-16th century, the English thought of North America as a base for piracy and harassment of the Spanish. By the end of the century, the English began to think more seriously about North America as a place to colonize.

English promoters claimed New World colonization offered many advantages. It would serve as a barrier against Catholic Spain, supply England with raw materials and provide a market for finished products. It also provided a place to send the English poor and ensure they would contribute to the nation's wealth.

The English poor increased rapidly during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Many common people were forced to become wage laborers or beggars.

After unsuccessful attempts to establish settlements in Newfoundland and at Roanoke, England established its first permanent North American settlement, Jamestown, in 1607; off the coast of present-day North Carolina.

The Jamestown expedition was financed by the Virginia Company of London, which believed that precious metals were to be found in the area. Jamestown suffered from disease and conflict with the Indians from the beginning. Immigrants had just a fifty-fifty chance of surviving 5 years.

Food was a major source of conflict. More interested in finding gold and silver than in farming, Jamestown’s residents were unable or unwilling to work. The English began to seize Indian food stocks, Powhatan cut off supplies, forcing the colonists to subsist on frogs, snakes, and even decaying corpses.

Captain John Smith was 26 years old when the first expedition landed. Smith serving as president of the Jamestown colony from 1608 to 1609, required colonists to work and traded with the Indians for food. In 1609, Smith was wounded in a gunpowder accident and returned to England. After his departure, conflict between the English and the Powhatan confederacy intensified.

Source: English Colonization Begins
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