Roanoke Lost

Four hundred years ago the first English settlers reached America. What followed was a string of disasters ending with the complete disappearance of a colony.

Roanoke is a twice-lost colony. First its settlers disappeared—some 110 men, women, and children who vanished almost without a trace. Ever since, it has been neglected by history, and few Americans of today are aware that the English tried and failed to colonize this continent long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Four hundred years ago, between 1584 and 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh and his associates made two attempts to establish a settlement on Roanoke Island, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. One colony returned to England; the other disappeared in America.Read more »

The Terror of the Wilderness

Why have Americans perceived nature as something to be conquered?

Most people who have reflected at all upon the known history of the Americas, particularly North America, have been impressed one way or another with its dominant quality of fierceness. After that early, first blush of paradisial imaginings, stained by the lush colors of the tropic islands and the defenseless peoples found thereon, a somber mood of misgiving settled over the questing Europeans, filtered their perceptions, filtered at last into the bleached bones of their accounts of exploration.Read more »

Of Raleigh And The First Plantation

The Elizabethans and America: Part II -- The fate of the Virginia Colony rested on the endurance of adventurers, the financing of London merchants, and the favor of a courtier with his demanding spinster Queen.

In the marvelous 1580s everything was beginning to ripen together in the heat of the tension between England and Spain. Poetry and the drama that had been so sparse and backward were coming to a head with Sidney and Spenser and Marlowe; the first Elizabethan madrigals appear in the very year the war against Spain begins. And this is the moment when the idea of American colonization takes shape and wing—or, perhaps I should say, takes sail.