Jamestown Hangs In The Balance

Only by luck and happenstance did Britain’s first permanent settlement in the New World survive

Arriving at the English colony of Jamestown in late May 1610, Sir Thomas Gates was appalled by what he discovered. The fort’s palisades had been torn down, the church ruined, and empty houses “rent up and burnt.” Only 60 or so colonists remained alive of the more than 200 who had crowded into the fort the previous fall, and these were “Lamentable to behold.” Those able to raise themselves from their beds to meet Gates and his men “Looked Like Anatomies” [skeletons]. They cried out, “We are starved We are starved.” Yet Gates could do little to relieve them. Read more »

The Tempest

The storm that wrecked the Virginia-bound ship Sea Venture in 1609 inspired a play by Shakespeare— and the survivors’ tribulations may well have sown the first seeds of democracy in the New World

The story of the British ship Sea Venture is one of history’s most remarkable sagas, an almost unbelievable tale of shipwreck, endurance, and human resourcefulness. But it is more than that. The fate of the survivors of the Sea Venture reverberates in literature, in political theory—in the very founding of America. Read more »