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 »

Why Jamestown Matters

If the colony had collapsed the English might not have been established as the major colonial power in North America

If Jamestown, England’s first permanent colony in the New World, had failed 400 years ago—and it came within a whisker of being abandoned on any number of occasions—then North America as we know it today would probably not exist. Instead of English, we might be speaking French, Spanish, or even Dutch. If Jamestown collapsed, the emergence of British America and eventually the creation of the United States may never have happened. Read more »