Jamestown: Why Did America’s Birthplace Almost Fail?
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Jamestown: Why Did America’s Birthplace Almost Fail?


The
colony of Jamestown was founded by a contingent of 104 English settlers on May 13, 1607, a
full 13 years before the landing of the Mayflower. Its name may be unfamiliar to most non-Americans. To give you some context, rooted in pop culture:
this is where Disney’s Pocahontas takes place. On the other hand, I expect many of our American
friends will acknowledge Jamestown as the birthplace of America. In an age of competitive exploration that
often pitted the Spanish and English Empires against one another, Jamestown was the first
successful British colony in North America. Note the word ‘successful.’ The English crown had founded other colonies
in the preceding years, but they had all failed. The best-known example is Roanoke, established
by Sir Walter Raleigh; its entire population mysteriously disappeared around August of
1590. Jamestown came very close to complete failure
and extinction. Its inhabitants experienced war, famine, disease
… and some very dark episodes that Disney’s scriptwriters forgot to tell us about when
we were kids. And yet, despite all the hardships, the settlers
at Jamestown eventually made it through several winters of discontent …
But let’s get into it, shall we? I’ll take you for a quick tour of modern
Jamestown and before we dive into its history. A word of warning: some of today’s story
may not be suitable if you are 13 or younger. Visiting Jamestown
The area around the Jamestown settlement today is known as “Historic Jamestowne,” a tourist
site and conservation area about about 60 miles or 100 km west of Virginia’s capital,
Richmond. I must confess that I have never been there,
but I did my homework, so I could easily impersonate a tour guide. Admission rings in at $20 for adults, but
is free for children under 15. Tourists who purchase entrance are awarded
access to the area for seven consecutive days. The two main settlements open to visitors
are James Fort and New Towne. James Fort, as the name suggests, was the
first fortified stronghold built by the colonists. It was constructed shortly after the settlers’
landing, in May 1607, following the first attack of the natives of the Powhatan Confederacy. The fort was originally triangular in shape,
with its longest side facing the James River, and three towers at the vertices. The English settlers had a small artillery
contingent of four or five cannons, placed upon these bulwarks. By 1609, the fort had been expanded to a pentagon
shape and it could boast 24 cannons. The triangular and pentagon shapes were a
common tactic at the time, as they allowed the artillery on the towers to release converging
fire in case of an attack. In the following decades, the fort fell into
disrepair, and was eventually levelled when the whole of Jamestown Island became a tobacco
plantation. Three centuries later, in 1994, the Association
for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities began an extensive archaeological exploration. The archaeologists were able to unearth more
than two million artefacts that shed light on the daily lives of the soldiers, artisans,
gentlemen, commoners, and families who lived within the Fort. As we’ll learn later, they were also able
to find evidence of the darkest events that took place within the palisades of the Fort
… Just outside those walls, the settlers had
founded New Towne, later known as ‘James Cittie’. As the city expanded in the 1620s, it effectively
became the capital of the English colonial territory of Virginia, hosting its the government. James Cittie was ravaged by both fire and
pestilence several times, including in 1699, which ultimately prompted the seat of government
to move inland to Middle Plantation, which was soon renamed Williamsburg. Archaeologists were able to locate the foundations
of the house of one Captain Pierce of New Towne, a house now known as the ‘Angela
Site.’ Angela was an African woman who had landed
in Jamestown in 1619, having travelled from modern day Angola completely against her will. She had been abducted by slave traders, and
while being transported across the Atlantic, the ship she was on was attacked by two English
privateers. The raiders took Angela 20 to 30 other Africans
to Jamestown. They became the first recorded Africans to
land in North America. Upon her arrival, Angela became an ‘indentured
servant’ in the household of Captain Pierce. An indentured servant typically worked four
to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and, eventually, a ‘freedom
package’ consisting of 25 acres of land, a cow, food and other supplies. While they were occasionally subjected to
harsh treatment, indentured servants were not slaves and were protected by specific
laws. However, this limited freedom did not last
long: in 1661, Virginia passed its first laws explicitly legalizing slavery. By and large, Angela’s descendants would
not find freedom on the western side of the Atlantic for another 200 years. The Birth of the Birthplace of America
The expedition that led to the foundation of Jamestown was funded by a private enterprise,
the Virginia Company, chartered in 1606 by King James the First. Its missions were to make a profit in the
Americas, of course, but also to limit the expansion of the Spanish, to seek a northwest
passage to the Orient, and to convert Virginia natives to the Anglican religion. The company launched three ships: the Susan
Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, in December of 1606. They set off with 105 passengers, one of whom
died during the voyage. The other 104 reached the Virginia coast in
late April 1607, under the leadership of Captain Christopher Newport. The ships sailed up the James River and on
May 13, settled on a small island, selected for its deep-water anchorage and good defensive
position. This was to become Jamestown, and it was due
to suffer right from the start. The area was surrounded by a confederation
of Algonquian natives, numbering between 14 to 15 thousand, led by the powerful Powhatan
people. Relations with the Powhatan confederation
would prove tenuous, with alternating periods of successful trade, fragile peace, and open
conflict. In addition to that, the area lacked a steady
supply of fresh water. The land was not suited for agriculture and,
to be honest, neither were the men. Many of the original colonists were upper-class
Englishmen and they lacked laborers and skilled farmers. And when I say ‘Englishmen’ I mean it
– these guys were 100 percent … guys. The first two women only arrived two years
later, and as the years flew by, women continued to be a notably small minority, compared to
men. In fact, some colonists resorted to sexually
assaulting the native women, which may have been one of the causes for recurring wars
with Powhatan’s confederation. In September of 1608, the colony’s leadership
was picked up by Captain John Smith. Yes, that John Smith. According to legend, Captain Smith was captured
by the Algonquian warriors and saved from execution by Powhatan’s favourite daughter,
Pocahontas. Disney studios, as well as a much more serious
filmmaker like Terrence Malick and his historical epic “The New World,” have told us the
story of their romantic relationship that defied prejudice and brought together two
civilisations. But no. No. No. No. No! Pocahontas, whose real name was Amonute, was
10 or 11 at the time. So, no. No! And the supposed ‘execution’? Either it didn’t happen at all, or if it
did, it was an elaborate ceremony to induct Smith into Powhatan’s tribe. John Smith later claimed that he and Amonute
had become friends, and this friendship helped ease relations between the colonists and the
natives. While it is true that Smith had established
good trading relationships with Powhatan, it is unlikely that the young princess had
played a role at this stage. Later, in her teenage years, Amonute/Pocahontas
did have a closer relationship with the English settlers, marrying tobacco farmer John Rolfe
and travelling to England to act as an ambassador on behalf of the Algonquian nation. She sadly died of consumption, in England,
at the young age of 21. I will not go into all the details on the
short, tragic life of Pocahontas. What I can tell you is that she was kidnapped
by the colonists to leverage a peace treaty from her father, meaning she was likely raped
in captivity before being forced to convert to Christianity and marry Rolfe. Her eventual death was suspicious, and she
may have been poisoned by her own husband. If you want to know more, make sure you watch
our Biographics video on Pocahontas. [Link?] Returning to Captain John Smith: in the fall
of 1609, he was injured in a gunpowder accident and returned to England. His departure was followed by the “Starving
Time,” a period of warfare between the colonists and Powhatan’s confederation, made worse
by rampant disease and starvation. This is when the Jamestown story took a decidedly
horrible twist – but be patient for now, I’ll deep dive into the Starving Time later
on. By the spring of 1610 the original 104 colonists
had been joined by further 300 newcomers … only for nearly 90 percent of the total population
to die. Such was the cruelty of the Starving Time. The remaining 60 or so had decided to abandon
the colony when new settlers with supplies arrived from England, eager to find wealth
in Virginia. This group was led by the new Governor, Lord
Delaware, who came with a mandate for stronger leadership and harsh punishments for the dissidents
and the non-productive. Slowly, Jamestown got back on its feet, helped
in 1612 by Rolfe’s idea to grow tobacco as a cash crop for the Virginia Company. A few years later, in 1619, Angela and the
other Africans landed in Virginia, beginning a long period of servitude and slavery for
Africans on American soil. This was also the year in which the first
representative government in British America was instituted in Jamestown. This was the General Assembly, convened on
July the 30th by a newly appointed Governor, Lord Yeardley. He had listened to the requests of settlers
who wanted input in the laws governing them. The other big event for the year was the arrival
of 90 women in Jamestown, recruited and shipped by the Virginia company with the primary focus
of starting families and increase the population of Jamestown. Twelve years after its foundation, the settlement
was thriving, so much so that the colonists were claiming more and more land from the
Algonquians. The fragile peace, which had been facilitated
by the union of Pocahontas and Rolfe, eventually dissolved in March of 1622. The new leader of the natives, Opechancanough,
attacked the colony, killing between 350 and 400 of the then-1,200 settlers. The chief was expecting the English to leave,
but instead they regrouped to resist further attacks. The conflict dragged on for ten years, and
another peace was agreed in 1632. But the English-Algonquian relationship had
entered into a repeating pattern. Colonists would take advantage of periods
of peace to repopulate their lands, expand their farms, and grab more land off of the
natives. Eventually, the Algonquians would retaliate,
starting another war. The next conflict erupted in April 1644, when
Opechancanough again attacked Jamestown, killing 400 of the now 8,000 inhabitants. This war finally ended in 1646, when Opechancanough
was captured and shot in the back by a guard. His death brought an eventual end to what
was the Powhatan Confederation, which was reduced to the status of tributary of the
English Crown. Thirty years later, conflicts with the natives
resumed. While the majority of the local tribes were
allied with the English, some continued attacking the outlying tobacco plantations. One of the tobacco farmers, one Nathaniel
Bacon, rallied a militia of 1000 settlers to take care of the ‘Indian Problem’. In their rabid fury, Bacon’s men did not
differentiate between hostile and allied natives, attacking both. The then-Governor Berkeley tried to restrain
the militia and declared Bacon to be a rebel. As a result, Jamestown became embroiled in
a small civil war in September of 1676. Bacon attacked the city and had his followers
set it on fire, destroying 16 to 18 houses, the church, and the statehouse. Thankfully, this rebellion was short lived:
in October, Nathaniel Bacon died of dysentery and his small army dispersed. Many of the rebels were captured and 23 were
hanged by Governor Berkeley. As a result of Bacon’s Rebellion, another
treaty was signed between the English and the Virginia Indians. More tribes were part of this treaty than
the one of 1646. The treaty set up more reservation lands and
reinforced a yearly tribute payment of fish and game that the tribes had to make to the
English. In 1698, Jamestown faced its final tribulation
as capital of the colony, when fire struck yet again. This time, it was started by a prisoner awaiting
execution. The fire was less extensive than the one caused
by Bacon, though it did destroy the prison and the statehouse. Colonists continued to live on Jamestown Island
and and reap the farm lands after the capital was moved west to Williamsburg, but by 1700,
almost nothing was left of the original colony. The Starving Time
It’s now time to look in detail at what became known as
‘the Starving Time’ of Jamestown, from the summer of 1609 to the winter of 1610. While the colony was still struggling to establish
itself, just three to four years after the Virginia company landed in the New World,
the settlers were suffering from food shortages, diseases, and fractured leadership. The famine caused by a prolonged drought also
led to competition over resources with the natives. This tension escalated into a conflict and
protracted siege of James Fort: Chief Powhatan ordered his warriors to attack any colonists
or plunder any livestock found outside the fort. In July 1609, Jamestown was expecting a fleet
of nine ships with new colonists and enough supplies to last through the winter, courtesy
of the Virginia trading company. Unfortunately, a hurricane had damaged the
fleet, causing the largest vessel – the Sea Venture – to shipwreck on Bermuda. The remainder of the expedition managed to
reach Jamestown by mid-August. This may have looked like good news for the
colonists, but the new arrivals were able to bring only a fraction of the initial cargo
with them. Plus, there were 300 of them, which meant
even more mouths to feed! Among the new 300 settlers, there was a teenage
girl called Jane – keep her in mind. In October of 1609, Captain John Smith was
forced to return to England, after being badly injured in that gunpowder explosion, which
may or may not have been accidental. The man was not exactly beloved by the people
of Jamestown, as he imposed a very strict regime of food rationing. In his absence, leadership was handed over
to one George Percy, who would later write a publish ‘A Trewe Relacyon’ on the events
of the Starving Time. In his writings, Percy gives us a clear idea
of how desperate the situation was: “Indians killed as fast without the fort,
as famine and pestilence did within.” He also wrote that to satisfy their “cruel
hunger” some settlers went into the woods looking for snakes, roots, anything they could
sink their teeth into. But these expeditions usually ended with the
foragers being cut down by Powhatan’s warriors. The only other option was to eat what was
left inside the fort. First, the colonists ate the leather from
their own boots. Then, they butchered all of their seven horses. Next, it was the dogs, cats, mice and other
vermin. Finally, they started eating each other. According to Percy, some settlers exhumed
and ate the dead corpses of their compatriots, as well as of the natives, while others
“Licked upp the Bloode which had fallen from their weake fellowes.” Tales of cannibalism within the fort had reached
Europe in the Spring of 1610, thanks to a small crew of settlers who had escaped Jamestown
on a small ship called The Swallow. In all their accounts, colonists would cannibalize
exclusively the corpses of those who had already starved, died of disease or were killed in
combat. With one exception: the deserters also told
the story of a man who had killed his pregnant wife with the explicit intent to devour her. This story was retold by Sir Thomas Gate,
a later Governor of the colony, with an added detail: the man had taken great care to butcher,
skin, and powder his wife’s body with salt to better preserve it. The culinary details kept on piling up in
further versions of this gut-churning tale. Captain John Smith, in his work ‘General
History of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles’, displayed a knack for black humour
worthy of Monty Python: “ … Now, whether she was better roasted,
boiled or carbonado’d, I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard
of.” By the way, by carbonado’d, he meant ‘barbecued’. But was all that true? Had a man really killed his wife and his unborn
child to feed himself and remain alive? According to a later report of the Virginia
Company, the murderer had acted out of hatred for his wife, not out of desperate hunger. Only at the trial he had stated that his wife
had died of natural causes, and he had hidden the body with the intention of eating her
at a later stage. Oh, by ‘trial’ I mean that he was suspended
by his thumbs for minutes on end, tortured, beaten and then burned alive. At this stage you may think that the claims
of cannibalism may have been exaggerated, or even false. For centuries, this was the opinion of many
historians, who believed the stories of cannibalism were only slanderous rumours, spread to damage
the prestige of the Virginia Company. But then, in 2012, archaeologists at the Historic
Jamestowne site made an invaluable forensic discovery: portions of the butchered skull
and shinbone of a 14-year-old girl from England – Jane, one of the 300 that had arrived
in August of 1609. The remains were analysed by Doug Owsley,
head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Owsley found multiple chop and cut marks on
the girl’s skull, made by one or more assailants. According to him,
“They were clearly interested in cheek meat, muscles of the face, tongue, and brain”
The researcher determined that the cutting was not done by an experienced butcher, as
the marks on the bones show signs of hesitancy, and repeated failed attempts. Thankfully, the girl today known as ‘Jane’
was subjected to this treatment only after she had died of natural causes. Jane’s legacy helped to solve a centuries
long mystery. It also made it easier to imagine the torture
those colonists must have gone through during The Starving Time.. By the spring of 1610, of the initial 104
settlers, plus the 300 late comers, only 60 were still alive. Jamestown may have become another failed settlement,
a lost colony, like Roanoke. Had it been destroyed or abandoned completely,
North America may look very different today. But Jamestown did not fade away. The colony was saved that spring of 1610 by
the arrival of more settlers – the survivors of the shipwreck of the Sea Venture, straight
from Bermuda. These resourceful sailors had built themselves
a new boat, and landed with much-needed supplies. The Starving Time was finally over. Why Did it Almost Fail? The Jamestown settlement survived for almost
a century, and Virginia became one of the primary springboards for further exploration
and colonisation of North America. But why were its first few years were such
a catastrophe? Was it due to poor leadership, the general
incompetence of the settlers, or the hostilities with the Algonquians? You could say ‘all of the above’, sure,
but we’d like to focus on three specific elements, which may spell triumph or disaster
for any attempt at colonialism. And these are
Location Location
Location What was wrong with the location chosen by
the first wave of settlers? They had picked the best spot, at least according
to the instructions from the Virginia Company: [Editing note: the following is a parodic
reconstruction of the actual instructions, in a style reminiscent (i.e. rip-off) of the
Monty Python. I suggest we have a tag in the bottom corner
saying something like ‘Dramatisation’] “Thou shalt pick a spotte which is
not ninetie, not one hundred and ten,
not one hundred and twentie, but a hundred mileth
from the river’s mouth, whence thou shalt rest in safetie
from the foul and scoundrelous attacks of the Spanish shippes
and the Spanish soldierthsth and the Spanish muskettes
and the Spanish grapeshotte and thou gettest the pointe.” [For a non-silly version:
The Company’s guidance was to locate a spot with access to a waterway, but 100 miles inland,
so as to be protected from Spanish attacks] Other instructions included to stay close
to a deep-water anchorage to facilitate provision of supplies and to
“Take great care not to offend the naturals” Which is how they referred to the natives. So according to these instructions, Jamestown’s
location was spot on. To not ‘offend the naturals’, the settlers
lay their tents on a piece of unclaimed land. But if that land was unclaimed, there was
a reason why: it was marshy, infested with mosquitoes, and without reliable clean water. This meant that arable land was scarce, leading
to food shortages. Impure water and clouds of mosquitoes caused
outbreaks of typhoid, dysentery and malaria. The initial settlement was tolerated by the
Powhatan confederacy, but as soon as the colonists sought to grab more fertile lands upriver,
they faced strong resistance by the natives. After the marriage of Pocahontas and John
Rolfe, the English and the Powhatan confederacy reached a fragile peace. It was only then that the colonists were allowed
to farm more suitable land and generate profits from their tobacco cash crops. Eventually, the rise of an agrarian tobacco
economy provided the basis for prosperity and expansion, and a small group of settlers
became quite wealthy. The fact that most of this happened outside
of Jamestown, however, only reaffirms the poor quality of the location for launching
a colony. The reality of military and colonial enterprises
is almost always complex; however, the elements that drive their success or failure sometimes
boil down to something really simple. Jamestown needed reliable access to resources
— food, clean water and trade routes — and it could never quite lock down all three. Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed this brief encounter with the story of Jamestown: an ‘origin story’,
or ‘foundational myth’ for the United States, if you like. The small community contained in a nutshell
the elements that would shape much of American history, post-independence: the wars against
the native Nations, and their eventual displacement; the institution of slavery; even a Civil War! But also, a spirit of innovation and resilience
against all odds, one that would fuel the unstoppable march towards the West, to fulfill
its Manifest Destiny. If you want to hear another story about another
settlement in the Americas that failed completely for similar reasons, check out our video about
the Darien Venture, the colony that bankrupted Scotland. And if you have visited Historic Jamestowne,
we really want to hear about your impressions in the comments. Just don’t tell us if you had a burger at
the museum café … especially if it was carbonado’d.

100 Comments

  • Mark Spangler

    “60 miles WEST of Richmond”? How about East? Not a biggie, probably slip of the tongue, but errors are rare in your vlogs.

  • Tiberius shatner

    The birthplace of America was St. Augustine, Florida. it was founded 43 years before Jamestown!!! Is this revisionist history. ?

  • Lorax Dave Walters

    I went to Jamestown as a kid, but I don't know which place I actually went, because it was in the late 1980s. They said the stone houses were original, really wavy glass and everything. They even had an excavated garbage pit. Typical lies taught by America.

  • Broc Luno

    Jamestown is in shallow poor soil with bad water, folks defecating to close to the wells, mosquitoes, snakes and not enough knowledge of the local flora and fauna. It is half surrounded by brackish salt water. How was it supposed to work …

  • Jim F

    I love how documentaries like these always talk about the bad things settlers did, which often were In response to natives, but always seem to gloss over what the natives did.

    They were hard and very different times. Some respect should be given to how fantastically hard life was then compared to now, and how hard people worked and fought to survive.

  • MrSirwolf2001

    " 100 miles or 60 km WEST of Virginia's capitol of Richmond" Fire your editor and try a google map search…Jamestown is decidedly EAST of Richmond and is in fact on the James River a short hop skip and a jump from Yorktown ( a place that your General Cornwallis would remember for the rest of his days) , Williamsburg, and Norfolk Naval Yard on the Chesapeake bay/ Atlantic ocean.

  • alex carter

    American culture is fail, and the country's only been able to exist because of a huge natural resource and energy base, first by plundering the continent (remember we tried to eat up Canada and Mexico at times) and then plundering other countries. Other countries are wising up these days.

  • Soter Bizimana

    Your nr 1 follower. Love all your videos… A Geo about Africa, would be interesting to learn more about the River Nile, Sahara Dessert, the blood diamonds & gold mines of Congo. Do a Bio about Dr Dian Fossey and her fight to protect the Mountain Gorillas.

  • janusz delondre

    tis a shame that the native inhabitants lacked the foresight to slaughter every individual that set foot on shore, would have prevented much suffering and injustices

  • Jason Somers

    Racist English introducing slavery to America. Socialism also played a big part in the failure of early Jamestown. Instead of having sectioned off food plots all of the settlers farmed a large plot. Farmers were complaining about nonproductive members taking part in the bounty. After hearing enough, the farmers sectioned the fields off and things went much much better. Socialism at its finest.

  • Primo Benavides

    America was born and known in Central America for 700 years before the arrival of Euros to Jamestown. Viracocha was known as America Viracocha. The English know about America Viracocha and they are the ones who try to set the record straight but no one listens. This is why they are called America Natives. Euros. Afros, Asians are not American. Jamestown was a failed bitrhplace for the English settlers who formed the United States. English settlers who migrated to Africa do not call themselves African. English settlers in Asia do not call themselves Asians. Why do English migrant settlers descendents who are not native say they are American?

  • Random Tech, Auto, Security, & Skateboarding

    Now how do you know Pocahontas was raped? Do you say that with any sort of authoritative evidence or is just that that is the fashionable thing to say in the times we are living in? If there is no evidence of said rape then it doesn't belong on a channel that represents itself as historical and based on facts.

  • Gerrit Peacock

    For those unfamiliar with that area of the southeastern coast…. the water is brackish and stagnant… there are lots if nasty venomous snakes and insects about. There is nothing but sand and swamp with scrub pines. Without having a very astute botanist and other supplies it would be difficult as hell to hit that site and have crop success. NC is a beautiful state but there are hours of flat garbage land towards the coast.

  • Oddsfish!

    Cannibalism? I had no idea. I knew it happened in Hawaii, and coincidentally having just read Davy Crockett's autobiography, I recently learned of an act of cannibalism by the Americans (including Crockett) during the Creek Indian War, but I did not know about Jamestown's. America's history is not as virtuous and wonderful as its redactors would make it.

  • Katze

    1. Saying "American" is racicst, because you woun't even acknowlage the south american polulations as such.
    2. Saying "American" is racist, because the real north americans are only the natives, not the invaders from europe.

  • valiroime

    The Jamestown instructions read like the holy hand grenade bit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

    “And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it”

  • Linda Casey

    I lived in Virginia Beach (First Landing = amongst the 'goodly tall trees') back in the 80s and made frequent visits to Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg as well as the various Indian reservations. It was a thrilling time for me to be immersed hip deep in so much beautiful history. Thank you for posting. 🌹

  • animist channel

    You would have to be mind-bogglingly incompetent, arrogant, obnoxious, utterly untrained, and downright stupid to have a colony going hungry in the Chesapeake Bay area, especially in that time. It was mild, lush, packed with foods and blessed with easy seasons. If you even tried to put a "primitive survival training camp" there today, everyone would laugh at you. As long as you haven't enraged every native person in the region to hunt you down, 1 competent person fishing & foraging could feed 10 back at camp.

    Oh well, that's English "civilized" folk of the era… no skills, no sense, completely out of touch with nature, and with a blindly theological megalomanic superiority complex. They did everything wrong, because they thought they had the right by birth to be ignorant assholes.

  • maninredhelm

    Why were these small island colonies never able to get by on fishing? These were seas that had never been fished on a large scale in the history of the planet. They should have been full of wildlife. The farming prospects were always going to be speculative and require a long lead time to develop, and inland hunting was predictably going to lead to conflict with the "naturals." Fishing should have been a no brainer as the first colonial industry, and that particular body of water sustains one of North America's most lucrative crabbing industries to this day. Were they just clueless? Did the English just never take an interest in fish until they found out you could batter and fry them alongside potato wedges? Ancient Polynesians should really be given more credit for the feat of colonizing isolated Pacific islands considering how incompetent the first attempts at colonization were by 17th century England.

  • Hermann von Salza

    intendured servant were slaves. Calling them something else is like putting lippstick on a pig and everyone knows it

  • Oma Cool

    Sorry Simon I dont want to hear about it from a snarky Brit. Usually you're fairly cool but you do get a little snooty about America occassionally.

  • Tiger Style

    It's a shame more people don't understand more about the realities of settler colonialism and the brutality and misery that has always accompanied it.

  • Benjamin Grist

    A settlement made up the river called Henricus did much MUCH better than Jamestown due mostly to the fact that the town was founded in a much MUCH better location. However, it’s better location also made it a much better target for the natives and it didn’t survive the first major war with the Powhatan Confederacy.

  • michael mufich

    On the topic of slavery, it is still going on and the western world is still taking advantage of it. We are just as evil as any slave owner in the past. Coffee, chocolate, diamonds, the fashion industry, the list goes on and on. Just because we cannot see the slaves that are supplying these commodities does not mean that millions of men, women and children are not being tortured, working in horrific conditions as they watch their lives being ruined so a bunch of assholes can enjoy the "finer things".

  • Wailand Karisma

    Can you imagine arriving to the settlement sometime after the cannibalism had begun, unknowing you were surrounded by savages with a taste of meat. Monthy missed a good script.

  • Bubba Holter

    Historians will be shocked to learn – Jamestown didn't fail! Hard to know what would count as failure, since half people that set foot in the place quickly died, and most of the rest left. I guess the height of it's success must have been burning down, since it was plowed over shortly after.

  • Frostbitten828

    Any chance you can mix up your sponsor commercials a bit? They’re all very similar and repetitive seeing as it’s normally one of the same 4 sponsors.

  • daniel alfieri

    Interesting story and glad to get the facts on Poci. Is this the same place as the James Town religious massacre thing – Jim Jones deal??

  • Jac Citera

    In a past life, I was an Oyster biologist. Through my research and reading, I learned that if it wasn't for oysters found in the James River, the settlers wouldn't have made it through the first winter.

  • John Morrison

    I took college history in the South. We studied both Jamestown and Plymouth. Our final exam made us pick one colony that we would choose and explain why. Choosing Jamestown was irrational. The chance of survival was bleak. Plymouth wasn't a walk in the park, but it did thrive.

  • Trent Plumley

    He skipped that shared farming in the first year almost starved everyone out. One husband killed his wife to eat because of shared farming. Only till private owned land till they start to prosper.

  • juke box hero

    "She may have been raped…" 'She may have been forced to convert to Christianity…" "She may have been poisoned by her husband.." "She may have communicated with Extra terrestrials and put an anal probe in her husband Rolfe…" you are good at slipping in some Limey shitmouth commentary. I always see why my ancestors broke with your people. Your skin is white but not your heart…the Englishman.

  • J. Strantz

    I enjoy the sinister feel of the geographic videos. Simon is much more hitchcock here than on the other 2 channels. Magnificent.

  • Abigail Jacob

    I once heard they nearly starved because they implemented a communist-style of common landownership and maintenance, so no one grew enough food to create a necessary stockpile. Is there any truth to this??

  • Larry MacDonald

    Wow you people really do not know your own history very well…. you see good ol' King George, well he was a crafty fella, he saw a way to save a ton of money while making lots of new tax money…. so he emptied the Jails and Insane Asylums and sent them to America…. because he knew what those people would do to the Natives and well if they all got killed, he still saved a bunch of money housing them….
    America as you call it, was here for 14,000 years before you racist pricks showed up 500 some odd years ago…. now here's a REAL fact for you.
    General Amherst, quite famous, for GERM warfare against the Natives, he handed out Pox infected blankets to the Natives, knowing they had no resistance to it, killing MILLIONS from coast to coast in what eventually became Canada…..

    So your history really is the Genocide of Millions, all in the name of money and god……

    Now look at you, your children dont even know what Gender they are……. shit in the streets, drugs everywhere….. good job raising those kids people… dumbass's

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