Why is Jamestown important
Birthplace of America
"Right here," says Bill Kelso, "right here, where we are now, is the beginning of today's America." Bill Kelso is an archaeologist and found the Jamestown Settlers Fort a few years ago. They founded their settlement on May 14, 1607 on the banks of the James River in Virginia and named it "Jamestown" after their King James I of England. 104 settlers arrived in Chesapeake Bay aboard 3 ships, says James Horn, historian with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Horn: "Among them were sons of English society and aristocracy, there were soldiers, some adventurers, craftsmen, a doctor and a pastor. It was a relatively mixed group of men. Exclusively men, not women."
Speculations about gold and silver and the prospect of seemingly unlimited land attracted all influential European nations to America at the end of the 16th century. The French tried to settle near Newfoundland - without success, the Spaniards farther south in Central and South America. Jamestown in the middle was intended to underpin England's claim to North America.
Horn: "The Spaniards claimed all of America and saw the English as invaders. This is important later because the Spaniards were looking for the settlement in order to destroy it."
First the English had to defend themselves against the Indians. Two settlers died in an attack, after which a fort was built around the settlement. For this they had chosen a strategically good place, says archaeologist Bill Kelso. The fort was on a slight elevation: a clear view of the clearing and the river, because from there the English expected their real enemy.
Kelso: "Your first concern was Spanish warships that could come up the river and blow them away like they did with the French. At this point the river is very shallow. They wouldn't even have a warship anywhere near this fort got it. "
But the Spaniards didn't come.
Horn: "The biggest problem they had was finding enough food and stocking up to get them through the first phase of building the settlement."
In the first year, not even 40 of the 104 settlers survived. But there was not only a state interest in the continued existence of the settlement, but also an economic one. The colony was a public company hoping for gold and silver in America. 500 new settlers arrived in Jamestown in 1609. A year later, there were only 60 people left in Jamestown. The historical judgment of the settlers tends to be negative: poorly prepared, greedy for gold, lazy. They starved because they were not growing any food, only looking for gold. And so the story of the godly, freedom-seeking pilgrims who founded the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts 13 years later, fits in well with the founding myth of America.
Horn: "Without Jamestown, Plymouth would probably never have been settled, or Massachusetts, or any English colony in America. The importance of Jamestown lies not only in the fact that the first parliamentary representation was established here in 1619, but also in that it was a model for further success . "
1613 came the breakthrough for Jamestown. Tobacco became the colony's export hit and ensured its economic survival. Demand was booming and more and more farmers came to America, making Virginia England's most lucrative colony.
Horn: "Without the success of Jamestown America might never have become English. That the English language, English laws and English political institutions were introduced here would not be certain without Jamestown."
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