The first two sources used in this case study are parts of letters written
by Ralph Lane. When Sir Richard Grenville left Virginia after setting
up the colony, Lane was put in charge. Lane had been an equerry at Queen
Elizabeth’s court and had been serving in Ireland before he went
to America. When he returned to England he took up several military postings
before being appointed Muster-master-general in Ireland. He remained in
Ireland until his death in 1603.
• Sir Richard Grenville led the expedition to Virginia. He was the
cousin of Walter Raleigh and was serving as High Sheriff of Cornwall before
he went to America. When he returned to England, Grenville was part of
the council given the job of defeating the Armada. He then took up service
in the Azores, fighting the Spanish. In 1591 he was wounded in a battle
and died from his wounds.
• Walter Raleigh was already a favourite courtier of Elizabeth I
when he decided to send expeditions to America. His aim was to find gold
and other minerals and to establish trading routes. This would make him
very rich. However, the Queen would not let Raleigh go personally so he
had to send people on his behalf.
• The first trip to what would become known as Virginia was made
in 1584. When the company returned they brought back very good reports
of the land and the riches it could bring. They also brought back 2 Amerindians
called Manteo and Wanchese and examples of what they had found, including
pearls and animal skins.
• There was a lot of interest in the expedition and a second trip
was proposed. This time, the aim was to establish a permanent settlement
in America. Ships carrying over 100 settlers left England in April 1585,
landing at Roanoke in July the same year. At first, everything seemed
to go well. The settlers received a lot of help from the Algonquin Indians
who showed them how to catch fish and farm the land. But as food supplies
became short in winter the settlers started to steal from the Amerindians
and fights started to break out. By summer, the situation had become desperate.
The settlers had no food and were having to rely on shellfish. When Sir
Francis Drake called at the colony and offered supplies or a passage back
to England, the settlers decided to return home.
• Shortly after the settlers left, a number of ships carrying extra
supplies turned up. They found Roanoke deserted. The leader of the company,
Richard Grenville, decided to leave 15 men there to maintain the land
for England (and his cousin). Nobody knows what happened to these 15 men.
• In 1587, Raleigh organised another expedition. This time women
and children were allowed to make the voyage. The settlers received some
help from the Amerindians but there was little trust on either side. After
only a few weeks, the settlers asked the Governor, John White, to return
to England and ask for more supplies. White did not really want to leave
but was eventually persuaded. He left behind his daughter and grand-daughter.
The child, called Virginia, was the first child born to settlers in America.
• White’s return to America was held up for many reasons but
mainly because of the threat posed by the Spanish. He did not return until
1590 by which time the settlement has disappeared. Historians still don’t
know what happened to these settlers.
• Neither attempt to establish a colony was particularly well-planned.
The ships and settlers arrived too late in the year to cultivate the land
properly and the settlers relied on the help of the native Americans and
on outside supplies too much. The settlers also didn’t treat the
Amerindians very well – holding them prisoner, treating them as
“Savages”, abusing the help they received and fighting with