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What problems did the settlers face? More information

• 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 them.


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