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Why did the settlement fail? More information

• The extracts used in this case study are parts of a report 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.

• Lane ran the settlement on military lines. This was not very successful. Little attempt was made at establishing a permanent settlement. An emphasis was placed on trade and exploiting the natural reserves of the country (eg copper, pearls, skins etc) rather than on farming.

• This may have been partly due to the expectations of the sponsors of the expedition. Sir Walter Raleigh and the other funders of the expedition had invested a lot of money and would want to see something in return.

• The settlers relied heavily on Amerindian help. At first, this was given freely but the two groups soon came into conflict with each other. As can be seen from the sources, Lane and his men did not treat the Amerindians very well. They thought nothing of holding key Amerindians prisoner whilst they interrogated them, called them ‘savages’, got them to do work the settlers could have done for themselves and attacked their villages for the slightest reasons.

• As food supplies began to run scarce during winter, the Amerindians started to refuse to help the settlers. They stopped giving them food and helping them fish. Some of the Amerindians, led by a Chief called Pemisapan, also attacked the settlers resulting in a number of deaths (including that of Pemisapan).

• The settlers were eventually rescued by Sir Francis Drake. He had stopped at Roanoke to check on the settlement and offered to provide further supplies to the settlers. However, after a storm destroyed most of these supplies, the settlers decided to return to England and they all left aboard Drake’s ships.

• A second major attempt was made to establish a colony in 1587. This time women and children also made the voyage. However, this too was not successful. The Governor, John White, was persuaded to go to England to get more supplies but his return was delayed when war broke out with Spain. By the time he did get back to America in 1590, the settlers had vanished. Nobody knows what happened to these settlers.

• Some of the extracts used in this case study are recorded in a book written by Captain John Smith. He was in charge of the first permanent settlement that was established at Jamestown in 1607.

• These settlers also faced great hardships when they first arrived. Within the first seven months, two-thirds had died from starvation, disease and attacks from native Americans. However, John Smith was eventually able to persuade the local chief, Powhatan, to trade with the settlers and the colony survived.


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