2007 is the four-hundredth anniversary of America’s first permanent English settlement. In the spring of 1607, three ships arrived in the Chesapeake Bay after a midwinter Atlantic crossing from England. They sailed up the James River and deposited 104 settlers on a swampy, low-lying island close to the river bank in the colony of Virginia. The settlement, called Jamestown after the English king, barely survived the diseases, starvation, and Indian attacks of the first few years. But survive it did—to become the opening act of the drama of English settlement in North America. To mark this important anniversary, we offer three lectures on Jamestown, then and now—and provide food for thought about new interpretations of our English origins.
February 19: Cary Carson, “Poor Old Jamestown!”
Wrong location, bad water, lousy leadership, notorious death trap, America’s first urban disaster. Wrong! Using stunning new archaeological discoveries and historical research, Carson will rehabilitate the reputation of the oldest town in English America.
Cary Carson is the recently retired vice president for research and interpretation of Colonial Williamsburg, Inc., and the senior principal investigator of the Jamestown Reassessment Project.
March 5: Rebecca Goetz, “English Religion and the Colonization of Virginia” Historians tend to think of the initial settlement of Virginia as an exclusively commercial enterprise and a lawless, godless English foray into the New World, but this is an inaccurate portrait of the English colonial project. Understanding the importance of early English settlers’ Christian belief has great significance for interpreting their complicated interaction with Virginia’s native people, and for understanding the overall goals of seventeenth-century English colonization.
Rebecca Goetz is an assistant professor of history at Rice University. Her 2006 Ph.D. is from Harvard University, as is her M.A. She is currently revising her dissertation, “Potential Christians and Hereditary Heathens: Religion and Race in Early America,” into a book.
March 19: Virginia Bernhard, “The Forgotten Women at Jamestown”
Though historians have been writing about Jamestown from many perspectives for almost four hundred years, men are still presented as the major characters in these narratives and women are nearly invisible. But women—both Indian and English—were shapers of Virginia’s early history, some in unexpected ways.
Virginia Bernhard is the author of A Durable Flame, a historical novel about Jamestown and early Virginia, and is the recently retired chairman of the history department at the University of St. Thomas.
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