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David Prince’s book, Love and Hate in Jamestown, provides excellent explanations on how economic conditions in the new colonies determined investment areas and tripodic relationship between colonists, local Indian tribes and the Crown. Prince reports that it took some time before colonists discovered that only through mutually beneficial economic relationships that peace and prosperity would be achieved. In this understanding, concurrent sections of the paper provide an analysis on how colonists, under the leadership of John Smith, used economics to conquer Jamestown, get support from English Crown and eventually spread their influence throughout New England.
The goal of 105 colonists who settled in Jamestown in 1605 was to seek gold and establish possible trade routes into the Pacific Coast, modern United States’ West Coast. However, they faced incredible hostility from the local Indian tribes led by Chief Powhatan, a warrior who had great influence over his people. Another challenge faced by colonists included new diseases that killed a good number of colonists. The little medical understanding was not helpful in helping overcome this challenge. However, it was hunger that really forced colonists to think of changing their mission of looking for gold and looking for routes to the west.
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Life was so harsh in Jamestown to the point of authorities censuring colonists’ letters transmitting messages of hardship. In this regard, people in England did not get the true picture on the ground. Those willing to come to Jamestown therefore flocked into the area with little knowledge on what lay ahead for them. The authorities feared that such letters would lead to more investors failing to bring the much needed resources to Jamestown and also that negative news would discourage colonists from coming into Jamestown in the future.
Indeed, the colonists had to develop survival measures before embrking on their original intentions. This led to Captain John Smith influencing his followers to make Jamestown their base, therefore making the voyage a commercial venture. The English Crown, through the London Company was determined to keep looking for gold mining opportunities in the new colonies. Colonists were, however, getting disinterested in gold mining despite the fact that the company was funding this venture. This led to colonists themselves starting to look for commercial interests to establish; tobacco exports into Europe became the most commercially viable activity. Colonists would later start brining slaves who provided labor in Virginia’s expansive tobacco estates.
The British Crown noticed the sudden change of interest among colonists and was quick to provide the much needed support and advice. Among the advice was for colonists to first concentrate on farming food crops for their survival before embarking on other commercial ventures, especially tobacco. However, and this is where economics comes into play, the natives were successful corn farmers, meaning that colonists would export their tobacco and use proceeds to purchase locally produced corn. This trade was a double-success activity for colonists because they were able to get food and develop friendship with the Indian tribes.
Captain John Smith knew that constant interaction with the Indians held the key to peaceful coexistent. However, Chief Powhatan and his people held a lot of distrust for the canny and fast-encroaching colonists. Smith embarked on reducing the distrust by encouraging fellow colonists to continue trading with the Indians, an approach that enticed the chief and his people. In addition, Smith developed a mutual friendship with Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan’s daughter. Smith even underwent a rigorous adoption procedure that had not been done by any outsider before him (Price, 243) Pocahontas would later save Smith from her people on two separate occasions.
Though history books indicate that Poocahontas had a carnal relationship with Captain Smith, later married to colonist – this action enhanced the bond between the two warring groups. It was now clear that colonists were determined to be part of the local community through trade and social interactions. The increased interaction, according to Captain Smith, was good for business and long term solution to hostilities. Unfortunately, he seemed to be a loner in this belief; most colonists were not ready to accept native people as equals. The strong witted Chief Powhatan seemed to have this understanding and thus kept his warriors ready to attack when relations with colonists soured. Colonists, on the other hand, thought all was well and failed to defend themselves properly; one massacre led to over 500 deaths among colonists.
The indications that Captain John Smith was the glue holding the Jamestown community together was noticed with the chaos that erupted when he went back to England for medical reasons. Indeed, the much naive colonists started conflicting with Chief Powhatan and his people. This led to the collapse of corn trade and subsequent starving time for colonists though they had enough resources to buy food. The resulting massacres by the treacherous Indians, all due to lack of wisdom and courage to fight back (Price 214).
Despite these challenges, colonists had so much encroached into the native people’s territory to the point that eliminating or instilling fear could not reverse the population increase that had already reached over 8,000. Furthermore, colonists had great economic muscles over natives given the support from British Crown. Indeed, the colonists used economics to overcome the huge challenge of their survival. The book’s author has done an excellent job of making this illustration, which has made the Jamestown story one of the greatest survival tales in American history. The book is therefore recommended for not just history classes, but also for economics and general enthusiasts of American history.
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