Detail of an engraving by Theodor De Bry (printed 1590) based on a watercolor by John White depicting a “Weroan” or great chief of an American Indian tribe of the Mid-Atlantic region.
Credit: Image courtesy of: Virtual Jamestown.
I have thought that I could find no better occasion to declare it, than taking the pains to cut in copper (the most diligently and well that was in my possible to do) the Figures which do lovely represent the form and manner of the Inhabitants of the same country with their ceremonies, solemne feasts, and the manner and situation of their Towns, or Villages. Adding unto every figure a brief declaration of the same, to that end that every man could the better understand that which is in lively represented."
(From a 1590 letter from Theodor de Bry to Sir Walter Raleigh—A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, on the EDSITEment-reviewed site, Virtual Jamestown—to explain his engravings and the accompanying text by Thomas Harriot about early English encounters with the natives of North America.)
How did the English picture the native peoples of America during the early phases of colonization of North America? Where did these conceptions come from and how accurate were they? How much influence did they have on the subsequent development of relations between the two groups?
In addition, how do you get people to move to a faraway, largely unknown, and potentially dangerous locale? What are the instruments of encouragement and motivation that one might provide? This was the challenge facing the supporters of the English effort to colonize Virginia at the start of the 17th century.
In this lesson, students will analyze the visual and literary visions of the New World that were created in England at this time, and the impact they had on the development of the patterns of colonization that dominated the early 17th century.
This lesson will enable students to interact with written and visual accounts of this critical formative period at the end of the 16th century, when the English view of the New World was being formulated, with consequences that we are still seeing today.
After completing this lesson, students will
Before the English began their successful colonization of Virginia in 1607, they had formed ideas and expectations about what and whom they would find. These conceptions—and misconceptions—were shaped by reports from late 16th century attempts at colonization that ultimately proved unsuccessful.
Several influential figures such as Richard Hakluyt gathered information and published compilations of accounts to promote exploration and colonization in an effort to attract important men as investors and settlers. Some of the most important visual and literary images about the New World were contained in Thomas Harriot's A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. The publication first appeared in 1588 to keep interest alive in the colony and was then reprinted in a more substantial edition in 1590, accompanied by Theodor de Bry's engravings of John White's paintings. The artist accompanied Harriot who was sent by Sir Walter Raleigh on a trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks in 1585. These conceptions helped spur the planning for and ultimate execution of the colonial adventure by portraying the Indians as the perfect subjects for conversion: unaware of the benefits of Christianity and other European "advantages" but perhaps open to them, living in a well-organized society, albeit one quite different from that of 16th century England. What distinguished Harriot's account was his "scientist's eye," for he produced what scholars such as the historian Karen Kupperman have called the most accurate depiction of Native Americans and the environment from the entire colonial era.
Two decades later and after the founding of Jamestown, one of its leaders, John Smith, returned to England and began a new career as a promoter of colonization. He had been removed as leader of the colony by the Virginia Company and wanted to explain his significant role in the early perilous days of Jamestown. He also wanted to convince the Virginia Company and other doubtful parties that the colony would succeed. He reworked his original 1608 map of Virginia that he had composed from his own travels in the Chesapeake along with Indian sources. In 1612 he added details of the landscape, waterways, animals and plants to garner support for the colony, but also to explain the possibilities for investors and colonists. A Map of Virginia: With a Description of the Countrey, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion was published in 1612 and appeared in works by Smith and other promoters of English colonization in the seventeenth century.
While we don't know how many people read or saw these accounts, they were important. Certainly policy makers, investors, and prospective colonists took note. The "New World" entered into Europeans' consciousness in a variety of ways—by detailed narratives of exploration, by publicists' colonization pamphlets, by vivid engravings of the native inhabitants, and by cartographic representations. The creation and transmission of these cultural texts—in word and image— provide a context in which historical events and processes took place.
Both Americans and English thus came to the founding of Jamestown with some knowledge and some assumptions about the other. The English had been taught to think of the Americans as accomplished people living in highly developed societies. It was the Indians' accomplishments that made colonization feasible in English eyes. They knew they would rely on native crops for their food and they hoped for native products to be obtained in trade to pay their costs. Moreover, the advanced nature of Indian societies was the best indicator of the land's potential. Had the people on it been very primitive, that would have meant the land was poor. Powhatan and his Pamunkeys saw the new English settlement as an opportunity, one that they could exploit skillfully.
—Karen Kupperman, "Indians and English Meet on the James," from EDSITEment resource Virtual Jamestown.
The Europeans' first encounters with the land and its peoples powerfully shaped their views of the New World. While some of the Europeans' expectations and impressions proved false or inaccurate, others were eerily prophetic of future relations between Native Americans and European colonizers.
The following materials from EDSITEment resources will be useful to teachers for this lesson on envisioning colonization:
Teachers might also find the following books useful:
Images and text for Activity one are available in student LaunchPads.
Download or bookmark the following links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Students can access the primary source material in this lesson via LaunchPads and PDF files:
From Virtual Jamestown download or bookmark the following:
Download or bookmark the following links from EDSITEment reviewed websites:
For classes that need guidance in working with online primary documents, you may want to use the National Archives' document analysis worksheet that prompts students to seek important information in the primary source and consider questions of audience, motivation, etc.
See also the EDSITEment Reference Shelf for additional information on working with primary sources in the classroom.
What did the arriving Europeans think of the people they encountered? The following activities will help students begin to formulate ideas about this key issue in early colonization. Students will examine online primary source materials to create their own "exhibition" of commentaries on the images and texts they read.
Students can access this activity (beginning with step 3) through LaunchPads.
1. For student homework assign: The First English Colony in Roanoke on EDSITEment-reviewed National Parks Service website. Ask students to consider the following questions.
2. In class, read over with the students the background material on Thomas Harriot, Trumpter of Roanoke which is a good general summary of his efforts. They might also want to learn about Sir Walter Raleigh, a leading force behind this expedition.
To model image and text analysis, the teacher and students should analyze the following section of Harriot's introduction and the image, Indian Man and Woman Eating. [See Sample Annotations of document in a PDF].
3. Ask students to consider the following questions:
The treatise whereof for your more readie view & easier understanding I will divide into three speciall parts. In the first I will make declaration of such commodities there alreadie found or to be raised, which will not onely serve the ordinary turnes of you which are and shall bee the planters and inhabitants, but such an overplus sufficiently to bee yelded, or by men of skill to bee provided, as by way of trafficke and exchaunge with our owne nation of England, will enrich your selves the providers; those that shal deal with you; the enterprisers in general; and greatly profit our owne countrey men, to supply them with most things which heretofore they have bene faine to provide either of strangers or of our enemies: which commodities for distinction sake, I call Merchantable.
In the second, I will set downe all the comodities which wee know the countrey by our experience doeth yeld of it selfe for victuall, and sustenance of mans life; such as is usually fed upon by the inhabitants of the countrey, as also by us during the time we were there.
In the last part I will make mention generally of such other commodities besides, as I am able to remember, and as I shall thinke behooffull for those that shall inhabite, and plant there to knowe of; which specially concerne building, as also some other necessary uses: with a briefe description of the nature and maners of the people of the countrey.
IMAGE: Indian Man and Woman Eating
Modeling image interpretation:
4. Creating an Exhibition.
Have students examine these seven John White watercolors and the accompanying text by Harriot. (This can be done by splitting the class into groups, and having each group do a specific watercolor, or students can do all of them, over a longer period of time.) The images and texts are available in student LaunchPads. In each set, students are to do the following activities:
After each group has completed this exercise, all images and captions can be combined into a classroom "exhibition."
Set A: Student LaunchPad
They are a people clothed with loose mantles made of Deere skins, & aprons of the same rounde about their middles; all els naked; of such a difference of statures only as wee in England; having no edge tooles or weapons of yron or steele to offend us withall, neither know they how to make any: those weapons that they have, are onlie bowes made of Witch hazle, & arrowes of reeds; flat edged truncheons also of wood about a yard long, neither have they any thing to defend themselves but targets made of barcks; and some armours made of stickes wickered together with thread.
Set B: Student LaunchPad
Their townes are but small, & neere the sea coast but few, some containing but 10 or 12 houses: some 20. the greatest that we have seene have bene but of 30 houses: if they be walled it is only done with barks of trees made fast to stakes, or els with poles onely fixed upright and close one by another.
Their houses are made of small poles made fast at the tops in rounde forme after the maner as is used in many arbories in our gardens of England, in most townes covered with barkes, and in some with artificiall mattes made of long rushes; from the tops of the houses downe to the ground. The length of them is commonly double to the breadth, in some places they are but 12 and 16 yardes long, and in other some wee have seene of foure and twentie.
In some places of the countrey one onely towne belongeth to the government of a Wiróans or chiefe Lorde ; in other some two or three, in some sixe, eight, & more; the greatest Wiroans that yet we had dealing with had but eighteene townes in his governmet, and able to make not above seven or eight hundred fighting men at the most: The language of every government is different from any other, and the farther they are distant the greater is the difference.
Set C:Student LaunchPad
Some religion they have alreadie, which although it be farre from the truth, yet beyng as it is, there is hope it may bee the easier and sooner reformed. They beleeve that there are many Gods which they call Montóac, but of different sortes and degrees; one onely chiefe and great God, which hath bene from all eternitie. Who as they affirme when hee purposed to make the worlde, made first other goddes of a principall order to bee as meanes and instruments to bee used in the creation and government to follow; and after the Sunne, Moone, and Starres, as pettie goddes and the instruments of the other order more principall. First they say were made waters, out of which by the gods was made all diversitie of creatures that are visible or invisible.
Set D: Student LaunchPad
For the confirmation of this opinion, they tolde mee two stories of two men who had been lately dead and revived againe, the one happened but few yeres before our comming in the countrey of a wicked man which having beene dead and buried, the next day the earth of the grave beeing seen to move, was taken up againe ; Who made declaration where his soule had beene, that is to saie very neer entring into Popogusso, had not one of the gods saved him & gave him leave to returne againe, and teach his friends what they should doe to avoid that terrible place of torment.
The other happened in the same yeere we were there, but in a towne that was threescore miles from us, and it was tolde mee for straunge newes that one beeing dead, buried and taken up againe as the first, shewed that although his bodie had lien dead in the grave, yet his soule was alive, and had travailed farre in a long broade waie, on both sides whereof grewe most delicate and pleasaunt trees, bearing more rare and excellent fruites then ever hee had seene before or was able to expresse, and at length came to most brave and faire houses, neere which hee met his father, that had beene dead before, who gave him great charge to goe backe againe and shew his friendes what good they were to doe to enjoy the pleasures of that place, which when he had done he should after come againe.
Set E: Student LaunchPad
For foure monethes of the yeere, February, March, Aprill and May, there are plentie of Sturgeons: And also in the same monethes of Herrings, some of the ordinary bignesse as ours in England, but the most part farre greater, of eighteene, twentie inches, and some two foote in length and better; both these kindes of fishe in those monethes are most plentifull, and in best season which wee founde to bee most delicate and pleasaunt meate.
There are also Troutes, Porpoises, Rayes, Oldwives, Mullets, Plaice, and very many other sortes of excellent good fish, which we have taken & eaten, whose names I know not but in the countrey language; wee have of twelve sorts more the pictures as they were drawn in the countrey with their names. The inhabitants use to take then two maner of wayes, the one is by a kind of wear made of reedes which in that countrey are very strong. The other way which is more strange, is with poles made sharpe at one ende, by shooting them into the fish after the maner as Irishmen cast dartes ; either as they are rowing in their boates or els as they are wading in the shallowes for the purpose.
There are also in many places plentie of these kindes which follow.
Sea crabbes , such as we have in England.
Oystres , some very great, and some small; some rounde and some of a long shape: They are founde both in salt water and brackish, and those that we had out of salt water are far better than the other as in our owne countrey.
Also Muscles, Scalopes, Periwinkles, and Creuises.
Seekanauk, a kinde of crustie shell fishe which is good meate, about a foote in breadth, having a crustie tayle, many legges like a crab; and her eyes in her backe. They are founde in shallowes of salt waters; and sometime on the shoare.
There are many Tortoyses both of lande and sea kinde, their backes & bellies are shelled very thicke ; their head, feete, and taile, which are in appearance, seeme ougly as though they were membres of a serpent or venemous: but notwithstanding they are very good meate, as also their egges. Some have bene founde of a yard in bredth and better.
And thus have I made relation of all sortes of victuall that we fed upon for the time we were in Virginia, as also the inhabitants themselves, as farre foorth as I knowe and can remember or that are specially worthy to bee remembred.
Set F: Student LaunchPad
All the aforesaid commodities for victuall are set or sowed, sometimes in groundes apart and severally by themselves; but for the most part together in one ground mixtly : the manner thereof with the dressing and preparing of the ground, because I will note unto you the fertilitie of the soile ; I thinke good briefly to describe.
The ground they never fatten with mucke, dounge or any other thing; neither plow nor digge it as we in England, but onely prepare it in sort as followeth. A fewe daies before they sowe or set, the men with wooden instruments, made almost in forme of mattockes or hoes with long handles; the women with short peckers or parers, because they use them sitting, of a foote long and about five inches in breadth: doe onely breake the upper part of the ground to rayse up the weedes, grasse, & old stubbes of corne stalkes with their rootes. The which after a day or twoes drying in the Sunne, being scrapte up into many small heapes, to save them labour for carrying them away; they burne into ashes. (And whereas some may thinke that they use the ashes for to better the grounde ; I say that then they woulde eyther disperse the ashes abroade; which wee observed they doe not, except the heapes bee too great: or els would take speciall care to set their corne where the ashes lie, which also wee finde they are carelesse of.) And this is all the husbanding of their ground that they use.
Then their setting or sowing is after this maner. First for their corne, beginning in one corner of the plot, with a pecker they make a hole, wherein they put foure graines with that care they touch not one another, (about an inch asunder) and cover them with the moulde againe: and so through out the whole plot, making such holes and using them after such maner: but with this regard that they bee made in rankes, every ranke differing from other halfe a fadome or a yarde, and the holes also in every ranke, as much. By this meanes there is a yarde spare ground betwene every hole: where according to discretion here and there, they set as many Beanes and Peaze: in divers places also among the seedes of Macocqwer, Melden and Planta Solis.
The ground being thus set according to the rate by us experimented, an English Acre conteining fourtie pearches in length, and foure in breadth, doeth there yeeld in croppe or of-come of corne, beanes, and peaze, at the least two hundred London bushelles: besides the Macocqwer, Melden, and Planta Solis: When as in England fourtie bushelles of our wheate yeelded out of such an acre is thought to be much.
5. When students have completed the activity, they should answer these general questions about their image:
An alternative approach would be:
(The advantage of this alternative is that students get to read Harriot's captions with the images)
Go to the link: First Hand Accounts of Virginia, 1575–1705. Scroll down about half the page, to "THE TRUE PICTURES AND FASHIONS OF THE PEOPLE IN THAT PARTE OF AMERICA NOW CALLED VIRGINIA, DISCOVURED BY ENGLISHMEN," which is the later version of Harriot's book including De Bry's engravings and long captions by Harriot. Students should examine pictures XII-XXII, all of which provide good insights into the natives' lives and Harriot's reaction to them.
For each image and caption, students should do the following activities:
When students have completed the activity, they should answer these general questions about their "exhibition":
What did the English learn from Harriot's words and the images that accompanied them? Did they have any impact on the subsequent founding of Jamestown?
Students will examine John Smith's 1608 map and first-hand accounts to understand how the English conceived of the area, its inhabitants, their lives, and the encounter. They can also read a biography of John Smith. The teacher can also share the paragraph on Smith in the Background Information for Teachers.
Students should examine both the original and the modified map closely, writing down ALL visual clues, including images, and information. What do they tell us about Smith's view of this new world? On a separate paper, they should write brief descriptions of what they see, as well as explanations for WHY these images and symbols are on the map.
Students may read "Cartographic Practices" to get a better sense of map-making in this time period. Clicking on the hyperlink to John Smith within the article on "Cartographic Practices" will provide a pop-up version of Smith's map. Clicking on any section of the map will link to an article related to that symbol. As part of this exercise, students should use the links from the pop-up to examine the map more closely and should read at least one of the scholarly accounts that discuss the different aspects of the map.
If time permits, students could compare their ideas about the different elements of the map with those of the scholars.
As an alternative, students could go to Smith's map, without reading the annotations, and try to figure out why these elements were included:
1. Students should examine first-hand accounts found in colonists' letters and other documents, to see how they explained their encounter with the new world and its inhabitants:
For each document, students should annotate THREE (3) key issues that are raised by the author about the encounter/experiences. The teacher may want to model this activity before the students begin.
Students should consider these questions as they read the account:
Finally, to learn what life really was like for indentured servants, they should read this selection of an account by Richard Frethorne: The Experiences of an Indentured Servant 1623 at EDSITEment's History Matters.
Students should consider these questions and issues as they read the account:
Ask students to put themselves in the place of a person in England in 1590. They have just read Harriot's book. They must write a letter to a friend, who has not seen it, describing to them:
Students should write their own "first-hand" account of the early days in Jamestown. Using as much evidence from the documents and map, they will write a letter, in the style of the ones they have read, explaining their views of how the colony is progressing. They can choose a persona such as a leader of the settlement, common colonists, soldier, indentured servant, as well as male or female. That perspective should dictate, at least in part, how they see the enterprise and what they decide to include in their account. The students should also give some thought to whom they are writing: family members, possible patrons, or potential settlers.
1) Students could research the downward spiral of relations between the English colonists and the Powhatan in Virginia, juxtaposing some of Harriot's and other earlier settlers' positive accounts with what subsequently transpired. See the following websites for possible resources:
2) Students could examine many of the other documents on Virtual Jamestown to study other aspects of the colony and its development.
3) You could work with the poses of the Indians in the White and de Bry mages which all come out of European art. A discussion could be set up using a comparison with a sculpture of Greek antiquity, or, say, Hans Holbein's "The Ambassadors" of 1533. Talk about "American antiquity," about exchange with ambassadors of another race, and overall preconceptions.
4) A deeper examination of indentured servitude could be undertaken using Virtual Jamestown and the following websites:
2-3 class periods