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Before Establishing Jamestown

Before Establishing Jamestown
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.06

     challenging words:    exploited, landing, occupation, retreat, highly, therefore, generation, wealthy, generally, possibility, successful, lifestyle, laborer, costly, skilled, costing
     content words:    Western Hemisphere, When Spain, South America, United States, New World, Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Company, Native Americans, Susan Constant, Canary Islands

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Before Establishing Jamestown
By Ann Cherian

1     In 1492 Columbus discovered the Western Hemisphere and claimed it for Spain. Spain explored the new continents, started colonies, and exploited and destroyed the cultures it found there. The Spanish found gold and, as a result, became very wealthy and very powerful. Spain, France, Portugal, and England, as well as other European countries, had been fighting for centuries to determine who was the most powerful. When Spain became rich with gold and other resources from the Americas, the other European countries wanted access to the opportunities in the new land. Spain controlled much of Central and South America as well as colonies in what is now Florida and the western United States. Spain did not want other countries setting up colonies in the New World or becoming wealthy and powerful. Much of the actual fighting about this took place on the Atlantic Ocean. Pirate ships tried to capture the Spanish ships laden with riches. To this day, numerous ships and their priceless cargos are still lost on the ocean floor. The eastern coastal land north of Florida was claimed by England around 1578. It may be that some of the colonies that were started by the English before 1607 were actually attacked and destroyed by Spanish ships because the Spanish saw all settlements in the New World as threats to their empire. Just as much as Spain wanted to keep other countries out of the New World, the other countries wanted to be a part of it.
2     A group of wealthy men in London, England, put their money together and started the Virginia Company. They sponsored the group that came to Jamestown. As the ships arrived in the New World, they were looking for a place that would have a good climate and be in a location that could be defended if Spanish ships tried to attack them. As men began making a settlement, they were concerned about attack from the Spanish and from the Native Americans. One thing they were not too concerned about was food. They assumed the Native Americans would trade food for items they brought from England such as knives, mirrors, metal implements, glass beads, and colorful cloth. Native Americans did not have metal. Metal was stronger than the bone or stone they used as weapons and tools, and they were happy to get iron and copper implements as an improvement to their lifestyle. The Native Americans were highly skilled in hunting animals and growing food. Therefore, they had a ready supply of food to trade with the English if the Native Americans wanted to trade with them.
3     At that time in England, a man generally followed the same occupation that his father had. Generation after generation were carpenters or goldsmiths. Others were farmers, and each depended on the other. Therefore, carpenters possibly did not know how to grow crops, nor did they know how to hunt. A carpenter knew how to work with and build things with wood. The money he made would be spent buying or trading for the food and clothing he needed. When the Virginia Company sent craftsmen on the three ships to Jamestown, they did not send farmers since they were expecting to either trade for food or get supply ships from England. The men included in the expedition were only a few carpenters, bricklayers, laborers, and soldiers and many, many gentlemen and officials. Most of these men came because they wanted to find gold or, at least, obtain some land. Work in England had become very scarce and the possibility of a better life in the New World, even with all of its risks, was enough to attract those Englishmen who had nothing and no hope of ever having anything. It was this type of man that signed up with the Virginia Company of London to be a laborer in the new settlement.

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