What were some of the difficulties encountered by the early Jamestown colony?


Popular history has imbued King James and John Smith with larger than life status for their roles establishing a wilderness settlement in Virginia. In this discussion, we will look more critically at one of them.In preparation for this discussion watch the film Secrets of Jamestown.http://search.alexanderstreet.com.vlib.excelsior.edu/view/work/1785756Discuss some of the difficulties encountered by the early Jamestown colony and how they could have been avoided. How much of the difficulty was lack of preparation and how much was unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances? Even in his own time, John Smith was a controversial figure. Next, discuss whether or not you think he was the right man for the job. Would you have hired him? Use specific examples from the film to support your position.

King James and John Smith have become legendary figures in popular history for their roles in establishing a wilderness settlement in Virginia. However, as with most stories, there is always more to uncover. In this discussion, we will critically examine one of them: John Smith. We will explore his controversial reputation and discuss whether he was the right person for the job. But before diving in, let’s take a look at some of the difficulties encountered by the early Jamestown colony and how they could have been avoided.

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The early Jamestown colony faced numerous challenges, many of which could have been avoided with better preparation and foresight. Harsh weather, disease, and attacks from Native Americans were just a few of the obstacles they encountered. However, it is difficult to determine how much of the difficulties were simply unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances. In order to better understand the situation, it is worth watching the film Secrets of Jamestown, which offers insights into the early days of the colony.

John Smith played a significant role in the establishment of Jamestown, but he was not without controversy. The discussion will examine whether he was the right man for the job, based on specific examples from the film. Participants will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions about the difficulties faced by the early settlers and how they could have been overcome. Ultimately, the goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the early days of Jamestown and the people who helped shape it.


By the end of this discussion, learners will be able to:

1. Evaluate the difficulties encountered by the early Jamestown colony.
2. Analyze the factors responsible for the difficulties faced by the Jamestown colony.
3. Critically assess John Smith’s leadership style and identify his strengths and weaknesses.
4. Justify their opinion on whether John Smith was the right man for the job or not.
5. Apply knowledge from the documentary “Secrets of Jamestown” to support their position.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this discussion, learners will be able to:

1. Identify the challenges that the early Jamestown colony faced during its establishment.
2. Explain the extent to which factors such as lack of preparation contributed to the difficulties encountered by the colony.
3. Analyze John Smith’s contribution to the Jamestown colony and his leadership style.
4. Evaluate Smith’s suitability for the job of leading the Jamestown colony, based on evidence from the documentary.
5. Apply critical thinking skills to support their position on Smith’s suitability for the job.

Solution 1: Improving Preparations for the Early Jamestown Colony

The difficulties encountered by the early Jamestown colony reveal a lack of proper preparations, which ultimately led to their struggles. One major mistake was the decision to settle in a swampy area with poor soil quality and breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying malaria. The colonists also did not bring enough provisions for themselves, as they had to rely on scavenging for food from the local Indigenous population.

To avoid such difficulties, proper planning was essential. The colonists should have conducted thorough research on the area they were settling in, including its climate, soil quality, and available resources. They also needed to bring enough supplies to sustain their population until they could establish a stable food source. Clear communication with the Indigenous peoples would have also been beneficial in avoiding conflicts and securing supplies.

Solution 2: Alternatives to John Smith as the Leader of Jamestown Colony

John Smith’s controversial reputation makes one question whether he was the right man to lead the Jamestown colony. Despite his accomplishments, such as negotiating with the Indigenous population and mapping the Virginia region, his willingness to impose harsh forms of discipline on his fellow colonists indicates he may have been too dictatorial in his leadership style.

An alternative leader for the Jamestown colony could have been someone with communication skills and a willingness to collaborate. For example, Captain Newport, who was the leader before Smith arrived, was known for his ability to build relationships with Indigenous leaders and complete successful trade missions. In contrast to Smith’s military background, Newport’s experience in trade and diplomacy would have been more useful in securing resources and establishing a positive relationship with the Indigenous population.

Suggested Resources/Books:
1. A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America by James Horn
2. Jamestown: The Truth Revealed by William M. Kelso
3. The Jamestown Project by Karen Ordahl Kupperman
4. Jamestown, the Buried Truth by William M. Kelso
5. Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley

Similar Asked Questions:
1. What were the major reasons for the success or failure of early American colonies?
2. How did the geography and climate of early American colonies impact their survival and success?
3. What impact did interactions with Native Americans have on the early American colonies?
4. How did early colonizers navigate the challenges of disease and illness in new territories?
5. What was the role of religion in the establishment and growth of early American colonies?

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