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Why Did So Many Colonists Die in Jamestown?

Essay by   •  November 3, 2011  •  Essay  •  764 Words (4 Pages)  •  4,671 Views

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When Great Britain finally arrived in the New World, the settlers established Jamestown, a small settlement of 104 men and 39 crew members which rested on an island on the James River. Yet, despite Great Britain's power, the colony still almost failed. A great number of colonists died in Jamestown because of bad location, famine, and conflicts with Native Americans.

Even in the 1600s, Oceanside land was the most valuable. Since the settlers needed access to the ocean so an escape could be possible in case of an attack, the island of Jamestown was perfect. That is, it was perfect in theory. The lack of drinking water, excess of mosquitoes, and bad soil would soon lead to the colonists' deaths. One of the problems that the New World inhabitants had with the land was that all of the nearby water was brackish water, a mix of salt water and freshwater. This became a problem because it dehydrated the people of Jamestown and caused sickness and eventually death. The surviving settlers did dig wells to bring freshwater to the surface, but these were made relatively useless by droughts and salt water intrusion. This bad water was also made worse by the colonists' waste, which would fester in the river instead of flowing out to sea (Doc A). All of the brackish water created another problem as well. The area that the people of Jamestown chose to settle in was extremely swampy, which produced a great home for insects. One of these groups of insects were mosquitoes. These mosquitoes spread malaria, a disease which causes fever, chills, headaches, sweats, fatigue, nausea, and occasionally death. But aside from the bad water and diseases, there was still one large problem with the area of Jamestown. There was little game to hunt and little good soil to plant with. The colonists soon hunted what little game was there and that became the last of their food source.

Undoubtedly, the lack of game and soil attributed to something else too: Famine. But the settlers were also to blame for this. Most were too lazy to do any sort of farming or hunting, so crops were simply nonexistent. The lack of farming, reliance on supply ships, and bad trade with the Powhatans were all major accomplices for the famine of the Jamestown people. Because these people did not farm, no food was produced. After hunting all the nearby game, there was no sustenance left. This is when deaths began from starvation. One hope was left, though. The colonists were to receive supply ships which were supposed to help save the people of the colony. The only problem was that when the ships brought over food goods, more colonists were also brought. This only increased the starvation in the colony. Turning to the Native Americans did not help. Trade with the Powhatans was difficult and often fairly unsuccessful. Therefore, the people of Jamestown could find no significant way to save themselves from starvation and death.

Of course, there was more

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