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Primary Sources - Workshop in American History The Virginia Companyhomesitemap
Introduction -Link Before You Watch - link Lectures and Activities - Link Classroom and Applications

Workshop 1
Classroom Applications

Reflect on how you teach the Virginia Company's Jamestown settlement in your classroom. How would you teach it differently with primary sources?

Now consider these lesson ideas contributed by Primary Sources teachers:

Image of Larry David

Summits on Virginia Colony
Contributed by Larry David


To prepare for the lesson, I gave students selected readings for homework. The readings dealt with immediate issues for the settlers, such as their relations with the Native Americans, "starving times," and supplies. It made for a pleasant first day of class to hear them groan when they got all the readings, which included:

• 

John Pory's Description of the Possibilities for Advancement

• 

The "Starving Time," 1609-1610

• 

Map of Virginia 1607-1624

• 

Instructions from the London Company to the First Settlers

• 

George Percy's account

• 

Some Contemporary Explanations for Virginia's Early Failures

• 

Sir Thomas Dale's Plan

• 

The Second Charter of Virginia (Students were advised to skim it, but to make note of who was sent.)

• 

The Tobacco Trade Statistics

I divided the students into pairs. Half of the pairs were the settlers, and the other half were representatives of the Virginia Company. Each pair discussed the readings and prepared for a summit on Virginia. They had to write down what they wanted to get from the other side and what they were willing to give up.

For the summit, each pair of settlers was grouped with a pair of Virginia Company representatives, so there were several summits occurring at the same time. As each group held their summit, their task was to write down the issues they discussed and what they decided in the end.

There were a variety of results. Some groups were too peaceable and gave up too much; some groups argued and would not compromise enough; and others reached fair agreements. Overall, the students were able to get an understanding of some of the difficulties and economic issues that the Virginia Company settlers faced.

Image of Sandra Stuppard

Colonists' Early Relationship with the Native Americans
Contributed by Sandra Stuppard

This lesson focused on the early experiences of the Virginia Colony settlers, particularly their relationship with the Native Americans. Before the lesson, students read relevant documents, including:

• 

Supplies the Colonists Took to Virginia

• 

The "Starving Time," 1609-1610

• 

Some Contemporary Explanations for Virginia's Early Failures


We then had a class discussion, focusing on the following questions:


• 

What did the colonists bring with them from England?

• 

What does the list of supplies say about what was important to them?

• 

How did they react to their new environment?

• 

Were they prepared for the conditions in Virginia?

• 

Were their supplies useful?

Next, we discussed the relationship between the Virginia colonists and the Native Americans. I wanted to dispel the widely held belief that the Europeans landed on this continent and immediately began to dominate the Native Americans. The readings were intended to show that the colonists were not prepared for what they would be up against in Virginia and that the Native Americans were actually the more powerful force, giving the new colonists the information they would need to survive.

Next, I began a discussion about the materials that were traded between the Native Americans and the settlers initially, and how the traded materials changed over time. This change of materials was an indication of the change of power between the Native Americans and the colonists in Virginia. Eventually, the colonists became more powerful.


Image of Tamara Berman

Indentured Servants in Jamestown
Contributed by Tamara Berman


Although Professor Maier does not discuss the introduction of slaves into the Jamestown colony, the slaves' relationship to the colonists and to indentured servants is an interesting historical development.

In 1619, just as tobacco was first successfully sold and exported, 20 African men were brought to Jamestown, purchased as indentured servants from a passing Dutch ship. The Africans were paid for with food. At the same time, 90 English women were purchased with 120 pounds of tobacco apiece and sold to the colonists as wives. Even though the Africans were labeled "indentured servants," race would soon play a major role in their new lives.

Have the class explore the resources and read journals of indentured servants in Jamestown at the Virtual Jamestown Web site:
http://www.virtualjamestown.org/page2.html

Questions for class discussion:

1. 

What were the economic incentives for indentured servants?

2. 

What would it be like to transition from one country and profession to a new land as a servant?

3. 

What role did race play in the Jamestown colony?

4. 

Based on how they were treated, what did the Africans have in common with the Native Americans?

5. 

Based on what you know of slavery in general, compare and contrast the life of a slave with that of an indentured servant.

6. 

Why do you suppose indentured servitude didn't last?

7. 

How else might the Virginia Company have secured laborers?

8. 

How would Jamestown have been different, socially and economically, if there were more free men?

Next, divide the class into four groups:

1. 

Male settlers

2. 

African servants

3. 

European servants

4. 

Women purchased as wives

Have each group meet separately to discuss the following points:

1. 

Where they stand in the social order/power structure in Jamestown.

2. 

What their economic/social prospects are 10 years down the road.

3. 

Whether or not the condition of being purchased bound purchased women and African and European servants in any way, or if it made them more likely to fight and attempt to divide themselves along race and gender lines.

Finally, bring the class together to compare and debate these points as a whole. Members of each group can take turns speaking, or each group can assign a representative for the debate.


Image of Yvonne Powell

"History should tell us something that helps us, both as adults and as young people, to take actions to change the world in which we live. And learning that perspective... is very valuable to me in terms of helping students to be aware of the complexity of the peoples that we make heroes of, as well as those who are infamous in our lives."
— Yvonne Powell

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