Remarkably little has been written of the early attempts by the English to colonize America between 1497 and 1630. During a period of little more than 100 years, and at the time when Spain and Portugal were attempting to colonize South America, English ships were taking the first colonists to the North American East Coast and setting up the bridgeheads through which increasing numbers of colonists would come to eventually spread across what was to become the United States and Canada.
NAME: Invading America, The English Assault on the New World 1497-1630
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: David Childs
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: exploration, colonization, Cabot, Frobisher, Gilbert, Barlowe, Amadas, Grenville, Cavendish, Drake, Raleigh, Virginia and East India Company, piracy, settlement
DESCRIPTION: Remarkably little has been written of the early attempts by the English to colonize America between 1497 and 1630. During a period of little more than 100 years, and at the time when Spain and Portugal were attempting to colonize South America, English ships were taking the first colonists to the North American East Coast and setting up the bridgeheads through which increasing numbers of colonists would come to eventually spread across what was to become the United States and Canada. The author has faithfully set out the events that constituted English settlements in America. The story contrasts with the Spanish and Portuguese activities where these countries were following a Papal grant to convert the heathen and exploit the potential riches of the New World. Their expeditions were well-funded and directly backed and underwritten by their Governments at home, carrying priests to make South America Roman Catholic. The English attempts were very different, being driven by merchant adventurers and persecuted non-conformist religious sects. The result was that the early colonists arrived with limited resources and were left largely to their own devices. Their initial relationship with the aboriginal peoples was not directed by aims of conquest and was generally pacific. Where the local population objected to their land being taken over, the colonists had the advantage of superior weapons, but most of the deaths they caused were a result of their introduction of new illness that the local population had no resistance to. The ships available were small and few in number. The author has reviewed the marine technology available and illustrated this with details and images of modern reconstructions of vessels of the period. Whether by intention or expediency, the English adventurers and colonists tried to take significant tribal figures by invitation or abduction to be educated and returned to provide liaison with their own people. This was not entirely successful but it did allow the colonists to enjoy a more productive and largely peaceful relationship that was to continue in what became Canada, while the United States embarked on a program of genocide with the US Army providing the firepower to protect isolated colonists as the immigrant population expanded across the continent. The Tudor and early Stuart periods saw the English Monarchs happy to take profits from expeditions, but make little contribution beyond the granting of monopolies. Many of the sea captains led a dual life of piracy and trade and the colonists included some with military experience but no formal army. The result was that life was very hard and some colonies failed. Those that survived did so with difficulty. As they became more firmly established, they encouraged new waves of colonists, increasing the number of ship passages between England and North America. This flow of ships and colonists increased as the Anglican Church persecuted the non-conformist and puritan sects that were becoming more common in England. The fact that many early colonists were refugees, and North America lacked the wealthy aboriginal societies of South America, meant trans Atlantic trade was different. Where the Spanish collected a fleet together each year to transport the gold and wealth of the societies they were exterminating, the English colonists sent back agricultural and hunting produce in the form mainly of animal furs and tobacco crops. The ships then returned with manufactured goods to aid the development of agriculture. In addition to establishing fortified settlements and agriculture, the colonists also developed shipyards to build vessels for coastal and riverine requirements, which established a path to self sufficiency. This is a fascinating account of a very important stage in colonial development, told well, and supported by a large number of illustrations in the form of maps, engravings, sketches and photographs. The author has also cast light on a period that has received little previous coverage by either English or American authors and publishers. The relative lack of coverage is partly due to the lack of documentation by the early colonists and partly by the very considerable coverage of the expansion westward by the United States in the Nineteenth Century.