- By the sixteenth century, many countries, including Spain, France and the Netherlands, had established colonies in the New World. Until the foundation of Jamestown, however, the English didn’t have any successful permanent colonies in North America.
- Prior to Jamestown, Sir Walter Raleigh of the Sea Dogs formed a joint stock company and received a charter to found a colony on Roanoke Island in 1584. It failed, and he tried again in 1585 and 1587. Both were failures, and the fate of the 1587 colony remains a mystery (all colonists disappeared).
- Anyhow, several factors encouraged the English to try again with Jamestown even after their earlier failures, and motivated people to join the expeditions. These reasons include…
“Overcrowding” – England had experienced a dramatic population boom, resulting in social and economic upheaval (inflation, falling wages, peasants losing their land b/c of the enclosure movement, many homeless people, rapidly growing cities).
Competition – The English government was concerned about losing ground in the competition with the Spanish for overall power and with the Dutch for trading. Since they had colonies, it was only natural that England would want them as well.
Religion – This applies more to the prospective colonists than to the government. Anyhow, after Henry VIII split from the church in 1533, he established the Anglican Church, which was subsequently taken over by Queen Elizabeth, who swung it more towards the Protestant side. This led to the formation of many English Calvinist [Puritan] groups, who felt that reform should go further. But under the Stuarts [the absolutists], the church went back towards Catholicism w/o the Pope, and many of the Puritans were forced to flee in the 1620s to avoid persecution.