Before the Pilgrims, English settlers tried to put down New World roots in the sandy soil of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The greed, murder and betrayal behind the legend are revealed, including the leadership qualities of Captain John Smith.
Jamestown was a settlement in the Colony of Virginia. Established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 14, 1607, it was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States, following several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It would serve as capital of the colony for 83 years (from 1616 until 1699).
The settlement was located within the territory of a political entity known as Tsenacommacah, the state of the Powhatan Confederacy, with around 14,000 native inhabitants, and specifically was in part of the subdivision known as the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially gave the English a lavish welcome, and provided crucial provisions and support for the survival of the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined, although relations with the newcomers also soured fairly early on, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within 3 years.
Within a year of Jamestown's founding, the Virginia Company brought Polish and Dutch colonists to help improve the settlement. In 1619, the first documented Africans were brought to Jamestown, though the modern conception of slavery in the future United States did not begin in Virginia until 1660. When the colony was subdivided into the original eight shires of Virginia in 1634, the town became located in the eponymous James City Shire.
The London Company's second settlement, Bermuda, claims to be the site of the oldest town in the English New World, as St. George's, Bermuda was officially established (as New London) in 1612, whereas James Fort, in Virginia, was not to be converted into James towne until 1619, and further did not survive into the present day. In 1699, the capital was relocated from Jamestown to what is today Williamsburg, after which Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, existing today only as an archaeological site.
Today, Jamestown is one of three locations comprising the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown, with two primary heritage sites. Historic Jamestowne, the archaeological site on Jamestown Island, is a cooperative effort by Jamestown National Historic Site (part of Colonial National Historical Park), and Preservation Virginia. The Jamestown Settlement, a living history interpretive site, is operated by the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation in conjunction with the Commonwealth of Virginia.