College of Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)
Samuel C. Smith
Jamestown, Powhatan, Opechancanough, Wahunsonacock, John Smith, Christopher Newport, Pocahontas, Powhatans, Roanoke, Don Luis, English, Charter, William Strachey, Starving Time, James Fort, Trade
Anthropology | History
Hewitt, Brandon J., "Tsenacommacah’s Role in the Survival of Jamestown" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4437.
How was a small, unprepared, sick group of 105 English settlers in 1607 able to settle squarely in the middle of a native confederacy whose numbers surpassed 15,000 individuals? This work will attempt to answer this question. At the same time, it will explain how a small group of Englishmen could quickly expand and become the first thriving English colony in North America despite being in the middle of Tsenacommacah, home of the Chesapeake Algonquian chiefdom. This research will place the focus on the Powhatan chief's decision-making processes regarding economics and politics as the reasons the English were able to survive and eventually thrive, instead of the plethora of past historiography, which argued the Anglo-Powhatan wars of 1609, 1622, and 1644 were the reason the English were able to settle and maintain a colony in the Tsenacommacah region throughout Chesapeake Virginia. Previous research on this topic has suggested that the reason the Algonquian-speaking natives of the Chesapeake allowed Captain Smith and Captain Newport's band of settlers to stay in the region was out of curiosity. This theory will be challenged by arguing that the Powhatans allowed the English to stay because of their centuries-old indigenous policies and practices that they used with early European English explorers before Captain Newport arrived in 1607.