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Christopher Columbus might not have found mainland North America when he sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but he did set in motion the events of the next 300 years, especially in what would become the United States of America. By setting foot in the Caribbean Sea, he began an era of European colonization of the New World that no one ever expected. The Western Hemisphere was open for business, and European states could not wait to explore these foreign lands.
Exploring new lands meant encountering indigenous people with which they could not interact. In some cases, the natives and the colonists found common ground and a way to live in harmony. In others, as is the case of Hernan Cortes, the Europeans came and wrecked havoc, wiping out entire civilizations. Clashes between the natives and the conquerors would continue for hundreds of years.
At the beginning of this colonization period, the Spanish and the Portuguese were the biggest players in the New World. By the turn of the turn of the century into the 1600s, the English decided to join the game. They saw the massive wealth accumulated that they had collected and wanted a piece of the action. In 1606, King James I set up the Charter of the Virginia Company of London, a common stock company with the goal of setting up colonies in North America. The London Company, according to the charter, owned land which would become the southern part of the East Coast for exploration and colonization. It was financed by wealthy Englishmen, looking for a cut of whatever was found in the Americas.
On April 26, 1607, the London Company first reached North America. Eventually, they would set up the first permanent colony in modern day America in Jamestown (Virginia). The colony would not make it to its 100th birthday before dissolving. A recent discovery has given scientists a look into Jamestown like never before.