Episode 079: James Horn, What is a Historic Source?


Historians research the past through historical sources.

But what are the materials that tell historians about past peoples, places, and events?

Today, James Horn, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, helps us investigate historical sources by taking us on an exploration of historic Jamestown and the types of sources that inform what we know about it.

About the Series

Doing History episodes will introduce you to historians who will tell you what they know about the past and reveal how they came to their knowledge.

Each episode will air on the last Tuesday of each month in 2016.

This series is part of a partnership between Ben Franklin’s World and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

James Horn, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation

In this episode, we investigate historic sources and the history of Jamestown with James Horn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation.

During our exploration, Jim reveals why the Virginia Company established Jamestown and the interactions its early settlers had with Native Americans; The world Pocahontas lived in; And, what historical sources are and how historians determine the credibility, or authenticity, of the information they contain.

What You’ll Discover

  • Spanish control of the Atlantic World during the sixteenth century
  • Why England wanted a colony in North America
  • Why the English settled in the Chesapeake region
  • The first English settlers
  • James Fort and its appearance
  • Native American peoples who lived around Jamestown
  • Native American-English interactions
  • Whether the settlement almost failed
  • Historic sources and what they tell us about Jamestown and the past
  • How historians determine the credibility of historical sources
  • How the work of archaeologists informs the work of historians
  • How the work of historians informs the work of archaeologists
  • Pocahontas
  • What archaeological sources tell us about the world Pocahontas lived in
  • How archaeological sources compliment and challenge written historical sources
  • Oral traditions as historical sources
  • Historic Jamestown Archaearium
  • Religion in Jamestown
Virginia Map ca 1606
Map of Virginia, ca. 1606


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion what might have happened if in 1994, William Kelso and his archaeological team had not discovered the original James Fort on Jamestown Island? How would what we know about Jamestown and its history be altered if we did not have the nearly two million artifacts archaeologists have unearthed from that site?

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