Episode 355: Misha Ewen, The Virginia Venture

On April 10th, 1606, King James I granted the Virginia Company of London a charter. Just over a year later, on May 14, 1607, this privately-funded, joint-stock company established the first, permanent English colony in North America at Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia.

What work did the Virginia Company have to do to establish this colony? How much money did it have to raise, and from whom did it raise this money, to support its colonial venture?

Misha Ewen, a Lecturer in early modern history at the University of Bristol and author of The Virginia Venture: American Colonization and English Society, 1580-1660, joins us to discuss the early history of the Virginia Company and its early investors.

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.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

Misha Ewen, a Lecturer in early modern history at the University of Bristol, joins us to discuss the creation and operation of the Virginia Company with details from her book, The Virginia Venture: American Colonization and English Society, 1580-1660.

During our investigation, Misha reveals details about the Virginia Company and why England had to depend on trading companies, like the Virginia Company, to launch its early programs of colonization; The plans and work the Virginia Company undertook to ensure it could establish a viable colony; and, information about the Virginia Company’s investors and why they may have chosen to support the company and England’s colonial ambitions.

What You’ll Discover

  • Early Sixteenth-Century English efforts at global expansion
  • Why the English wanted to establish a colony in North America
  • England’s dependence on the nobility and merchants to finance North American colonization
  • The creation of the Virginia Company in 1606
  • Who invested in the Virginia Company and why it wasn’t considered a risky investment
  • The uniqueness of the Virginia Company as an investment opportunity
  • Early Virginia Company marketing strategies
  • The spread of Christianity and profit as mutual goals of the Virginia Company
  • How and why Jamestown was selected by the Virginia Company as its first North American colony
  • What early colonists had to do to get Jamestown up and running
  • The women who invested in the Virginia Company
  • The role that family and community played in decisions to invest in the Virginia Company
  • The significance of women as investors for the Virginia Company
  • How early modern lotteries worked and how the Virginia Company used these lotteries for fundraising
  • The significance of ordinary people in the success of the Virginia Company

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In your opinion, what might have happened if the English crown had found a way to finance its colonization in North America and the Caribbean on its own? How might the trajectory and success of the Colony of Virginia have been different if the Virginia Company had never existed?

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