The Virginia Venture is an innovative exploration of how a wider public of women, children, and men across English society contributed to the foundation of the first permanent English colony in America: Jamestown, Virginia. Drawing on sources from dozens of archives in the United States and England, it provides a fresh perspective on how capital and labor were mobilized to help build the colony—not from the perspective of elite investors alone, but from the point of view of ordinary people across the country. Women and the laboring poor have been overlooked in these efforts: The Virginia Venture brings them center stage.
As well as exploring how society at home supported colonization, the book examines the impact that colonization had on English society, including changes in attitudes and behaviors—from the provision of poor relief to domestic tobacco cultivation. The book shows that as English society became more tightly invested in colonization in America, this sparked contestations over the prioritization of “English” and “American” interests. English social history in the seventeenth century cannot be understood without this imperial perspective.
The Virginia Venture is essential reading for scholars of English social and imperial history and early American history. It draws on the methods of transatlantic history, showing the intimate connections between England and America, but it is deeply rooted in the social history archive of England. It demonstrates how English archives can be used, to their fullest extent, to illuminate this crucial period of American history.