Custom «Why the Roanoke Colony Failed» Essay Paper Sample

Why the Roanoke Colony Failed


The disappearance of the Roanoke Island is a mystery that historians have attempted to investigate for a long period. Historians have suggested various theories in order to explain the disappearance of the people who lived in the Roanoke Island, which is the present day area covered by North Carolina. Initially, the Roanoke Island occupied a portion of the Dare Country in the then Virginia Colony. Presently, the disappearance of the last people to colonize the Roanoke Island is yet to be uncovered. This essay attempts to investigate the various reasons in the quest to explain the failure of the Roanoke Colony.

The paper attempts to outline the four voyages and the colonial attempts on the Island, the ways in which the Indian encounters with the Spanish affected the English-Indian relations, the political alignments of the various tribes in the Roanoke Island and the main players in the Indian country. In addition, the paper highlights the goals of the British people when they came to the Roanoke Island and their attitudes towards the Indians as they interacted with them during the course of their stay.

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The four voyages and colonial attempts on the Island

In order to uncover the mysteries behind the failing Roanoke Colony, it is imperative to investigate the four voyages and the colonial attempts on the island. The first voyage was the English explorers who used to sail in the North American region during the mid 16th century. Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe led the first voyage under the command of Rayleigh. This voyage resulted into massive trade with Indians, and resulted into the British soldiers reporting that the Roanoke Island could be a potential colony for Britain. Sir Richard Grenville led the second voyage comprising of seven ships and more than five hundred soldiers.

The main objective behind the second voyage was to build a British Colony on the Island. The colony failed because the relationship between the colonists and the natives of the Island worsened after the food supplies were exhausted. As a result, the colonists returned to England. During 1585, English colonists moved to the Roanoke Island under the command of Sir Walter Rayleigh and Queen Elizabeth I. The English Colonists renamed the Roanoke Island to Virginia Colony. The colony did not last for a more than a year, resulting to its failure. The failure was associated with lack of supplies from England.

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At the time, England and Spain were competing to determine which country is powerful. In the wake of 1587, John White led the third voyage consisting of 117 colonists. The main objective behind John White's movement to the Island was to attract the English settlers who would in turn invest and stay with their families in the Island. This second colonization attempt failed because John White Returned to England and did not return with supplies in due time to facilitate the survival of the colonists. During the return of John White in 1590, there were no colonists and the only available clue to determine the fate of the settlers was the word "Croatoan" that had been engraved in a tree.  This was later referred to as the Lost Colony. Sir Rayleigh has failed to colonize the island, although he managed to colonize Jamestown in his fourth voyage during 1607.

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How Indian encounters with Spanish affected the English-Indian relations

The Indians encounter with the Spanish played a significant role in impairing the success of the colony. Spain was not in good terms with Britain during the times, their contact with the American Indians on the Island could have a probable cause for tainted relationship between the Indians, and the British especially after the food supplies were exhausted. The Spanish encountered the Indians after the third voyage. With the depletion of food supplies from the British, the Spanish saw this as an opportunity to affect the ways the native Indians related with the British colonists. This saw an initial killing of 15 British colonists by the Native Indians. This could be another possible explanation for failure of the Roanoke colony. With the Anglo-Spanish war that was present at the time, Spain utilized this opportunity to make sure that British colonization into the island was not a success. Their entry into the island after John White had left for Britain to come with food supplies was a turning point for the native Indians in the Island.

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Political alignments of the various tribes in the Roanoke Island

There was diversity in terms of political alignments of the Indian tribes found on the Island. A significant number collaborated with the British settlers with the hope of benefiting from the food supplies while other tribes distanced themselves from the activities of the British colonists. One of the friendly tribes that collaborated with the British colonists is the Croatoan tribe, which is located in the south of the Roanoke Island. Some historians argue that there is a probability of assimilation of the lost colony into the members of this tribe. Although the tribes in the northern part of the island were not concerned with the activities of the British colonists, they did not engage in rebellious movements and actions that aimed at driving the British colonists away.

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The Goals of the English in settling at Roanoke Island

The English had various motives when they explored the Roanoke Island. The first and significant reason for their coming to Roanoke Island was to facilitate trade. This led to their identification of the island as a potential place for setting up a British colony. In their quest to colonize the island, British intended to be the most powerful country in the world at that time, as evident in their competition with France and Spain. Another reason for coming to Roanoke Island was to settle and practice farming, this is evident with the fourth voyage comprising of mainly families as compared to the previous voyages that comprised of sailors and soldiers.

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The attitudes of the British as they interacted with the native Indians

Prior to the lost colony, the British tried to maintain positive relations with Natives since they had a motive of fostering trade with Indians and then finally colonizing the Island. They focused on the Indian tribes that resided in the south because they were friendlier with them compared to the tribes found on the northern part of the Island. Their perceptions towards the native Indians were positive during their stay and this saw the birth of the first English child in the American soil in the Colony of Virginia. Despite an overall good relationship with the native Indians, the four voyages presented different phases of the kind of relationship that existed between the Native Indians and the British colonists.

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They were primarily after trade during the first voyage, with the second and third voyages, the native Indian were mainly after food supplies in order to uphold their relationship with the British colonists. This is evident when there relationship with the British colonists is impaired when the food supplies ran out. The third voyage relationship worsened due to their contact with the Spanish after their leader John White had returned to England during the Anglo-Spanish war. The British tried their best in order to foster good relationships with the native Indians. This is evident through the assistance they offered to the natives in terms of food supplies and the fact that they did not engage the use of ruthless force in colonizing the Roanoke Island.

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