When three ships with colonists arrived on Jamestown Island in 1607, England was not a significant colonial power. King James was not really interested. A group of businessmen, hoping for a quick return on their investment, were able to convince him into giving them a charter, so long as they did not bother him much. They sent a ragged group of men (no women) with much ambition and little practical skill into a humid, mosquito ridden marsh and waited for their profits to appear. The author suggests that without the emergence of John Smith as a leader and the courageous intervention of Pocahontas, the colony would have failed. Despite their help, Smith was later banished from Virginia and Pocahontas was kidnapped and held for ransom by the governor. How this came to be is a fascinating story to which Price adds great detail.
Readers who are more familiar with the story of the Pilgrims settling in Plymouth will note the near lack of idealism and religious motive in the settlement of Jamestown. The Virginia colony was a poorly conceived business venture and the settlers were desperate for profit. Respect for neighbors and indiginous people had no place in their considerations. A lack of forethought and decency led to many deaths in the early years.
Jamestown Island was hit hard by the Hurricane Isabel of 2003. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the National Park Service have had to work quickly to clean up the island and prepare for the 400th anniversary of the colony in 2007. To read about the archeological work on the island go to the APVA website.
Price, David. Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation. New York: Knopf, 2003. ISBN 0375415416