Biographical and historical context

Luisa Te
Note by Luisa Te, updated more than 1 year ago
Luisa Te
Created by Luisa Te about 4 years ago


Resumen de los principales eventos relatados en cuanto a la vida de John Smith.

Resource summary

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How it all came to be...

Author of the first English work written in America: A true Relation of Such Ocurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Happened in Virginia (1608). Not intended for publication: It was a letter to a friend, written while he was in Virginia. This was the first of a series of books in which he chronicled the early days of the English Colonization in America. He stood in the tradition of the Elizabethan voyagers whose works were very popular in Europe. Born into a farmer´s family in Willoughby (Lincolnshire).Start of his military career: at the age of sixteen, after his father´s death, he went to the Netherlands as a volunteer to fight for the independence of the Dutch against the troops of King Philip II. We know this because of his own lively accounts, whose authenticity many critics doubt. According to his autobiographical work entitled The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captain John Smith, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (1630): 1600 he joined the Austrian army against the Turks, and was promoted to captain while fighting in Hungary. He was wounded in battle and sold as a slave to a Turk. He managed to escape and returned to transylvania. 1604-1605, on his return to England, he became involved with the Virginia Company, a joint stock corporation charged by King James I with the settlement of Virginia.1606 he sailed with the Virginia Company´s first colonists as one of the seven councillors who were to govern the colony due to his rich experience and strong character. The main goal of the company was commercial, not religious: they wanted to accumulate wealth for their colonial investors in London through the discovery of gold and copper. They sailed in three ships and it took them 3 months to arrive.1607 they landed on Jamestown.From the start, Captain Smith had serious conflicts with his fellow travellers --he was placed under arrest and threatened with execution while on the ship. However:1608 he was finally elected president of the council, a position equivalent of that to the colony´s governor.

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Life in the colonies and return to England

Extremely difficult for the settlers: Lack of supplies Harsh weather conditions Disagreements over policy Illness Resistance by the native people Captain Smith fought the indigenous population, but sometimes he also had to negotiate for food with them. He reported that: In the course of his explorations he was captured by the Chesapeake Bay Indians and held prisoner for six or seven weeks by Powhatan, the chief of a confederacy of tribes. He was released in friendship and returned to Jamestown, guided by Powhatan´s men. He governed the colony until 1609, when he had to return to England for treatment when he was seriously burned in a gunpowder explosion.In London, he tried to promote the further colonization of Virginia but was unable to go back because the Virginia Company no longer supported him.he crossed the Atlantic again to explore the Maine and Massachusetts Bay areas, which he named New England, with the approval of the Prince of Wales, who would become King Charles.As Captain Smith was denied other opportunities to return to the colonies... he spent the rest of his life writing books through which he tried to encourage colonization with vivid descriptions of the riches of the New World and the beauties of the wilderness.The colonists who would later settle Plymouth (1620) and Massachusetts Bay (1630) Profited from Smith´s maps and reports.

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Pocahontas didn´t save his life...¿or did she?

The veracity of the famous episode in which Pocahontas supposedly saved the Captain´s life is still in dispute because: he invariably omitted the incident in earlier versions of his captivity narrative (her courageous intervention is not mentioned in his first book, published in 1608 NOR in the detailed text printed with his Map of Virginia in 1612).Pocahontas emerges as Smith´s saviour in a letter to Queen Anne (June 1616) in which the author simply mentions her risking her life to save his. IT WAS NOT UNTIL 1624, seven years after Pocahonta´s death in England in 1617, that Smith publicized a thrilling account which was suspiciously similar to another rescue by an Indian princess described in a Spanish work that he might have read in those years. Since Powhatan had also died in 1618, there was no one to contradict the author. Smith may have borrowed or invented the episode for its melodramatic effect, taking advantage of the fame of Powhatan´s daughter in London society at a time when the English had to justify war on Powhatan´s nation. The national myth of Pocahontas was created relying basically on an account Smith published seventeen years after the actual events, in his General History of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (1624), where he often mixed fact and fiction.We will read some extracts from this work, his most famous and substantial one, published in six books, with four engraved maps, a portrait of Pocahontas and some poems.

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