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Identifying the importance of the charters of the Virginia Company of London in establishing the Jamestown settlement.



  • Tell students that the King of England had the power to grant charters allowing settlement in North America.

  • Explain that the King of England granted charters to the Virginia Company of London. The charters gave the Virginia Company the right to establish a settlement in North America. The first charter of the Virginia Company of London established companies to begin colonies in the New World. The charters extended English rights to the colonists.

  • Select a group of students to hold a sign that says Virginia Company of London. On the opposite side of the room, have one or two students hold a map of Virginia. In another section of the class, have one student portray the king by wearing a paper crown and holding a poster that looks like a charter. Set the scene by reading the following scenario:
    • Groups of businessmen who live in England are trying to increase their wealth. They are all members of the Virginia Company of London. They have decided that Virginia is a good place to locate an English colony, because they suspect that there is gold and/or silver there. They also hope to find natural resources that could be used to produce products for new markets for English trade. The businessmen will not travel themselves, but need to find men who will travel. They also need to provide ships and supplies for the journey and settlement. They also need permission from King James, and so they present their case. King James grants a charter allowing them to proceed.

  • Have a group of students become the Company of London. Information about the Charters of Virginia is available at http://www.jamestowne.org/royal-charters.html. The student playing King James can read the first charter of Virginia.

  • Review the reasons for the colonization and settlement in Virginia. Discuss the importance of the Virginia charters with the class. Stress how Jamestown was an economic venture. Share samples of the charters from Virginia: “The History and Culture of a Commonwealth” from The Library of Virginia. Charters are available at the following Web address: http://www.learner.org/channel/workshops/primarysources.

  • See the first seal of Virginia at the following Web site: http://www.apva.org/history/vaco.html.

  • Explain to students that the Virginia Company was a joint-stock company, which sold shares. All who purchased shares at a cost of £12 10s shared in the success or failure of the venture. The Virginia Company was formed both to bring profit to its shareholders and to establish an English colony in the New World. The Company, under the direction of its treasurer Sir Thomas Smith, was instructed to colonize land between the 34th and 41st northern parallel.

  • Tell the students that in 1609, the Virginia Company received its Second Charter, which allowed the Company to choose its new governor from amongst its shareholders. Investment boomed as the Company launched an intensive recruitment campaign. Over 600 colonists set sail for Virginia between March 1608 and March 1609.

  • Explain that a third charter provided a short-term resolution to the Virginia Company's problems. The Company was permitted to run a lottery as a fundraising venture. Other attractive features of the charter allowed Virginia's assembly to act as the colony's legislature and also added 300 leagues of ocean to the colony's holdings, which would include Bermuda as part of Virginia. It was the third charter that extended English rights to the colonists.


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Updated on August 11, 2008.