“Went to build castles in the aire:” colonial failure in the Anglo-North Atlantic World, 1570-1640

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
James Walter Findley Jr. (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Phyllis Hunter

Abstract: This study examines the early phases of Anglo-North American colonization from 1570 to 1640 by employing the lenses of imagination and failure. I argue that English colonial projectors envisioned a North America that existed primarily in their minds – a place filled with marketable and profitable commodities waiting to be extracted. I historicize the imagined profitability of commodities like fish and sassafras, and use the extreme example of the unicorn to highlight and contextualize the unlimited potential that America held in the minds of early-modern projectors. My research on colonial failure encompasses the failure of not just physical colonies, but also the failure to pursue profitable commodities, and the failure to develop successful theories of colonization. After roughly seventy years of experience in America, Anglo projectors reevaluated their modus operandi by studying and drawing lessons from past colonial failure. Projectors learned slowly and marginally, and in some cases, did not seem to learn anything at all. However, the lack of learning the right lessons did not diminish the importance of this early phase of colonization. By exploring the variety, impracticability, and failure of plans for early settlement, this study investigates the persistent search for usefulness of America by Anglo colonial projectors in the face of high rate of colonial failures, and how the autoptic evidence gained from failure shaped their evolving theories of colonization.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Colonial Failure, English Colonies, Failed Colonies, Sagadahoc, Sassafras, Unicorns
North America $x History $y Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
North America $x Discovery and exploration $x British
Great Britain $x Colonies $z America $x History $y 16th century
Great Britain $x Colonies $z America $x History $y 17th century
Colonists $z North America $x Attitudes
Geographical perception $z North America
Sassafras albidum

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