Number of locations
The London Company (also called the Virginia Company of London) was an
The territory granted to the London Company included the eastern coast of America from the
The London Company made landfall on 26 April 1607, at the southern edge of the mouth of the
The London Company struggled financially, especially with labour shortages in its Virginia colony. Its profits improved after sweeter strains of
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In Renaissance England, wealthy merchants were eager to find investment opportunities, so they established a number of companies to trade in various parts of the world. Each company was made up of individuals who purchased shares of company stock. The Crown granted a charter to each company with a monopoly to explore, settle, or trade with a particular region of the world. Profits were shared among the investors according to the amount of stock that each owned. More than 6,300 Englishmen invested in joint stock companies between 1585 and 1630, trading in Russia, Turkey, Africa, the East Indies, the Mediterranean, and North America.
Investors in the
The first leader of the Virginia Company in England was its treasurer, Sir
In an extensive publicity campaign, Wingfield, Gosnold and a few others, circulated pamphlets, plays, sermons and broadsides throughout England to raise interest in New World investments. Shareholders could buy stock individually or in groups. Almost 1,700 people purchased shares, including men of different occupations and classes, wealthy women, and representatives of institutions such as trade guilds, towns and cities. Investors, called "adventurers", purchased shares of stock to help finance the costs of establishing overseas settlements. Money from the sale of stock was used to pay for ships and supplies and to recruit and outfit laborers. A single share of stock in the Virginia Company cost 12 pounds 10 shillings, the equivalent of more than six months' wages for an ordinary working man.
The largest single investor was
The business of the company was the settlement of the Virginia colony, supported by a labour force of voluntary transportees under the customary
In December 1606,
In addition to survival, the early colonists were expected to make a profit for the owners of the Virginia Company. Although the settlers were disappointed that gold did not wash up on the beach and gems did not grow in the trees, they realised there was great potential for wealth of other kinds in their new home. Early industries, such as glass manufacture, pitch and tar production for naval stores, and beer and wine making took advantage of natural resources and the land's fertility. From the outset settlers thought that the abundance of timber would be the primary leg of the economy, as Britain's forests had long been felled. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of cheap American timber was to be the primary enabler of England's (and then Britain's) rise to maritime (merchant and naval) supremacy. However, the settlers could not devote as much time as the Virginia Company would have liked to developing commodity products for export. They were too busy trying to survive.
Within the three-sided fort erected on the banks of the James, the settlers quickly discovered that they were, first and foremost, employees of the Virginia Company of London, following instructions of the men appointed by the Company to rule them. In exchange, the laborers were armed, and received clothes and food from the common store. After seven years, they were to receive land of their own. The gentlemen, who provided their own armor and weapons, were to be paid in land, dividends or additional shares of stock.
Initially, the colonists were governed by a president and seven-member council selected by the King. Leadership problems quickly erupted. Jamestown's first two leaders coped with varying degrees of success with sickness, assaults by Native Americans, poor food and water supplies, and class strife. Many colonists were ill-prepared to carve out a new settlement on a frontier. When
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
The survivors of Jamestown were taken aboard the Deliverance and the Patience, and the colony was abandoned. Gates intended to transport all the settlers back to England, but the fortuitous arrival of another relief fleet, bearing
After 1620, with growing demand for tobacco on the continent, the Company arranged to sell Virginia tobacco in the Netherlands, but the next year and despite company pleas to maintain the privilege of freedom of trade, the Privy Council forbade the export of any product of Virginia to a foreign country until the commodities had been landed in England, and English duties had been paid. By 1621, the Company was in trouble; unpaid dividends and increased use of lotteries had made future investors wary. The Company debt was now over £9,000. Worried Virginians were hardly reassured by the advice of pragmatic Treasurer Sandys, who warned that the Company "cannot wish you to rely on anything but yourselves." In March 1622, the Company's and the colony's situation went from dire to disastrous when, during the
When the Crown and company officials proposed a fourth charter, severely reducing the Company's ability to make decisions in the governing of Virginia, subscribers rejected it. King James I forthwith changed the status of Virginia in 1624, taking control of it as a
Bermuda had been separated from the Virginia Company in 1614, when the Crown briefly took over its administration. In 1615, the shareholders of the Virginia Company created a new company, the