To what extent was the winter of 1609 at Jamestown aptly named “the starving time?” 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This period was very aptly named. 439 of the 500 colonists perished during this period, which lasted into 1610. The colony almost certainly would have been lost if not for the timely arrival of Lord De La Warr (who actually intercepted the colonists attempting to leave) with supplies and a new cohort of settlers. The "starving time" was the result of a number of factors, the most important being the breakdown in trade relations with the neighboring Powhatan. Additionally, the summer of 1609 saw a particularly severe drought that limited agricultural production, and the settlement itself struggled to find clean drinking water, often resorting to drinking the filthy, brackish river water that ran alongside the settlement. In addition, a supply fleet bound for the colony in 1609 was damaged and dispersed by storms. Some historians, and certainly popular memory, have argued that the terrible period was a result of the absence of a strong leader in John Smith, who had to return to England due to a severe injury. Smith himself did much to advance this view.


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