Florida in August… Disneyland and beaches, hurricanes and alligators.
The principal characters of The Lost Colony outdoor drama from the 2008 production Image credit: Walter Gresham & The Roanoke Island Historical Association, producers of The Lost Colony
Florida’s Museum of Natural History in Gainesville
After all, one of the thought-provoking sections in the Sir Walter Ralegh Room at Fairlynch Museum, seen above, is a collection of Native Americans’ stone tools. On loan from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, these very special artefacts date from the time of English explorers’ encounters with the New World and its peoples.
And many East Budleigh residents are convinced that this bench end in All Saints’ Church depicts exactly one of the original inhabitants of the New World, with what they believe is his feathered head-dress. Others believe differently, as you can read at http://budleighbrewsterunited.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/red-man-or-green-man.html
Panel from Gainesville Florida Natural History Museum showing hostile Calusa tribesmen greeting the arrival of Spanish galleons
Panel from Gainesville Florida Natural History Museum showing a Jesuit priest attempting to convert a Calusa tribesman to Christianity
I wondered whether the relationship between English settlers and New World tribes further north in Virginia had been any happier. In 1584 Queen Elizabeth had granted Letters Patent to ‘our trusty and well beloved servant Walter Ralegh Esquire (...) to discover, search, find out and view such remote, heathen and barbarous lands, countries and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian prince, nor inhabited by Christian people.’
In spite of the failure of the 1587 Roanoke Lost Colony, it’s clear that the royal approval and Raleigh’s efforts prove, as North Carolina historian David Stick put it, that ‘the history of English-speaking America began four hundred years ago, not at Jamestown or Plymouth Rock, as so many are led to believe, but at Roanoke Island.’
Raleigh himself was apparently keen that his English settlers should differ from the brutal modes of colonisation favoured by earlier generations. Contrary to what many believe, he never set foot in North America, apart from a brief stopover in Newfoundland on the way back to England. But he did lead two expeditions to Guiana in South America, in 1595 and 1618.
In his Discoverie of the large, rich and beautiful Empire of Guiana, published a year after the first of the two visits, he condemned the Spanish for their treatment of the native population, claiming that they ‘took the wives and daughters and used them for the satisfying of their own lusts, especially such as they took in this manner by strength.’
The English were blameless in this respect, he asserted. ‘I protest before the majesty of the living God, that I neither know nor believe, that any of our company, by violence or otherwise, ever knew any of their women, and yet we saw many hundreds, and had many in our power, and of those very young, and excellently favoured, which came among us without deceit stark naked.’
The monument commemorating the Smerwick Harbour massacre at the Field of the Heads (Gort na gCrann) near Dun an Oir. It reminds us of the massacre of around 600 Irish, Spanish and Italian men and women by English troops commanded by Lord Grey of Wilton in 1580, in which Raleigh played a prominent role. It is said that the victims were decapitated and their heads buried here. The monument dates from 1980; the seaward side bears a cross and a Gaelic inscription 'igcuimhne dhun an oir samhain 1580'
Two Indian warriors, an engraving from Theodor de Bry's Grand Voyages, printed in 1590
Thomas Harriot’s achievements as a scientist have only recently been acknowledged. A plaque, unveiled by Lord Egremont, shown above, was erected in July 2009 in the grounds of Syon House, West London. This was the home of Raleigh’s friend Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland – known during his time as ‘The Wizard Earl’ – who later became Harriot’s patron. The plaque commemorates the 400th anniversary of Harriot's drawings of the moon using a telescope. This is generally considered to be the first astronomical use of the telescope. Photo credit: Brendan Blake An annual Thomas Harriot Lecture has been give at Oriel College, Oxford, since 1990. See
On the other hand it’s a commonplace that the New World came to represent for Renaissance colonialists a nostalgic idealized view of how the Old World may once have been.
At the Gainesville museum this image of Native Americans with the burnt-out interior of a tree trunk to illustrate how Florida’s Calusa tribe made boats seemed familiar. The caption described it as a scene from Virginia: it is in fact one of the illustrations from Harriot’s book.
Virginea Pars map, drawn by John White during his initial visit in 1585. Roanoke is the small pink island in the middle right of the map.
Dancing Secotan Indians.
Ceremony of Secotan warriors
‘The town of Pomeoc and some of their houses’
‘A cheife Herowans wyfe of Pomeoc and her daughter of the age of 8 or 10 years’
The title page of the Latin version of Harriot’s account of Virginia published by Theodor de Bry in 1590. It acknowledges both the author and Raleigh himself as responsible for organizing the expedition.
Governor John White and his men discover in 1590 the word CROATOAN carved on a tree - the only trace of the 1597 colony of 115 settlers which included White's granddaughter (19th century illustration)
An admirer of Raleigh: Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of King James I c. 1610 by Robert Peake the Elder
A plaque to commemorate the first Indigenous person, Manteo, who was converted to Christianity at the Roanoke Colony. Image credit: Sarah Stierch
A model in Gainesville Florida Natural History Museum showing Calusa fishing
Panel from Gainesville Florida Natural History Museum showing Seminole and Miccosukee language and legends
Panel from Gainesville Florida Natural History Museum showing Seminole and Miccosukee medicine
Panel from Gainesville Florida Natural History Museum showing Seminole and Miccosukee traditional costumes
Image credit: Clément Bardot
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