Today We Learn About: “A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia”

By Thomas Harriot.

This article can be read here!

When reading the article it seemed to me that it was intended for use as propaganda. Additionally, I was surprised that Harriot felt it necessary to spell out in such plain language that Virginia did not have all of the same luxuries one would find in England. Lastly, the overwhelming focus on religion in the piece, while not surprising given the time period in question, seems to have a more reassuring purpose than an informational tone.

I feel that this document was a propaganda piece for the new world. Up until this point, the colony of Virginia had undergone some very hard times, and a few failed attempts. Add to this the amount of writings being put forth that characterize the colony as a land of savages where few can survive, and it is easy to see why one might write a document extolling the wonderful virtues of a newly discovered land. This is especially the case when we consider the amount of money that stood to be made in Virginia. What better way to open peoples eyes to the opportunities that exist outside their comfort zone, than to publish in many different languages, a document that states plainly that Virginia has a wonderful climate, plenty of land for the taking, and fertile grounds with which to grow crops.

I found it very interesting that Harriot came out and basically stated to the reader that Virginia was not a land of luxury and comfort, but of opportunity. He states that one will not find the amenities of England on their journeys across this land. It struck me as odd that Harriot would come out and say this, as something like this would seem to be quite obvious. It stands to reason that people did not come to Virginia thinking this would be the case, but rather with ignorance as to exactly what they were getting themselves into. I can understand this point, but I am perplexed as to what exactly people thought would be in Virginia when they left England.

When talk of religion arose in the document, I felt that it was curious how Harriot seemed to be reassuring the reader that there was indeed religion in the new world. We were exposed to the religious lives of those native to Virginia a great deal, almost to say that they too were God-fearing people. I feel that this sentiment suggests that Virginia might have turned off people because of stories they had heard concerning the natives. It is almost as if the people reading this document needed to be reassured that these people did in fact have God in their lives, and this fact added a certain human quality that in many minds was previously absent.

This document made me realize just how cynical and skeptical many Europeans must have been during this period in history. It is easy for me to overlook the fact that I am not in these times, and I do not need to be sold on a new experience as much as prospective colonists. It is also easy to forget that I will not have the opportunity in my lifetime to take a risk as big as sailing for a month across an uncharted sea to a new uncharted land where I know that many who have tried in the past have failed and died. The presentism at play in my own perspective forms a fog that must be waded through before I can really begin to consider the risk at play during colonial times. This document has further exposed to me that one needs to work hard to sell that which no one wants to buy.


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