Title page for ETD etd-03202010-123211

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Sparacio, Matthew John
Author's Email Address sparacio@vt.edu
URN etd-03202010-123211
Title The Devil in Virginia: Fear in Colonial Jamestown, 1607-1622
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shifflett, Crandall A. Committee Chair
Ekirch, A. Roger Committee Member
Shadle, Brett L. Committee Member
  • Early Modern England; Colonial Virginia; Jamestown
Date of Defense 2010-03-16
Availability unrestricted
This study examines the role of emotions – specifically fear – in the development

and early stages of settlement at Jamestown. More so than any other factor, the

Protestant belief system transplanted by the first settlers to Virginia helps explain the

hardships the English encountered in the New World, as well as influencing English

perceptions of self and other. Out of this transplanted Protestantism emerged a

discourse of fear that revolved around the agency of the Devil in the temporal world.

Reformed beliefs of the Devil identified domestic English Catholics and English imperial

rivals from Iberia as agents of the diabolical. These fears travelled to Virginia, where the

English quickly ʻsatanizedʼ another group, the Virginia Algonquians, based upon

misperceptions of native religious and cultural practices. I argue that English belief in

the diabolic nature of the Native Americans played a significant role during the “starving

time” winter of 1609-1610. In addition to the acknowledged agency of the Devil,

Reformed belief recognized the existence of providential actions based upon continued

adherence to the Englishʼs nationally perceived covenant with the Almighty. Efforts to

maintain Godʼs favor resulted in a reformation of manners jump-started by Sir Thomas

Daleʼs Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, and English tribulations in Virginia – such as

Opechancanoughʼs 1622 attack upon the settlement – served as concrete evidence of

Godʼs displeasure to English observers. A religiously infused discourse of fear shaped

the first two decades of the Jamestown settlement.

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