The first successful English colonization of America began with the settlement at Jamestown (so named after King James I) in the region christened ‘Virginia’ by Elizabeth I. The settlers, who searched in vain for gold, initially faced great hardships of famine, disease and conflict with the native tribes. Their breakthrough was tobacco farming, which provided profitable exports and prompted James in 1609 to issue the charters of Virginia, granting territorial rights to the Virginia Company in London. Then in 1624 Virginia became a crown colony. As the tobacco trade prospered, settler immigration and expansion northwards and eastwards steadily rose, and the mass importation of west African slave labourers began. Settler relations with the native tribes were fractious. In 1622, the Powhatan massacred many of the colonists, and three wars ensued, culminating in 1646 in the native Americans signing a treaty of subservience to the English crown. The rival British and French colonists started building strategic fortresses along the Atlantic coast, and in parallel with the Seven Years’ War in Europe, in 1754 conflict broke out between them, each forming alliances with different native tribes. The war ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, which ceded most of the French possessions in America and Canada to the British. King George III then issued a proclamation prohibiting any new settlement west of a line drawn along the Appalachian Mountains, an area thereby designated an ‘Indian Reserve’. This somewhat arbitrary procedure inevitably generated future conflict.
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