The Tudor and Stuart port
|Trade and expansion in the 17th century|
In December 1606, three small ships - the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery - sailed from Blackwall with the backing of a Company of Merchant Adventurers. They founded the state of Virginia in North America.
That was 14 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set out from Plymouth. Here is a photograph of a replica of one of the ships, the Godspeed.
At this time, the life expectancy of settlers in the Americas was only two years.
Life was almost impossible for the merchant adventurers because of:
The Virginia Company
Virginia has a warm, fertile climate, perfect for growing tobacco. Sir Francis Drake (1540-96) introduced the tobacco leaf to England in 1585 and smoking became popular in England, especially among the wealthier classes.
By the 1640s the English colonists in Virginia dominated the Atlantic tobacco trade. They were sending huge quantities to London.
The Hudson's Bay Company
Charles II realised that important results would follow from this first expedition. He sealed the Charter of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. The flag alongside carries the company's coat-of-arms.
Prince Rupert - first Governor
The company was to prove valuable to the commerce of London and it played an important role in the extension of the British Empire.
The area the company controlled was known as Rupert's Land. It comprised nearly 40 per cent of modern Canada.
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