John Smith led the group that in 1607 founded Jamestown, North America’s first British settlement. With the backing of a group of British investors known as the Virginia Company of London, Smith served as the first governor of this colonial outpost. Most famous for having been supposedly rescued by Pocahontas when threatened by Native inhabitants, Smith made a larger contribution to the settlement of North America in his exploration of the region. While he traveled to map the Chesapeake Bay, the colony, its inhabitants crippled by disease, struggled to survive. By 1610 it was largely abandoned. Smith had been severely burned when his gunpowder bag exploded a year earlier, and he decided to depart for England. He returned in 1614 to explore New England but spent the remainder of his life in England, where he wrote extensively about the New World, focusing especially on its economic potential.


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