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Rethinking Jamestown

America's first permanent colonists have long been considered lazy and incompetent. But new evidence suggests that it was a prolonged drought—not indolence—that almost did them in

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“Were there gentlemen at Jamestown?” says Kelso. “Of course. And some of them were lazy and incompetent. But not all. The proof of the matter is that the settlement survived, and it survived because people persisted and sacrificed.” And what began as an English settlement gradually evolved into something different, something new. “You look up and down the river as the settlement expanded and you find it is not like England. The houses are different—the towns, the agriculture, the commerce. They were really laying the roots of American society.” Despite the agony, the tragedy, and all of the missteps, says Kelso, “this is where modern America began.”

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