John Cabot, the Italian mariner sailing for Henry VII, established the English claim to much of North America by his voyages of 1497 and 1498; whether he actually sighted Virginia is not known.
The voyage of Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 established the French claim to the area. The first known European settlement in Virginia was erected by Spanish missionaries in 1570; it lasted only weeks before being destroyed by Native American attacks.
In 1584, the first effort by the English to establish a permanent colony was made at Roanoke Island, which was then considered to be part of Virginia (but later would be North Carolina).
Following economic woes and renewed hostility with the Native Americans, the Virginia settlement was made a royal colony in 1624. During the 1650s, when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector in England, royal authority lapsed in Virginia. This accorded the colonists additional opportunity to govern their own affairs. Most Virginians remained supporters of the monarchy, however, and the colony welcomed fleeing Cavaliers, supporters of the future king - Charles II.
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Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia by Kathleen M. Brown.
Kathleen Brown examines the origins of racism and slavery in British North America from the perspective of gender. Both a basic social relationship an...