Before sending a group to colonize Roanoke and its environs, Raleigh wanted to reconnoiter the region. In 1584 he sent Barlowe, along with Philip Amadas, to explore the region and report back on its potential as a colony. The fleet consisted of two ships (names unknown), Amadas's flagship and Barlowe's smaller pinnace, and it left the West of England on April 27, arrived in America on July 2, and explored the area of the present-day Outer Banks for about two months. Then the pinnace returned to England with two Indians, Manteo and Wanchese, who became linguistic informants for Hariot, who learned from them the Algonquian language. The flagship under Amadas's command explored further up the North American coast before heading to Bermuda and then to the Azores to hunt privateering plunder.
One of the report's primary strategies was to create a positive image of Virginia in the English mind to support Raleigh's future colonies. Barlowe accomplished this goal by idealizing the region. For instance, he presents a garden metaphor early in the narrative that colors the rest of the report. Barlowe writes that the English found shoal water near Virginia that "smelled so sweet, and so strong a smell, as if we had been in the midst of some delicate garden abounding with all kinds of odoriferous flowers." The garden motif draws on one of the most powerful images in the Renaissance imagination, the Garden of Eden, a reference Barlowe highlights later in the report when he writes that "The earth brings forth all things in abundance, as in the first creation, without toil or labor." Barlowe emphasized this abundance by using the word "abundance" four times in the report. He presents further evidence of the land's richness and Edenic qualities by pointing out that the natives raised an amazing three crops of corn during the growing season. He claims that English plants could also be cultivated in Virginia as proven by his experiment with English peas which grew fourteen inches within ten days of planting.
Barlowe also idealized the Indians, emphasizing their kindness to the English and their generosity as trading partners. He describes them as a people "most gentle, loving and faithful, voide of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age." They were also ideal trading partners who would exchange their natural commodities for English finished goods at exorbitant rates.
As to the report's weaknesses, Barlowe's claims about Virginia proved too rosy. The region was abundant with commodities, but these commodities required considerable infrastructure to exploit; and the Virginia Indians were friendly to a small exploratory force from England, but did not find a large colony of permanent invaders appealing. The failures of Raleigh's two colonies in 1585 and 1587 were in part the result of Barlowe's extravagant promises.
- "The first voyage made to the coastes of America, with two barkes, wherein were Captaines Master Philip Amadas, and Master Arthur Barlowe, who discovered part of the Countrey, now called Virginia, Anno 1584," in Principall Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation (Richard Hakluyt the younger, 1589)
1550 - Around this year, Arthur Barlowe is born.
Mid-August 1584 - The English exploration party led by Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe sails for England, taking along two high-ranking Algonquian Indians, Wanchese and Manteo.
1589 - Arthur Barlowe's report of an English reconnaissance voyage to America is published in Richard Hakluyt's Principall Navigations with the title "The first voyage made to the coasts of America, with two barks, where in were Captaines M. Philip Amadas, and M. Arthur Barlowe, who discovered part of the Countrey now called Virginia, Anno 1584."
1620 - Around this year, Arthur Barlowe dies.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Moran, M. G. Arthur Barlowe (ca. 1550–ca. 1620). (2014, July 19). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Barlowe_Arthur_ca_1550-ca_1620.
- MLA Citation:
Moran, Michael G. "Arthur Barlowe (ca. 1550–ca. 1620)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Jul. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: March 31, 2011 | Last modified: July 19, 2014
Contributed by Michael G. Moran, a professor of English at the University of Georgia.