25 March 1584

Sir Walter Raleigh is granted permission to colonize Virginia.

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In 1584 Queen Elizabeth I of England gave Sir Walter Raleigh permission to set up the first English colony in North America. Queen Elizabeth told Raleigh that he could have all the land in eastern North America north of Florida. Raleigh named this land Virginia. Raleigh sent settlers to establish a colony on Roanoke Island, now a part of North Carolina, two times–in 1585 and in 1587. However, both attempts failed.

England wanted a colony in North America so that Spain and France would not gain control of the entire continent. England also hoped to increase its wealth by finding gold, silver, and other riches in North America. An American settlement would furnish raw materials that could not be grown or obtained in England, while opening new markets for trade. A raw material is any resource that can be used to make a product.

England’s attempt to establish a colony stopped for a while. By the early 1600s England was again ready to try to establish a colony in Virginia. In 1606 a group of business-people in England formed the Virginia Company of London. They hoped to make money. To get enough money to buy supplies and ships, these business-people sold stock, or shares of ownership, in the company. People who bought the stock would share any money the company made. King James I granted the Virginia Company of London a charter to build a settlement in Virginia. A charter is a document giving a person or a group of people permission to take a certain action. In the charter, the king promised that settlers in Virginia would have the same legal rights in England.