Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




David A. Brown

Committee Members

Laurie J. Wolf

Kyrill M. Kunakhovich


The Starving Time is a fascinating period in American history, and the subject of substantial research for over a century. This paper closely examines twenty-four scholarly works that attempt to understand this period and place it in its proper context. The widespread fascination with the Starving Time stems from Jamestown’s importance in the history of the United States as the first permanent English settlement in America. Upon first glance, famine is not something that is usually associated with success, though. So it is intriguing that many Americans accept that the early years of what would become the United States were unstable and that desperate settlers resorted to eating each other in order to survive. Cannibalism and “the birthplace of Democracy” seem at odds with one another, since the Indians were seen as the “savages,” not the English colonists. While historians agree on the basic facts of the Starving Time, its main cause remains disputed. Significant influences on these interpretations are the life experiences of the historians, projecting their feelings and emotions on the past and, thus, changing the story. Scholars were influenced by contemporary events, advances in technology, and global trends, forming ideological groups and reflecting the tenor of their times on this field of scholarship, particularly near the 350th and 400th anniversaries of Jamestown’s establishment, when public demand for new interpretations of Jamestown was at its highest.

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