Thomas Hariot's A Briefe Report and the Drama of Colonization: A Fantasy Theme Analysis

Michael G. Moran

University of Georgia


William E. Rivers's bibliography of research in the history of technical communication suggests the growing importance of historical research in the related areas of technical, scientific, and business communication. Work in the English Renaissance has been particularly vital, but it has been largely limited to three genres: the development of business correspondence, focusing in particular on the rise of the business letter (Dickson; Hildebrandt; Locker; and Tebeaux [1992]); growth of how-to book that arose in early Renaissance England (Tebeaux, The Emergence of a Tradition); and the communication strategies of various early scientists, with Bacon receiving the most attention (see, for instance, Zappen [1975, 1977]; Cogan; and Rathjen).

While this body of work is impressive, it has not given a full picture of the numerous roles that technical and commercial communication played in Renaissance England. One important genre that has received scant attention is the Renaissance commercial report that was central to the expansion of English trade and colonization during the period. Richard Hakluyt the Younger collected many of these reports in his Principall Navigations, the second edition (1598-1600) of which contains a million and a half words (Beeching 9). The reports, consisting of ships' logs, navigational instructions, commercial evaluations, economic intelligence, and technical descriptions of foreign lands and peoples, were designed both to record the results of voyages of trade and colonization and to encourage such activities by English merchants and adventurers. Many of the reports therefore have the dual purpose of recording English commercial activities and persuading their audiences of sea captains, merchants, potential colonizers, and government officials to participate in the continued development of England's commercial expansion. Penguin Classics has produced a useful abridgement of Hakluyt's mammoth work under the title Voyages and Discoveries, edited by Jack Beeching.

Among the earliest examples of English commercial communication produced with first-hand, systematic knowledge about any region in North America are the three major reports written by explorers and colonists sent in the 1580's by Sir Walter Raleigh to settle the area now known as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In 1584 Raleigh received from Queen Elizabeth a letter of patent to settle any region of North America not inhabited by a Christian prince, and Raleigh immediately sponsored a reconnaissance voyage to the Outer Banks under the command of Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas to explore the region. This expedition stayed for about five months. It contacted the Roanoke Indians there, and conducted a superficial economic survey. Barlowe, a member of Raleigh's household, wrote a short narrative report of the findings, concluding that the land was rich and the Roanokes were friendly and anxious to trade for English finished goods. Soon after the expedition's return to England, Raleigh dispatched his first real colony in 1585 under the leadership of one of his distant relations, Sir Richard Grenville. Upon making land on the Outer Banks, Grenville explored parts of the region and then returned home, leaving the colony of 107 Englishmen, mostly soldiers, under the command of Governor Ralph Lane. This colony remained almost a year and produced two conflicting reports. In his Discourse, which served as an apologia to justify his own failed governorship (see Moran, "Lane's"), Lane concluded that little of value existed in Virginia itself. This conclusion, which brought into doubt the commercial potential of Raleigh's colony, was answered by Thomas Hariot's A Briefe and True Report on the New Found Land of Virginia, which responded to Lane's criticism point by point by arguing for the commercial potential of the region to planters willing to settle in Virginia, merchants willing to trade there, and industrialists willing to make use of its many commodities valuable to English industries. In the Theodor de Bry edition of his report (1590), Hariot included the visual record of the systematic survey he conducted with the artist John White. The volume includes etchings based on White watercolors of native peoples, maps, animals, plants, and scenes of the region.

When the Ralph Lane colony returned to England in 1586, exhausted and demoralized after a disheartening year in Virginia, Raleigh faced a number of problems that threatened his colonization movement. Perhaps most importantly, he found that a group, including Lane, had formed around Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen's Principall Secretary, that was hostile to Raleigh's plans to colonize the region. This group expressed its hostility in two ways. First, soon after returning, Lane produced his Discourse, which presented three major arguments that threatened Raleigh's interests in North America. The first argument presented the natives of the region as largely hostile and treacherous, a far different portrayal than was found in the Barlowe report of the previous year (Barlowe; Moran, "Fantasy Theme"). Lane's second argument was even more striking: the governor concluded that the region itself offered little potential for future economic development. Further colonization of Virginia was worth pursuing, Lane argued, only if something more valuable than the land and its agricultural commodities were discovered: he mentions a passage to Cathay, a productive mine, or a deep water port to support English privateering against Spanish interests in the New World. The third argument was potentially the most devastating. Lane claimed that God removed the colony from Virginia and returned to England aboard Sir Francis Drake's fleet, strongly implying that God did not support Raleigh's efforts. The report's conclusions were damaging enough, but these criticisms were supplemented by complaints of disgruntled colonists, some of them scions of noble families, who returned to England to spin additional grievances about their experiences in Virginia. These men apparently complained about not finding appropriate foods to eat, being mistreated by superiors, and not discovering sources of wealth.

If he hoped to keep his colonization plans alive, Raleigh recognized that he and his group of supporters had to deflect the negative themes of Walsingham's group with another, more positive view of Virginia. To produce a report that expressed his group's themes and rhetorical vision, he turned to Thomas Hariot to produce, with the help of others in the group, a countervailing report. This rejoinder needed to appear quickly, because Raleigh had already sent his 1587 colony to Virginia under the governorship of White, Hariot's associate in 1585. Raleigh needed to shore up support for his colony among the government officials, merchants, adventurers, Anglican divines, explorers, industrialists, military leaders, privateers, and colonists who potentially shared an interest in the English colonization movement. Colonization offered access to great wealth and power, Raleigh believed, and he had to convince the English nation that planting a colony in Virginia would benefit England commercially.


Raleigh assigned Hariot, his primary assistant in the colonization projects, the task of arguing the benefits of colonizing Virginia. Hariot was as well prepared as anyone in England to make this argument. He had been educated at Oxford, where he matriculated in 1577 when he was 17. While studying there until 1580, Hariot associated with the few English scholars at the time interested in the intersection of mathematics, navigation, geography, and colonization. I will emphasize two of the most significant academic connections he nurtured. Evidence suggests that at Oxford Hariot met Hakluyt, who was eight years Hariot's senior and one of England's foremost advocates of colonization in the following decades. Hakluyt enjoyed a brilliant career as a geographer, publicist, and editor of reports on voyages and explorations by the English nation, producing the first edition in 1589 of his Principall Navigations. Hariot, John W. Shirley argues, gravitated towards the older man because of common interests in colonization (Thomas Harriot 58-60), and Hakluyt probably steered Hariot in Raleigh's direction. Hariot also studied mathematics and astronomy at Oxford, even though these subjects were in intellectual decline at the time. Hariot probably also associated with Thomas Allen, one of Oxford's few faculty members interested in the period's new science (Shirley 61). Allen collected the latest manuscripts, books, and instruments connected with mathematics and astronomy and played a central role in Hariot's becoming one of the England's important mathematicians. It was Hariot's interests in applying mathematics and astronomy to questions of navigation that made him valuable to Raleigh. Once Hariot entered Raleigh's service, he assisted his master in many ways, especially as Raleigh began in earnest his efforts to colonize Virginia.

Certainly one of Hariot's primary responsibilities was to teach English sea captains the principles of open sea navigation. England had fallen behind Spain and Portugal in these arts. While Portuguese seamen were sailing around the Horn of Africa to Asia and while Spanish ships were hauling home the treasures of South America and the West Indies, English seamen, with some notable exceptions, continued hugging the coasts in small vessels to trade and fish and therefore had not gained the experience needed for transatlantic voyages. Navigating across the Atlantic to the New World required knowledge of mathematics, trigonometry, and astronomy that was not well understood in England. If Raleigh hoped to be more successful than his older half brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who died at sea on his return voyage from Northumbria (near today's Massachusetts) in 1583, the younger brother would have to develop a better understanding of navigation. Sir Francis Drake, who had completed his circumnavigation of the globe in 1580, recognized the need for better knowledge of navigation and called for schools to teach English sea captains the art.

Raleigh turned to Hariot to develop this body of knowledge, and by the spring of 1584, Hariot was teaching a course in navigation to sea captains at Raleigh's residence, Durham House (Shirley 82). To be able to teach the subject effectively, Hariot had to move beyond what he had learned at Oxford by studying a range of subjects connected with navigation. These subjects included learning to use standard navigational instruments, including the astrolabe, cross staff, and sextant; mastering the mathematics necessary to determine one's position on the open sea; creating sea charts and maps; and learning the basics of astronomy so that pilots could navigate by the stars and sun. Hariot systematized this body of knowledge in his Arcticon, a now-lost book of navigational principles designed to train Raleigh's sea captains.

While Hariot's contributions to navigation were seminal, Raleigh used Hariot to support other aspects of the colonization efforts. One of the young assistant's most significant contributions was his skills as a cartographer, which required the knowledge of various angle-measuring devices, such as the sextant and cross staff, and surveying instruments, including the plane table. In 1585-1586, Hariot and White conducted the first thorough survey of the region now known as the Outer Banks of North Carolina from about Secotan north to the southern shore of the Chesapeake Bay and produced a series of maps that set the standard for accuracy in North American cartography for almost a century (Cumming 56). Another contribution was based on Hariot's linguistic prowess. When Barlowe and Amadas returned from their reconnaissance voyage of the region in 1584, they brought to England two natives, Wanchese and Manteo. Hariot interviewed the two men, learned the basics of the Algonkian language, and began the process of constructing both a dictionary and a phonetic system to allow English colonists to write down Indian words by sound (Sokol 5). Developing this knowledge, Shirley concludes, made Hariot "one of the most advanced linguists of his time" (107) because, as linguist Vivian Salmon argues, he was "the first English scholar to devise a non-alphabetic attempt to represent the sounds of any language" (26). Hariot applied this knowledge when he described in his report the foods native to the region. He named plants and animals in Algonkian when they were unfamiliar to European naturalists.

While it is possible that Hariot sailed to the Outer Banks in 1584 with Barlowe and Amadas, there is no clear evidence that he did so. He did, however, play a central role in the Lane colony of 1585, for which he served as a leader and as Raleigh's colonial representative. Since he and White had surveyed the region, Hariot was prepared upon his return to write authoritatively about Virginia's land, natives, and commodities. The report was first published in 1588 in a now rare quarto edition but was later published in two more widely circulated versions. In 1589 it appeared in Hakluyt's Principall Navigations with notes and corrections by the editor. In 1590, Hakluyt arranged to have a large, illustrated version published by Theodor de Bry in Frankfort. This magnificent volume, the first in de Bry's famous America series, included de Bry etchings based on some of White's water colors of maps, people, plants, animals, villages, and landscapes. The volume was published in four languages, English, German, French, and Latin, and therefore enjoyed a large circulation and wide influence. But what kind of work it is has been open to question. Paul Hulton, the eminent art historian, notes that this volume "can justifiably be described as scientific in both text and illustrations" (xiii), and critic B.J. Sokol calls it "a scientific classic" (1). These conclusions are misleading, however. The report is more accurately classified as a commercial rather than a scientific document because Hariot does not attempt to represent Virginia with thoroughness and objectivity. Instead, he answers Lane's criticisms of Virginia by presenting a series of fantasy themes--lines of argument growing out of the Raleigh group's deliberations--designed to convince readers skeptical of colonization to accept the commercial viability of Virginia as a colony. His primary purpose, I argue, is to demonstrate how the commodities found in Virginia could enhance established English industries and support future colonies on the land's bounty. The report was designed to discredit Lane's conclusion that Virginia itself offered little of value.


My critical method is based on Ernest G. Bormann's theory of symbolic convergence and his method of fantasy-theme analysis. This communication theory has rarely been used in technical communication (see, however, Moran, "Fantasy Theme"), but it seems appropriate to do so given the interdisciplinary nature of research methodologies in the area. The approach holds great promise by offering a method for shaping and interpreting the results of research into historical documents and therefore has significance beyond this particular essay. While the method has not been widely used in technical communication, it is well-established in speech communication, where it has been used to analyze both spoken and written discourse. For critical discussions of the approach, see Bormann, Cragan, and Shields (which contains an extensive bibliography); Foss; Hart; and Brock, Scott, and Chesebro.

Both the theory and the method grew out of Bormann's original work with small group analysis, and both assume that small groups of people construct a social reality that expresses their desires, beliefs, and motives in response to discussing common issues or problems. Because Bormann has developed the theory and method beyond the small group to explain the way that larger groups either accept or reject the social realities of rhetorical communities, his work can be used to analyze pieces of discourse within cultural and social contexts.

The method works particularly well to explain the persuasive power of Hariot's report because the report expresses the attitudes, values, and beliefs about Virginia that Raleigh and his circle of associates first developed and then attempted to inculcate in a larger group of potential English supporters of colonization. As critic Shannon Miller argues in Invested with Meaning, first Raleigh's half brother, Sir Humphry Gilbert, and then, upon Gilbert's death, Raleigh himself developed a "patronage circle" of men interested in colonizing the New World, each of whom brought a particular set of talents to the project. The list includes Hariot and Barlowe, both of whom wrote reports on Virginia; Sir Richard Grenville, one of Raleigh's cousins who served as the admiral for several of Raleigh's voyages to Virginia; White, who produced watercolors of the native peoples, plants, animals, and maps of the region, and served as the 1587 governor; Jacques de Moyne de Morgues, the French colonial artist from the Laudonniere colony in Florida, who helped train White; Hakluyt, who collected and disseminated information on colonization, produced propaganda to support the colony, advised Raleigh, and then published the Barlowe, Lane, and Hariot reports; Theodor de Bry, the Frankfurt publisher and engraver who published the lavish edition of Hariot's Report in 1590; and poets such as Sir Philip Sidney, George Chapman, and Thomas Churchyard, who supported the propaganda efforts through their poetry (4-10). The most influential figure, after Raleigh, in forming the group was Hakluyt, who introduced several prominent people to the Raleigh Circle, including Hariot and de Bry. Many of these men, such as Hariot, White, Barlowe, and De Moyne, were for a time members of the Raleigh household and therefore interacted with him regularly. Through this face-to-face interaction and written communication (most of which is lost), the group developed ideas about colonization and strategies for communicating the ideas beyond the group. The purpose of Hariot's Report, then, was to use culturally powerful language and images developed by the group to motivate its audience to support Raleigh's colonization scheme.

Symbolic convergence theory provides the theoretical ground for Bormann's method of rhetorical analysis. A general theory of communication, it "explains the appearance of a group consciousness, with its implied shared emotions, motives, and meanings, not in terms of individual daydreams and scripts but rather in terms of socially shared narrations or fantasies" ("Symbolic," 128). Group fantasies, Bormann argues, are the stories that groups create to express "their experiences and their hopes and their fears" (130). The group creates these dramas, replete with characters, actions, and settings, to explain past or future events. A baseball team may, for instance, develop a series of stories, what Bormann calls "fantasy themes," to explain their loss of a previous game, or they might develop such fantasies to predict how they will defeat a cross-town rival. In both cases, the fantasies help address problems and issues important to the group. For the fantasies to work, however, the entire group must be "caught up in a drama" (130), and this drama must have good and bad characters; the leading character must be attractive to the group; members must feel sympathy or even empathy for the character; the group must become emotionally involved in the drama; the group must feel anger at antagonists who thwart heroes from achieving goals; and group participants must have appropriate responses to the story (130-31). When fantasies work to create group cohesion, a "group fantasy" results in the "sharing [of] dramatizing messages" (131). Such sharing of a common group fantasy or fantasies Bormann calls symbolic convergence, which is the overlap of "private symbolic worlds" that create a "common group consciousness" (134).

From this theory of group consciousness Bormann developed a system of rhetorical analysis to explain the persuasive power of narratives. The fantasies encourage people in groups to develop common goals and motivate group members to achieve those goals. For instance, a person who identifies with a particular religious group that emphasizes the importance of avoiding particular foods to purge the soul of physical desires will avoid that kind of food. A person who identifies with the fantasy themes of a radical religious group may lay down his or her life for a cause that to an outsider seems trivial.

In his essay "Fantasy and Rhetorical Vision: The Rhetorical Criticism of Social Reality," Bormann developed a method of rhetorical criticism based on the assumptions of social convergence theory. When a member of a group articulates a fantasy, that fantasy either receives legitimacy from the group or is ignored and "falls flat" (398). If other group members take up the fantasy, it "chains out" through the group as members get excited about it and restate and elaborate it. The same process also happens in larger groups reading a piece of discourse. If the dramatizations expressed receive the audience's assent, the audience will participate in the writer's sense of reality and vision of life. The audience will participate in the writer's world and accept his "social reality filled with heroes, villains, emotions, and attitudes" (398).

Bormann elaborates the entire process of fantasy theme dispersion as follows. A small group of people meet to address a particular issue or problem. One member introduces a fantasy theme that captures the imagination of the group, and this theme, with its heroes, villains, acts, and settings, chains out through the group. If the group is motivated to do so, it communicates its fantasy theme by means of various media to people outside the group in order to gain converts to the group's position. If the fantasy theme captures the public's imagination, it gains adherents, and these people participate in other groups where the fantasy is chained out. Eventually, if the fantasy theme captures the imagination of "a larger public," "a rhetorical movement emerges" that participates in the dramatic world of the fantasy theme (299). The fantasy theme is most likely to be effective if it draws on cultural beliefs already part of the larger culture's world view. As Hart notes, fantasy themes are related to myths. Myths, however, are universal stories while fantasy themes often tend to be "local variations" of myths (251).

If a group creates a number of integrated fantasy themes, these themes can construct a "rhetorical vision," which expresses a more coherent sense of the group's social reality. Such visions are not statements about reality. Instead, they state the group's vision of reality by emphasizing attitudes, values, and beliefs about reality. The vision is symbolically constructed, and different groups will invent different visions of reality based on the same facts. Factual reality does not change, but the group's attitudes towards and beliefs about it can. These different groups can become different rhetorical communities. As Sonja K. Foss notes in Rhetorical Criticism, "Rhetorical visions often are integrated by the sharing of a dramatizing message that contains a master analogy" (293) or metaphor. This figure serves to create a kind of shorthand for the community's rhetorical vision by pulling "together the various elements of the vision into a more or less elegant and meaningful whole" (293). The metaphor comes to call up a complex of values, attitudes, and motives associated with the vision, as do such metaphors as the "Cold War" or the "Moral Majority" (293).

Because fantasy themes are expressed in the form of dramas, the critic can analyze these dramas by using a heuristic similar to Kenneth Burke's Pentad in A Grammar of Motives (Foss 298). The Pentad consists of five terms: act, scene, actor, agency, and purpose. According to Burke's theory of dramatism, rhetors sum up situations using elements of the Pentad just as dramatists use them to construct a play with a scene in which actors act to achieve purposes. Like dramatists, prose writers size up rhetorical situations and name their elements, emphasizing those that they consider important. One writer might emphasize the role that scene plays in determining a particular outcome while another might emphasize the role of actors achieving personal goals. Critics can determine a writer's set of motives by examining how that writer sizes up a situation. The terms of the Pentad are particularly useful for analyzing published discourses that express a group's fantasy themes and rhetorical vision because Burke's terms indicate the group's motivations. The critic can also use Burke's concept of ratios to explore the interactions among pentadic elements--act/scene, for instance, in which an act unfolds in a certain way because of the scene, or actor/scene, in which the scene causes the actor to behave following a certain pattern. After evaluating the fantasy themes, the critic then constructs the rhetorical vision that the narrative communicates, looking especially at the motivational strategies embedded in that vision.


Hariot's Report resulted from interactions among the members of the Raleigh Circle, some of whom had been in Virginia, and from these discussions, spoken and written, came a series of fantasy themes designed to answer Lane's criticisms of settling Virginia. Hariot then used these themes in the report, which was undoubtedly reviewed by other members of the group, certainly Raleigh and probably Hakluyt. The report emphasizes two elements of the Pentad, actors and scene, with primary emphasis placed on the second.


By the time Harriot wrote his Report, two distinct and competing English groups were involved in the Virginia colonies, and each had a distinct attitude towards Raleigh's efforts. These distinctions created a dramatic tension over the issue of colonization itself, and the Report responded to the drama of this conflict. The first group remained loyal to the Raleigh and Barlowe vision of Virginia as a new Eden, and Hariot was a member of this group. The second group, associated with Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Principall Secretary, and Lane, the colony's governor whom Walsingham himself had selected on Elizabeth's behalf, developed later but began to influence Raleigh's plans (see Lee Miller's intriguing book Roanoke for the circumstantial evidence of Walsingham's activities against Raleigh). This group viewed Virginia far more critically than Barlowe did; as Lane's discourse had argued, Virginia was a land with no obvious commercial value that was inhabited by hostile natives. Furthermore, Raleigh's colony lacked support from God, who drove the Lane colony back to England. Hariot's rhetorical strategy, therefore, was to support the position of the Raleigh group, and expand this position by creating fantasy themes designed to chain out among uncommitted English men and women to persuade them to support the colonization effort. The strategy also consisted of attacking the Walsingham/Lane vision to prevent its arguments from influencing that same uncommitted group. Hariot in effect tries to answer Lane assertion by assertion, attacking the notions that the Roanoke Indians were dangerous, that the land was valueless, and that no food existed to sustain colonists.

In the Report's introduction, Hariot identifies most clearly the two English groups that he viewed as significant. The first group, which he portrays as noble and heroic, included Raleigh and Hariot himself; the second group included the returning colonists, especially Lane, who were critical of colonizing Virginia. In this section, Hariot uses the actor/act ratio, emphasizing the actions of both groups as they influenced the colonization movement.

The Raleigh Group: The Noble English

Early in the Report Hariot develops a set of heroic fantasy themes that emphasize the contributions of Raleigh's group to the colonization movement. Using primarily the actor/act ratio, Hariot emphasizes the positive contributions members of the group made to the colonization effort, beginning with Raleigh's contributions. He ennobles Raleigh in the first line by identifying him as "Sir," drawing attention the knighthood that Elizabeth had honored him with four years earlier for dispatching the successful 1584 reconnaissance voyage under Barlowe and Amadas. This reference was designed to jog the reader's memories of better times for Raleigh after Barlowe's report was circulated in manuscript among the rich and powerful. At that time, Raleigh appeared to be on the verge of founding almost effortlessly a new American empire for Elizabeth and England. Hariot further emphasizes his employer's contributions to the colonization venture by highlighting the four voyages that Raleigh had personally organized and supported in addition to the 1584 reconnaissance voyage: the 1585 Lane colony, the failed 1586 resupply voyage under Grenville, and the recent 1587 colony under the governorship of White. This list was designed to indicate the amount of time and effort Raleigh had already given the colonization movement, and Hariot labels Raleigh the "chiefe enterpriser" who, with the support of the Queen, had continued his grand project--despite the criticisms of returning colonists in 1586--by planting the new colony in 1587. Hariot alludes specifically to Raleigh's act of generosity to the 1587 colonists (the famous "Lost Colonists") by offering the least of them, those who merely ventured their person rather than money in the colony, 500 acres of land. Finally, Hariot vaguely speaks for Raleigh when he claims that the Queen's favorite would continue his colonization enterprises "according to the times and meanes will affoorde" (322). Hariot remains silent about when those future efforts would unfold, probably because Raleigh was in actuality beginning to lose interest in Virginia and to turn his energies to the less expensive project of colonizing Ireland.

Hariot then developed a set of fantasy themes about his own contributions to the group. Given the acrimony of returning colonists, who had vehemently criticized the 1585 colony, Hariot was forced to emphasize his ethos to make his views of Virginia believable to a skeptical audience. He did this first by elevating his own position in the colony. He identified himself as having "beene in the discoverie" of the region, by which he probably meant that he, along with the artist White, had traveled widely to survey and map it. Evidence in White's drawings suggests, for instance, that Hariot was probably with Grenville when he lead the exploration as far south as Secotan, and that both Hariot and White traveled as far north as the lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay. Hariot was undoubtedly with Lane when he explored the Roanoke River to the West in search of the illusive copper mines. What Hariot suggests, therefore, is that he did not remain ensconced in Fort Roanoke but traveled widely about the territory. His report would consequently be based on this wide experience with the land and its peoples.

Hariot could indeed claim exceptional experience with the native peoples, and his claim that he had special "dealing[s] with the naturall inhabitantes" seems almost modest. I have already discussed Hariot's mastery of Algonkian, his construction of an Algonkian-English dictionary, and his creation of a phonetic system to record Algonkian words. It was Hariot's presence in Virginia (along with Manteo's, of course) that helped the English communicate with the natives to learn valuable information about their culture, including their agricultural, hunting, fishing, and military techniques. This wide travel and linguistic knowledge made it possible for Hariot to claim he had "therefore seene and knowne more then the ordinary" English colonist during the 1585-86 stay in Virginia.

The Walsingham/Lane Group: The Ignoble English

One of the primary goals of Hariot's report was to mitigate the denunciations of Virginia by the returning colonists. Within the drama of colonization, Hariot construed these critics as antagonists. Hariot's first strategy was to use language that demeaned the promulgators of hostile reports. He calls the reports "slaunderous" and "shameful," two words with powerful implications (320). The term "slaunderous," then as now, suggested statements that were false and designed to injure someone, in this case Raleigh. And the term "shameful," when applied to reports, suggested that they were opprobrious and vituperative. The term had yet an additional connotation at the time, a reference to "shameful," or sexual, parts (OED). Taken together, these terms imply that the reports and the disreputable people who made them intended, through lies, distortions, slander, and libel (Galinsky 15) to ruin Raleigh and wreck his plans.

Hariot's second strategy was to attack the men who disseminated the reports. He made three kinds of accusations aimed at three different kinds of slanderers. He claims that the first group were men who attacked Virginia because they were punished for their misbehavior while there and, upon returning to England, took revenge on their leaders. Lane certainly did maintain strict discipline in America, as he recounts in his advice to Lord Burghley in his "Reminiscences" (228), and this discipline may have angered some of the colonists. Hariot goes further, though, by claiming that these men were punished because they had "badde natures," and slandered upon arriving home not only their governors (which would include both Lane and other leaders such as Hariot) but Virginia itself.

Second, when they returned, Hariot argued, some of the men became braggarts and lied to impress friends. Hariot pictured this group as puffing up their reputations, making themselves seem more knowledgeable and better traveled than others in England. This group wanted attention and thought that if they did not exaggerate their exploits in the New World, their friends would lose respect for them. Some of these men told tall tales about things they never saw; others denied the truth of things that reliable colonists had witnessed. Still others talked of things that they had not experienced because they loitered on Roanoke Island and never traveled (323). This group consisted of weak men who longed to enhance their reputations through braggadocio.

A third group Hariot heaped even more scorn upon. These were the pampered city dwellers who found Virginia disappointing because of its rugged frontier environment. This group undoubtedly included the scions of wealthy families, many of them rootless younger sons looking for quick wealth. Probably influenced by the Spanish stories of finding in the New World fabulously wealthy Indian cities filled with gold, this group was potentially dangerous to Raleigh's future plans because they had the ears of their wealthy relations, one of the groups Raleigh hoped to attract as investors. This third group, Hariot claimed, lost interest in Virginia when it appeared that gold and silver would not be easily found (323). When that became clear, they wanted only "to pamper their bellies" and refused to work for the greater good (323), a problem that Captain John Smith would discover two decades later at Jamestown. Another tendency of this group was their hunger for the city luxuries they had left behind. As Hariot put it, "Because there were not to bee found any English cities, nor such faire houses, nor at their own wish any of their olde accustomed dainte food, nor any soft beds of downe or feathers, the countrey was to them miserable" (323). Since this group had unreasonable expectations for making a quick fortune and living in luxury, its members, Hariot claimed, were disappointed in the colony and circulated negative reports when they returned to England.

Hariot employs a striking strategy to deal with Lane himself. While the organizing principle of the Report is to answer Lane's Discourse, Hariot also introduces Lane's voice directly into the Report by including a preface purportedly written by the former governor. In this, Lane contradicts all of his assertions about Virginia contained in his own report, claiming now that all claims in Hariot's report are true: "Thus much vpon my credit I am to affirme: that things vniuersally are so truely set downe in this treatise by the author therof, an Actor in the Colony, or a man no lesse for his honesty then learning commendable" (319). In other words, Lane now supports Hariot's claims concerning the financial potential of Virginia and its commodities, the very commodities that Lane's report dismissed as worthless. Having Lane's own words, or those attributed to him, contradict his earlier criticisms of Virginia was a brilliant strategy to undermine the conclusions of Lane's report: if the words of the preface are true, then those of the Discourse must be false. Whether Lane actually wrote the preface is difficult to determine. Quinn wonders aloud if Hariot might have written the preface himself and put Lane's name to it (Roanoke n1 320). The fact that the preface did not appear in the more definitive and widely circulated de Bry edition further brings into question its authenticity.

With these first two groups, the noble and ignoble, Hariot's rhetorical strategy is clear. He attempted to expose the ignoble as irresponsible malcontents whose reports lacked veracity. By proving this, he hoped to subvert the believability the Walsingham-Lane group. He attempted, on the other hand, to portray the noble, Raleigh and himself, as heroic adventurers. Raleigh could be trusted because he had poured a personal fortune into the settlement efforts and promised to contribute more. Hariot could be trusted because he knew more about the Indians and their land than any other colonist. The purpose of this two-pronged strategy was to undermine the ethos of the malcontents so that the audience would disregard their criticisms of Virginia and to enhance the credibility of Hariot's Report.

Native Americans

A third set of actors in Virginia were the Native Americans, whom Hariot portrays differently than either Barlowe or Lane did. Barlowe had used fantasy themes to represent the natives positively, as perfect commercial partners and unfallen humans reminiscent of the Golden Age. Lane, on the other hand, had developed a series of negative portrayals that emphasized the natives' treachery and aggression. Pemisapan, the Roanoke werowance [chief], had first attempted to starve the colony and then, according to Lane, planned to massacre it. Because of this supposed treachery, Lane claimed that the English were forced to defeat the tribe and behead the Roanoke chief in an ambush in order to protect the colony.

Hariot was therefore impelled to answer Lane's accusations, but the rhetorical situation did not allow him to present the Roanokes as noble savages as Barlowe did because Lane's striking portrayals were now embedded in the imagination of the rich and powerful familiar with the Lane report. Hariot therefore developed an intriguing strategy. He presents a series of fantasy themes emphasizing the essential powerlessness and docility of the natives compared to the English. As he writes near the beginning of this section in the report's body, the Indians will not trouble the English colonization efforts and "are not to be feared [by future colonists], but that they [the natives] shall haue cause both to feare and loue vs, that shall inhabite with them" (368). He expands on these propositions by creating fantasy themes that, first, emphasize the inferiority of the native material culture and political organizations, and, second, accentuate the superiority of the English military weapons and tactics, technology, and religious beliefs. While potential antagonists in the drama of colonization, the natives, Hariot claims, were too weak to jeopardize future colonies, a misconception the 1587 colonists and Jamestown discovered to be incorrect.

English Military Power, Indian Weakness

One set of fantasy themes emphasizes the ineffectiveness of Indian military weapons and strategies that could be used against the English. Hariot notes, for instance, that the Indians lacked effective defensive armaments. Not only did they not have armor and shields comparable to those of the English (the Indians used "targets made of barke" and fake armor made of "stickes wickered together," weapons they might have developed in imitation of European equivalents); they also lacked iron or steel weapons "to offend vs [the English] withall." The best Indian weapons were wooden bows, reed arrows, and foot-long wooden cudgels, poor equipment compared with the armor, swords, knives, and guns of the colonists. Hariot also dismissed Indian military tactics as ineffective. Instead of fighting pitched battles, the natives relied on surprise attacks at dawn or night. During pitched battles, Indian warriors shot arrows and then jumped behind trees. If the Indians were to fight the English, Hariot concludes, the English "discipline," "strange weapons," and "ordinance great and small" would quickly dispatch the enemy, who would turn "vp of their heeles against vs in running away [which] was their best defense" (371). Hariot therefore implies that merchants who ventured their capital and settlers who ventured their lives had nothing to fear from the Indians, a position different from that of Lane, who pictured the Indians as dangerous adversaries whom the colonists defeated only by his stratagems and determination.

A related fantasy theme concerned the Indian's lack of political cohesiveness. Hariot indicates this cultural limitation by describing the Indian towns and their ineffective political organization. The towns, he points out, are all small, many containing only "10. or 12. houses" with the largest town the English had seen containing only thirty. Politically, Hariot makes clear, the Indians were no match for the English because the natives were fragmented into such small, isolated units. Many "Wiroans" or chiefs were in control of a single town, Hariot claims, and, while others controlled somewhat larger number of followers, the largest political unit the English found was only 18 towns under the chief's control, this chief probably being Menatonon, the leader whom Lane claimed allied himself with the English. Given the large number of small units, Hariot implies, it would be difficult for the natives to mount a coherent offense against the English, especially since some of the towns spoke different dialects and were distant from each other. All of these factors would make is possible for the English to dominate Indian culture militarily and politically.

Religious Beliefs

Hariot's discussion of Roanoke religious beliefs continues the fantasy theme that the natives were docile and ready to accept the English and their culture, especially their religion. Again, Hariot answers Lane, who had claimed in his Discourse that the Roanokes first appeared to accept Christianity but then "began to blasphame, and flatly say, that our Lord God was not God" (Lane 277). This assertion implied that the Roanokes were not as willing to convert as they seemed to be at first. To encourage future settlements, Hariot had to convince those potentially interested in colonizing Virginia that the Roanokes were willing to accept Christianity, and the English civilization that came with it, and he used several strategies to argue this position. These fantasy themes appealed especially to Anglican ministers such as Hakluyt who were advocates of converting the natives (see Discourse of Western Planting).

Hariot first argues the questionable assumption that, since the natives already had a religion, they would "bee the easier and sooner reformed" to Anglicanism (Hariot 372; McAlindon 416). He apparently did not consider the possibility that those already holding religious beliefs might be unwilling to change them. One strategy Hariot uses to suggest that the Indians may be willing to change was to emphasize a few similarities between Indian and Christian doctrines. The fact that the natives already held many beliefs similar to Christian ones Hariot took to mean that conversion would be easily achieved.

Hariot described several notable Indian practices similar to Christian ones. The natives, Hariot claims, believed in a single "chiefe or great God" who created all other gods and humans. According to anthropologist Regina Flannery, this belief was shared then by all Algonkian peoples and distinguished them from other tribes, such the Huron and Iroquois, who did not believe in a primary god (152). Like the Christian God of Genesis, the Algonkian god created the waters and "all diuersitie of creatures that are visible or inuisible" (372). The natives also believed in the immorality of the soul, which, depending on the individual's actions in life, either goes upon death to heaven or to Popogusso, a great pit similar to the Christian Hell, where it suffers for eternity. The Indians related to Hariot two Lazarus-like stories of men who had died and gone either to heaven or hell and returned to tell their people about each.

In other respects, however, the native beliefs differed from those of Christians, and Hariot emphasized these differences to indicate the need for conversion. Such beliefs include the existence of various minor gods, the fact that the first woman mated with a god to produce children to populate the world, and the worship of their gods in the form of household idols.

While the native religion was both similar to and different from Christianity, Hariot presented a related fantasy theme concerning the willingness of the natives to convert because they recognized the inferiority of their religion. When conversing with the native priests to collect their myths and stories, Hariot found opportunities to explain Christian dogma. This discussion, Hariot asserts, "brought into great doubts of their owne [beliefs], and no small admiration of ours, with earnest desire in many, to learne more then we had meanes for want of perfect vtterance in their language to express" (375). In one passage Hariot pictures Indians participating in Christian worship, praying and singing psalms in hopes of gaining the Christian God's favor. In another scene, one of the most dramatic in the report, Hariot demonstrates the supposed hunger the natives felt for the word of the Christian God. When he entered villages, Hariot preached from the Bible, which he indicated to the Roanokes was the source of the true Christian doctrine. The Indian response as Hariot presents it is notable:

And although I told them the book materially & of it self was not of anie such vertue, as I thought they did conceiue, but onely the doctrine therein contained; yet would many be glad to touch it, to embrace it, to kiss it, to hold it; the shew their hungrie desire of that knowledge which was spoken of. (377)

The purpose of picturing this dramatic reaction is clear: Hariot hoped that the theme of Indian hunger for Christianity would chain out among the English readership, especially the clergy, and draw them into the Raleigh colonization camp. Once the English were settled in the region and learned to communicate better with the natives, Hariot implies, the Indians would be easily converted to Christianity, Anglican version.

Yet another fantasy theme concerning religion was the presentation of evidence that the conversion was well under way. Hariot gives two examples of the natives calling on the Christian God to save them from disaster. The first was Pemisapan's illness. Probably suffering from a European disease such as the influenza, Pemisapan found his own priests or medicine men unable to cure him. He therefore turned to the English to pray to their God on his behalf either to save him from death or allow him "after death to dwell with him in blisse" (377). Pemisapan probably thought the prayer worked, because he survived until Lane's Irish servant Nugent beheaded him in an ambush (Lane 288). The second example occurred when a drought--the worst in recent memory--threatened the Indian corn crop. The natives asked the English to pray to their God to save the harvest. The English apparently did and at least some of the crop survived.

Another fantasy theme that Hariot emphasized was that the Roanokes could be controlled by religion. Hariot developed a fantasy theme about Roanoke docility by discussing the ways that the "Wiroances and Priests" through "subtilty" used the fear of heaven and hell to discipline "the common and simple sort of people" so that they "haue great respect to their Gouernours" (Hariot 374). In the most famous discussion of the Report, Stephen Greenblatt, the New Historicist critic, argues that the distinction between the priests and the common people places Hariot's argument in the Machiavellian tradition of viewing religion as a strategy for ensuring "social order and cohesion" (46). This idea, Greenblatt argues, existed long before the Renaissance and finds its inception in the view that "Old Testament religion . . . , and by extension the whole Judeo-Christian tradition, originated in a series of clever tricks, fraudulent illusions perpetrated by Moses, who had been trained in Egyptian magic, upon the 'rude and gross' (and hence credulous) Hebrews" (44). In other words, religion was used to achieve not salvation of the soul but civic restraint (45), and the Roanoke priests were as adept as Moses at controlling their common people through religious trickery. Since the Elizabethan spy Richard Baines had written a report in 1593 on Christopher Marlowe in which Marlowe declared the "Moses was but a juggler, and that one Heriots, being Sir Walter Ralegh's man, can do no more than he" (qtd in Greenblatt 43), Greenblatt concludes that Hariot accepted the hypothesis and was "testing" it in the Report. I find this conclusion less than satisfactory, especially when the Report is placed in its rhetorical context.

Greenblatt's Machiavellian hypothesis rests on the meaning of the first phrase of the passage--"What [little] subtilty soeuer be in the Wiroances and Priests"-and on the meaning of the word "subtilty." The OED offers eight meanings of the word in use during the period but only the first four are relevant to this context. Greenblatt interprets the term as meaning something close to the third definition: "cunning, craftiness, guile," all terms appropriate to the Machiavellian hypothesis. If these are the meanings Hariot draws on, he would be asserting that the Roanoke political and religious leaders use what little guile they possess to manipulate their common people into behaving themselves. Two problems exist with this interpretation. First, if we accept it, Hariot would be arguing that the Roanoke leaders don't have much guile, just a little. Yet the Machiavellian hypothesis assumes that Moses-the original Machiavellian trickster-used extreme cunning to control the Hebrews by means of magic learned from the Egyptians. If we accept Greenblatt's reading, Hariot argues that even marginally cunning leaders can manipulate a people, a view inconsistent with the hypothesis. The second problem with Greenblatt's interpretation is that it goes against the grain of Hariot's purpose, which was to answer Lane's accusation that the Roanokes were crafty and therefore untrustworthy and dangerous. Hariot wanted to prove the opposite-that the Indians were trustworthy and docile, capable to being controlled by future English settlers.

The core of the problem, therefore, lies in Greenblatt's definition of "subtilty." The first two OED meanings used in the Renaissance were more positive than Greenblatt's. Definition one is "acuteness, penetration, perspicuity," and definition two is "skill, cleverness, dexterity." These meanings make more sense than the Greenblatt definition within the context of the report in general and the passage in particular. Hariot argues that even with limited skill, penetration, cleverness, and dexterity, the Roanoke leaders can use the religious concepts of reward and punishment in the afterlife to control the behavior of their commoners. Also implied, of course, is the following assumption: If the marginally acute natives can control their lower ranks, the English, far more clever and skillful, will be able to do so too, once the Roanokes have been converted to Christianity. He therefore answers Lane by demonstrating that the Roanokes were a docile people who could be restrained by a basic tenet of Anglican theology: that they should behave themselves in this world so that they enjoy their heavenly rewards in the next. While I reject the Machiavellian hypothesis, I agree with Greenblatt's argument that Hariot saw religion as a means of control.

Closely related to the religious fantasy themes were the strange fantasy themes of the mysterious quasi-religious powers that the English appeared to hold over the natives. One of these themes asserted that the Roanokes thought that the English were either gods or closely related to them. Critic William M. Hamlin argues that this notion was so common in early travel and colonial literature that it should be called the "apotheosis trope" (408). In Hariot's case, he uses the trope to suggest a tendency in the Roanokes' thought on the English: that the natives were quick to view themselves as subservient to the god-like English.

Hariot reports on a series of native apotheosis speculations as the Roanokes tried to make sense of the English. One of the central issues for the natives was the diseases that struck Indian villages immediately after the English left, and Hariot comments that both the Indians and the English thought that the disease struck only those villages that in some way "practitised against" the colonists (378). These diseases could have been anything from small pox to the common cold, any Europan disease to which the natives lacked resistence. Since even the oldest Indians could not remember such disease in the past, the Roanokes correctly concluded that it resulted from contact with the English. The Indians became convinced, according to Hariot, that the disease was the "worke of our God through our meanes, and that wee by him might kil and slai whom wee would without weapons and not come neere them" (379).

Hariot emphasized the English spiritual, even magical power over the Roanokes in other fantasy themes, especially those that pointed to Indian explanations of the creation of the English. One set of beliefs emphasized that the colonists were the dead returned to life. Others thought that the next generation of the invaders would come to kill and replace the Indians. Yet another explanation claimed that the next generation of English would be indiscernible spirits who would continue killing the Indians with invisible bullets. Others claimed that the English had the power to shoot themselves out of their cannons to distant places to wreak havoc on the natives.

Another fantasy theme concerned a different form of English domination based on the Indian wonder at the power of English technology. The Indians, according to Hariot, interpreted superiority in this area as a sign of the colonists' spiritual dominance. The Indians witnessed such superiority because Hariot and White used various navigational and topographical instruments as they surveyed and mapped the region, and the Indians expressed a notable reaction to this equipment, as Hariot comments:

Most things they sawe with vs, as Mathematical instruments, sea compasses, the verture of the loadstone in drawing yron, a perspective glasse whereby was shewed manie strange sightes, burning glasses, widefire woorkes, gunnes, bookes, writing and reading, spring clocks that seeme to goe of themselues, and manie other thinges that we had, were so straunge vnto them, and to farre exceeded their capacities to comprehend the reasons and meanes how they should be made and done that they thought they were rather the works of gods then of men, of at leastwise they had bin giuen and taught vs of the gods. (p. 376)

The natives concluded, Hariot comments, that the Christian God of the English was superior to their gods since the English were so technologically superior to the Indians.

While Lane had portrayed the natives as dangerous, Hariot questioned the validity of that portrayal by creating a series of fantasy themes suggesting the native's relative powerlessness and docility. Not only were the English more powerful than the Indians militarily; they were also, Hariot argues, more powerful culturally. He points to the superiority of the English politically, technologically, and spiritually, emphasizing that the Roanokes themselves viewed themselves as subservient. He hoped these ideas would chain out among the various groups of English power brokers to motivate them to support Raleigh's colonization efforts.


Since Lane had argued that Virginia itself provided nothing of value to the English, nothing worth the fetching, as he put it, Hariot was forced to answer this criticism by providing a series of scenic fantasy themes enumerating the bounty of the region. These themes fall into two basic categories that were designed to chain out among different audiences interested in the colonization of Virginia and the trade and industry that would result from the colony. In the first part of the report, Hariot presents a complex series of fantasy themes designed primarily to appeal to merchants and manufacturers. These themes provide a partial inventory of commodities that could be collected in North America and imported into England. The second set of themes, expressed in parts two and three, addresses a different audience consisting of potential colonists and investors in the colony. Since Lane's returning colonists had claimed that they almost starved in Virginia because of the lack of English food, Hariot surveys in part two the multitude of food sources that Virginia offered colonists. By doing this, he creates a series of fantasy themes that enumerate the abundance that Barlowe had promised the region would provide. In the third part, Hariot creates another set of scenic fantasy themes by enumerating the many sources of building materials that future colonists could exploit to construct and furnish homes. In his conclusion, he turns to other scenic fantasy themes, including the potential value of inland Virginia and the healthfulness of the Virginian climate.

Part One: Commodities

Hariot's strategy in Part One was to announce, using the scene/agency ratio, the discovery of numerous commodities that Virginia offered merchants and manufacturers. In other words, the scene, Virginia, produced commodities that English could use as agencies to achieve mercantile and industrial goals. Hariot, however, did more than merely describe the commodities that the 1585 colonists discovered. Instead, he developed a set of fantasy themes that selected those commodities that were then in demand at home, especially those that were expensive or difficult to procure. He emphasized commodities that were either under the control of unfriendly nations, such as France and Spain; or that were not readily available in Europe, arguing, therefore, that Virginia would offer inexpensive alternative sources. While in some cases Hariot describes actual products that could be harvested or collected, in others cases he provides misinformation and promises commodities that did not actually exist in North America.

Naval Supplies

One important fantasy theme that Hariot develops is that Virginia could become the source of various naval supplies for England. He mentions flax, hemp, pitch, tar, rosin, and turpentine, all material needed by English shipping. Of flax Hariot presents a two-staged argument. He claims first to have found a native flax plant, which was probably, as Quinn argues (326 n4), Wild Flax, not the domesticated European version. While Hariot admits that the plant looks somewhat different from its European cousin, he claims that unnamed experts ("men of skill," he calls them [327]) had declared that the native plant would serve as well as its European counterpart. He does not have complete confidence in this argument, however, and makes a second pitch for Virginia as a flax producer: even if the native flax would not serve, future colonists could successfully grow European flax in Virginia, which had the correct climate and adequate space.

Given the large number of coniferous trees on the Virginian coast, Hariot was correct in arguing that colonists could produce naval supplies such as pitch, tar, and turpentine in the region.

Hariot bases his argument on England's historical need for naval products. By the 1580s most English politicians recognized the importance of sea power to England's financial and political future. This sea power had developed in four inter-related segments of the naval industry. First, England had built an extensive merchant fleet that was trading with many parts of the world, including the Baltic region and Russia; European nations such as the Netherlands, Spain, and France; the Mediterranean region; Africa; and the Americas. English merchants were desperate to expand trade into Asia by finding either a Northeast or Northwest passage to that part of the globe. Closely connected to trade was the second use of English sea power, the voyages of discovery and colonization. The purposes of these voyages were to establish new trading routes, to connect with new trading partners, to settle colonies in North America to provide England with raw materials for its manufacturing base, and to establish new ports from which to attack Spanish shipping. The third segment of sea power consisted of the English privateers, those sea dogs such as Sir Francis Drake who used private vessels to attack the shipping of other nations and bring home prizes that were often amazingly rich. Especially after 1584, when England and Spain went to war, Elizabeth used privateers to attack Spanish shipping. The final segment was the Royal Navy, which the Tudor monarchs cultivated to protect the homeland from foreign attack and to protect the nation's growing merchant fleets. Vessels of the Royal Navy often escorted merchant fleets to protect them from foreign attacks. All of these ships had to be built and maintained, and England required considerable amounts of naval supplies to keep its fleets in working order.

But England found itself dependent on foreign sources for this essential material. Most naval supplies at the time had to be imported, and they represented a significant percentage of English imports during the period. An examination of the list of imports for 1559-60, for instance, shows that 17% of them were for flax, linen, and canvas for shipbuilding (Palliser 331). From the Russian trade, incorporated in 1555 under the Moscovy or Russia Company, English merchants imported a substantial amount of naval supplies, including cables, cordage, and other such materials (Pallister 335). Naval supplies from the Baltic accounted for about 55% of all imports from 1575 and 1595 and, according to historian D.M Palliser, "around 75 per cent in ... 1585" (336), the year Hariot was in Virginia.

But trade with the Baltic states and with Russia was risky for English merchants. The voyage itself through the North Sea was dangerous, and many a ship was lost sailing to or from the region laden with trade goods. Furthermore, the political relationships between England and her trading partners to the North were often strained. Ivan constantly pressured Elizabeth for political concessions in order to maintain England's monopoly of the Russian trade, and there was always the fear that he would curtail trade unless he received the concessions demanded. He demanded special treaties with England that Elizabeth tried to avoid and late in life even attempted to negotiate marriage with the Queen as a way to unite Russian and English interests. Since the Baltic region and Russia were the primary sources of English naval supplies, it is not surprising that Hariot emphasized Virginia as an alternative source of commodities necessary to maintain English naval power.


Another fantasy theme was that Virginia could provide England with silk. Hariot begins by mentioning two sources of silk that might exist there. The first is "grasse Silke," which Quinn identifies as the yucca that the colonist found on the Virginia coast. Arguing from comparison, Hariot claims that, since Virginia has the same climate as Persia, where silk grass naturally grows, the English could domesticate the wild yucca in Virginia to produce a new source of silk. He makes an even more powerful claim when he asserts that he found silk worms in Virginia. This assertion is false since the silk worm was not native to North America, and Quinn concludes that Hariot probably confused the silk worm with the Tent Caterpillar or the Fall Web-worm, both of which spin notable webs (326 n2). By claiming Virginia as a silk-producing region, Hariot appealed to both industrialists and merchants involved in silk production and trade. But he also appealed to the wealthy, who at the time wore silk.

Hariot's emphasis on silk was timely for silk was an extremely popular and expensive fabric in late Tudor England. While the English clergy and nobility had worn some silk for several centuries, the fabric had recently become widely fashionable. In Henry VIII's reign, clothes, many made of silk, became lavish. The nobility spent fortunes on their clothes that included for men silken sleeves, trunk hose, and silk shirts or doublets (Leggett 286). Women wore crimson, scarlet, and purple dresses made largely of silk, and these dresses were often adorned with precious stones stitched into the fabric. This emphasis on extravagance continued in the reign of Elizabeth, who stressed luxury of dress. She became famous for her gowns that were covered with gold and jewels, and the nobility imitated her extravagance (288-89). In 1560 Elizabeth began wearing silk stockings, which became the rage at Court (290). Hariot's Elizabethan audience would have found his claim that Virginia would provide a source of silk more than interesting.

Although silk was the fabric of choice among aristocratic Elizabethans, it was expensive because England did not have an established native industry. England was too cold to raise silk worms (although around this time several attempts were made), so raw silk produced in other nations with warmer climates was imported (Bush 4). Consequently, the silk industry and the silk trade was in the hands of many of England's current enemies. France and Spain, for instance, had developed industries, and England was forced to import both raw silk and finished cloth from these traditional rivals. Because the Portuguese seaman Vasco de Gama had pioneered the sea passage to India around the Horn of Africa in 1497, that nation largely controlled the trade in silk from the East for much of the 16th century. To make matters worse, Philip, the Spanish king, succeeded to the Portuguese throne in 1580, giving Spain even more control over the silk trade. Consequently, Hariot's suggestion that Virginia might provide another source of silk would have intrigued English merchants.

Finally, Hariot's suggestion that Virginia might be a source of silk was timely. Although England had produced small amounts of silk fabric since 1440 (Leggett 291), it was never a major manufacturing center for this fabric. But circumstances were changing because of the religious wars in Europe. Between 1556 and 1598, Protestant refugees from Flanders and France settled in England to escape religious persecution from the Catholic nations of Spain and France (Bush 4; Warner 25-34). Some of these refugees were artisans with expertise in silk weaving, and this influx led, in 1585, just three years before Hariot's report, to the first extensive production of silk in England, by displaced Flemish weavers (Manchester 28). What this fledgling industry needed, however, was a cheap and abundant supply of raw silk not controlled by England's European enemies, and Hariot implies that Virginia might be able to serve as that source.

Alum and Dyes

Another set of fantasy themes concerned the English woolen cloth industry, and Hariot made a concerted effort to appeal to the merchants and industrialists involved in it. Woolen cloth was England's major export product, but there had been recent changes in the trade that Hariot seems to have understood. Until 1576, much English cloth was traded at Antwerp by the Merchant Adventurers, and the cloth was usually traded "white," which meant it was unfinished and undyed (Clay 117). Dyers in Antwerp then finished the product and distributed it throughout Europe. During the 1570's, political and religious conflict engulfed the Netherlands, which by then was controlled by Spain, and in 1576, Spanish soldiers, angry over not being paid, sacked Antwerp, destroying it as a center of European trade. England was therefore forced to find new markets for its cloth, and one important strategy was to trade this commodity in the Baltic region through the efforts of the Eastland Company, which held the monopoly for that area. One major change was that the cloth traded to the north was more commonly dyed and finished in England, processes which increased the product's value (Clay 117). Hariot recognized this new reality and emphasizes in the Report several commodities necessary for finishing and dyeing woolens.

The finishing of wool cloth required various chemicals and dyes, and Hariot claims that Virginia provided many sources for these necessities. He maintains, for instance, that he found a vein of alum along the Virginia coast that had been proofed in England and found to be pure. Since the vein, Hariot claimed, was forty or fifty miles long, Virginia promised to provide the cloth industry with a substantial amount of this chemical.

Alum was a mordant used, among other things, to fix the color of dyed cloth and was therefore essential to the new cloth trade. Sixteenth-century English cloth makers were hard pressed to find sources of this chemical, which at the time had to be imported, therefore making this aspect of England's most important industry dependent on foreign sources. Alum was first imported from the East until deposits was found near Tolfa in the papal states. At the time, there was a general sense that England needed its own source of alum if it hoped to replace the Dutch in the dying stage of cloth production (Jack 84), and throughout her reign, Elizabeth encouraged the discovery, mining, and production of alum in Ireland and England. These efforts came to naught because the mines discovered did not produce enough alum to be worthwhile (see Turton for the history of these efforts). Hariot therefore designed his claim that Virginia could provide a cheap source of this essential chemical to appeal to merchants and industrialists involved in the cloth trade, implying that Virginia would solve the problem of the industry being dependent on foreign producers.

Hariot continued to emphasize the cloth industry when he discussed several dyes that he found in Virginia. He identifies four plants, three by their Algonkian names, that would furnish dyes. Sumach would provide a black dye; Wasewowr, which Quinn identifies as Pokeweed (334 n5), would provide a purple dye; the root of the Chappacor, which was perhaps New Jersey Tea (Quinn 334 n6), would provide a red dye; and Tangomockemindge, an unidentified plant, would provide another red dye. Hariot attempts to make his argument even more enticing by claiming that he knew of many more plants that would provide dyes of other colors. However, the only other dye that he mentions specifically is wode, a plant that provided a light blue color used widely in the English cloth industry. He did not discover wode in Virginia but suggested that a colony could grow it there on the ample free land available. Since much wode was imported to England from the Azores, a Portuguese holding, Virginia would provide a source of the dye free from Portuguese and Spanish control.


Hariot's fantasy theme about Virginia's contribution to the English fur industry is more ambiguous than his discussions of silk and woolen cloth. He mentions three fur-bearing animals--the otter, the martin, and the wild cat or Bay Lynx--that would be available in Virginia, and he claims that these furs "wil yeelde good profite" (330) in England. But where the profit would come from is not clear since furs were no longer as fashionable as they had once been.

While furs of various kinds had been important in English fashions during the previous century, by the late 16th century the fur industry, once vital, had collapsed (Veale 156). One of the reason for this collapse was that, by the early years of the 16th century, clothing was no longer commonly lined or faced with fur. This change in fashion was in part due to advances in heating technologies. The English no longer needed extremely warm clothes indoors, so garments were not lined with fur. Styles also had changed. Clothes in general during the later Tudor period tended to be made primarily of cloth, often sumptuously decorated, but not with fur. One reason for the decline of furs was the famous sumptuary legislations. The Act of 1509, for instance, decreed that, with a few exceptions, no Englishmen under the degree of gentleman could wear fur. In a letter to its agents in Russia in 1560, the Muscovy Company recognized that such laws would affect the value of importing pelts. It ordered its agents to purchase only a few of the best sable or lynx furs for the English market (Veale 145-47).

While it is unclear why Hariot would emphasize furs at a time when fur use was in full decline, he in part bases his fantasy theme on the fact that American furs would replace their Russian counterparts because they would be cheaper. By the 1560's the Moscovy Company considered Russian furs so expensive relative to demand that they were not worth importing: as a company official wrote to a factor in Russia, "the Ermines they cost more there with you [in Russia], than we can sell them for here" in England (qtd. Veale 171). Hariot might have assumed that merchants importing cheaper Virginia furs might be able to revive the market and make a profit.


Hariot develops a fantasy theme about another commodity that would provide raw material for an established English industry, the leather trade. The tanning of leather and fashioning it into products was second only to the cloth industry in size and importance at the time (Jack 110). Economic historian Sybil M. Jack comments that leather was in great demand from all levels of society because it was used in so many essential products: "Apart from boots and shoes, belts and straps, jackets and trousers, purses and bags, bottles and flasks, it was used for saddles and harness, thongs and loops, hinges and ties, buckets and bellows and the like" (108). Tanning was a lengthy, complicated process. An act in 1563 stipulated that tanning take a minimum of twelve months, so a considerable investment in land and ingredients was required (108).

Hariot points to an abundance ("thousands yeerely") of "Deare Skinnes" that were available for trade with the natives for "trifles" (331). The Indians would provide both dressed skins (chamois, an extremely soft leather) and undressed skins that could be processed in England. Since the tanning was a major industry in England (skins were prepared for both the home and the export markets), the substantial number of deer skins that Hariot promised would attract merchant investors willing to supply raw materials for these dynamic markets.


Hariot also created fantasy themes about a potential wine industry in Virginia. He commented on the discovery of two kinds of native grapes that could be used to produce wine. This assertion would have caught the attention of many of his merchant readers because England at the time was importing wine from several nations in Europe that were traditional enemies.

England had no substantial wine industry of its own, and wine was therefore considered a luxury. It had to be imported, and English merchants throughout the century traded cloth, the nation's major trade good, for wine in the Mediterranean region, Spain, and France. But each of these trading partners had their difficulties. The Mediterranean region was dangerous for trade because of the relatively long voyage and the Barbary pirates, who feasted on English merchantmen. As early as 1531, English merchants traded woolen cloth for wine with Spain, but Spain was at times a sworn enemy that erected trade embargos on English goods in 1563-64 and 1568-73. Tensions between the two nations erupted into war in 1584. England also traded cloth for wine with France, another traditional enemy. Imports of French wine counted for 10 percent of all English imports from 1559 to 1560 (Pallaster 286). Wine was therefore a commodity much in demand yet expensive to import.

Hariot recognized this fact and concluded that Virginia grapes would solve two problems. Once the grapes were domesticated, colonists could harvest them to produce wine enough to sate the English appetite and cheap enough for merchants to enjoy considerable profits.


Hariot creates a fantasy theme about another major English industry when he claims that the colony found iron ore in Virginia's soil. He notes that his "minerall man,"probably Joachim Ganz, had tried the soil and found two locations 80 and 120 miles from the fort that were notably rich in iron (331). Hariot then attempts to point out the advantages of producing iron in Virginia, an argument that would have not been lost on merchants and industrialists in the audience.

Iron was in fact the largest metal industry in Tudor England. Not only did iron have to be smelted, but it was then worked into a variety of finished products, including nails, needles, pins, swords, cooking utensils, cutlery, wire, and so forth. The blast furnace was invented at the end of the 15th century, and many wealthy landowners were encouraged to install these furnaces to exploit the minerals on their property (Pallaster 296). But operating such furnaces required a considerable amount of fuel in the form of wood or charcoal, and this led to the perception at least that iron smelting was causing English forests to vanish. Many complaints were made about that problem at the time, and economic historians have traditionally argued that the lack of fuel limited the development of the iron industry (see Nef, for instance). While more recent work has brought this thesis into question (Pallaster 297), Hariot appears to have accepted the premise as fact and used it to point to another economic advantage of settling Virginia, manufacturing iron there and shipping it to England.

This was a workable plan, according to Hariot. Not only did Virginia have large iron deposits, he argues; it also had other advantages over England for iron production. First, a colony would provide cheap labor in the form of colonial workers who required only a small salary and food in exchange for their labor. Second, Virginia solved the English fuel problem because it, unlike England, possessed an "infinite store of wood" (Pallaster 332) from its virgin forests. In other words, in Virginia the abundance of wood for fuel would allow an abundant production of iron (more on this later). Third, ships returning to England would need ballast, and that would be provided by the manufactured iron.

Hariot's argument had one major flaw, however: the soil of coastal Virginia contained little iron.

Copper and Silver

Hariot mentions the existence of another metal, copper, and develops a fantasy theme about this commodity that was then in demand in England. He mentions the Lane expedition's search for copper mines to the west at Chaunis Temoatan without giving details of that journey's failure. Hariot is careful to limit his claims to the signs of copper that he found among the Indians: during their western expedition the colonists found several small sheets of copper that the inhabitants of that region said were produced by tribes further west, in the mountains of Chaunis Temoatan.

Copper, and brass which was made from it, were metals needed at the time because they were used to manufacture many necessary products, which included cannon barrels, pots and pans, and "the wire from which wool cards and pins were made" (Clay 60). Copper ore was in demand, and England was forced to import most of its copper until the 1560's, at which time English speculators began enterprises to mine native sources. These efforts were not fully satisfactory because the thin native deposits were hard to mine and required the importation of expensive, specialized foreign labor (60). In the 1580s, native producers had little success competing financially with cheaper foreign sources, especially those in central Europe (60). Once again we see Hariot offering a solution to a recognized problem by holding out the possibility that Virginia offered a rich, inexpensive, easily-mined source of copper that could replace current imports.

Hariot also points to the possible existence in Chaunis Temoatan of silver. His proof of this was that an Indian chief who lived about eight miles from Roanoke had two small pieces of silver about the size of a "Testrone," a small coin, hanging from his ears that he had come to him from the west about where the copper was found (333).


Hariot creates fantasy themes about various drugs and herbs found in Virginia that would help English doctors and apothecaries treat English patients. He first mentions sassafras, called Winauk by the Indians, as a drug discussed in Joyfull newes out of the newe founde worlde, the 1577 English translation of Nicholas Monardes's famous Spanish survey of American products. Hariot also mentioned other medicinal herbs and products, including sweet gums and other "Apothecary drugges" that he had discovered. Hariot could not be very precise about the drugs he had found because the specimens he had collected had been lost when Drake's sailors had thrown them overboard when deserting Virginia. But Hariot does claim that many more such "simples" would be discovered when expert herbalists later surveyed the region.

Once again, Hariot pointed to an important English industry that Virginia could assist. At the time, herbs played a central role in medical treatment. Many medical books contained a pharmacy section that was useful to both doctors and apothecaries (Gottfried 188), and herbals were produced to identify plants, many of them useful medicinally (see Arber). Doctors and apothecaries were trained to combine simples--individual ingredients--into compounds in complex ways to produce medicines (Siraisi 146). While many doctors advocated the application of local herbs for the treatment of disease, especially among the poor, other drugs were imported from the East for the wealthy at great expense, and Hariot several times suggests that Virginia might be an alternative source of such products. One example of this strategy is his mention of the China root, one of the woody smilaxes, which was at the time imported at great expense from the Far East and used "extensively" in European medicine (Quinn, "Thomas Hariot" 270).

As Quinn (Roanoke 329 n2), and Manning and Moore, comment, the mention of sassafras is a clear reference to the treatment of syphilis, at the time one of the scourges of England--and Europe in general. Although medical historians have not been able to identify the exact inception of syphilis in Europe, the first reliable accounts of the disease appeared in the 16th century (Magner 176). The disease was a terrible one that advanced through three stages, beginning with a small lesion or chancre on the skin. The second stage consisted of fever and a myriad of other symptoms, including sore throat, rash, skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes, and inflamed eyes. These symptoms subsided without treatment. The third and final stage included obstruction of blood vessels, abscesses, and inflammation leading to loss of vision, loss of coordination, paralysis, insanity, and death (Magner 174). Since it was believed that syphilis originated in the Americas, it followed, according to the medical thought of the day, that its cure would come from the same continent (Manning and Moore 474). By promising a source of sassafras Hariot promised a treatment for this horrible disease.

To conclude, in Part I Hariot develops a complex series of fantasy themes based on Virginia as a source of materials that would help support established English industries. His discussions suggest that he and the Raleigh Circle had considerable knowledge of the state of English commerce (much of this information probably came from Hakluyt), and Hariot used this knowledge to direct his fantasy themes to motivate merchants and industrialists to support the Virginia colony.

Part Two: Food

Part Two of the Report addresses another scenic concern, the various foods native to Virginia, and Hariot in his survey of plants and animals develops several fantasy themes connected with the issues of food, eating, and health. This is again the scene/agency ratio since he argues that Virginia provided foods that could keep English colonists alive and well. Hariot again answered a criticism made by the returning Lane colonists. Upon setting foot in England, some complained that they did not find in Virginia appropriate foods to support the English constitution. This problem was precipitated by the grounding of the Tiger, Grenville's flagship, which spoiled a good part of the colony's initial supplies. This disaster left the colony only twenty days of food. The problem was exacerbated by Raleigh's supply ships not arriving when expected, a fact that Lane complained about in his Discourse. The leaders were therefore forced to negotiate with the natives for additional provisions, and, as Lane's report demonstrates, this dependence on the slender resources of the Roanokes led to tensions between the tribe and the colonists. Furthermore, having to eat a native diet vexed many of the English. As Hariot wrote mockingly, some, probably those born in the higher ranks, complained that in Virginia they did not have "their olde accustomed dainte food" and other expected comforts (323). The complaint implied that some colonists found no food available that suited their constitutions, and Hariot therefore felt obliged to allay this criticism by presenting various fantasy themes about native foods that would sustain a future colony. Since food and diet were complicated issues in late 16th-century Europe, discussed in the numerous dietaries published at the time, Hariot's argument is rich with implication. I will emphasize three related fantasy themes: first, that Virginia provided a range of foods to keep a variety of physical constitutions healthy; second, that the Virginia food was suitable to the English national constitution; and, third, that Virginia provided food appropriate to different ranks of colonists.

Hariot's Survey

On the most obvious level, Hariot, because of his scientific inclinations, attempts to provide the first systematic English survey of the native foods available to support a future colony in Virginia. The purpose of this survey was to suggest the abundance of food sources Virginia offered. He divides food into the following categories--foods that can be cultivated (oddly, he includes tobacco); and wild foods that can be gathered, hunted, or fished. In the first category he includes corn, peas, beans, melons, and so forth. The second category he divides into edible roots, fruits, animals, birds, and seafood. Because Virginia was suffering its worst drought in memory, which affected the corn and other crops, it is probable that the Indians were collecting, eating, and showing to Hariot a wider variety of wild edible plants than they normally would. Since he was an expert on the Algonkian language and collected words from native informants, he had the unusual ability to identify almost all of these foods, both wild and cultivated, by their Algonkian names, providing their English counterparts if known. This system allowed him to be precise in his identifications, particularly with those foods that were unknown to the English and did not have an equivalent English designation. Hariot also implies that Virginia contains an even greater bounty than the foods he describes in the Report by noting that other plants and animals existed, and he promised to provide a more thorough survey in his longer discourse.

Food, however, was not a simple phenomenon in the Renaissance, and to understand the significance of food in Hariot's report requires a basic understanding of Renaissance dietary theory, beginning with digestion.

The Renaissance Conception of Digestion

Digestion or "concoction" was a central element in Renaissance dietary theory. The concoction of food was conceived as a broad process of isolating nutrients from food and directing them to various parts of the body. This process began with the chewing and moistening of food that was then swallowed and introduced to the stomach. If the masticated food were bad (putrefied or burned, for instance), it would spoil the entire process by corrupting "blood, flesh, humors, and spirits" (Albala 56). Once the food reaches the stomach, it was literally cooked because this organ was widely conceived metaphorically as a kitchen kettle with a fire under it that broke down food. It was therefore extremely important to one's health that food be properly layered in the stomach. One would never add a solid food directly to a hot, dry stomach, just as one would not add liquids to such a stomach at the end of the meal because they would float on the top and not help with the cooking process (57). Too much liquid could cause food to move up by nausea and downwards by fluxes (60). Food had to remain in the stomach for the correct amount of time so that it cooked thoroughly, and this time depended on the digestive or vital heat of the individual. Food then moved through the stomach to the intestines, which separated nutriments from waste products, and to the kidneys, which strained liquids for impurities (60).

Variety of Foods and Physical Types

Food itself was a recondite factor in Renaissance life, and the highly educated Hariot clearly understood the philosophies of eating and health expressed in the numerous dietaries of the period. This theory of food and eating was based on the four humors that found their earliest expression in the medical literature associated with Hippocrates and Galen, two early Greek physicians. The humor theory influenced Renaissance medicine, psychology, and dietary theory and practice and therefore influenced Hariot's discussion of food in Virginia.

To explain how the human body functions, Renaissance physicians identified four humors that corresponded to the four elements of the universe: fire (hot and dry), water (cold and wet), earth (cold and dry), and air (hot and wet). The humors were also identified with four bodily fluids that interacted to make up one's "complexion" or "temperature" which resulted from a balance of the four humors. Fire was associated with choler or yellow bile and made for the choleric personality; water was associated with phlegm or mucus and made for the phlegmatic personality; earth was associated with black bile and made for the dangerous melancholic personality; and air was associated with blood and made for the sanguine personality (Rawcliffe 32-33). While all human bodies contained all four humors, usually one or two predominated to create the character of, for instance, the sanguine individual. As Ken Albala argues in Eating Right in the Renaissance, his detailed study of eating, food, and health in the period, the humor system was the philosophical center of numerous European dietaries that informed their readers about how to eat correctly to maintain or restore their health. Each kind of food was identified with one of the four elements and therefore had an effect on the eater's constitution depending on his or her complexion. One of the principles of Renaissance medicine was to keep one's humors in proper balance by eating the correct combinations of foods for one's personality type. One usually had to eat foods that contained the opposite humors to the consumer's complexion.

A typical statement of how individuals of various complexions should eat is found in Andrew Boorde's A Compendyous Regyment of a Dyetary of Helth (1547). An English physician, Boorde offers a standard analysis of personality and food, emphasizing the needed opposition between personality and nutrition. The sanguine man (hot and moist), for instance, must avoid a number of hot and moist foods that can corrupt his complexion and infect his blood. He must avoid old flesh, animal brains, and cow's udders and eat only moderately of fruits, herbs, and roots such as garlic, onions, and leeks, all of which are hot (287). The phlegmatic man (cold and moist), on the other hand, should eat foods that are hot and dry, including ample amounts of garlic, onions, and leeks (288). The choloric man (hot and dry) has a different set of dietary instructions. He must refrain from hot spices but can eat "groser meate than any other complexions" because his digestive system is hotter and more powerful (288). Finally, the melancholy man (cold and dry) must avoid food that is burned and dry but will benefit from all food that is hot and moist. In each case, health is maintained by counterbalancing the nature of the food with the nature of the complexion or temperature. One of Hariot's goals in this section, therefore, was to indicate that a variety of foods and herbs were available to suit the four complexions and their various combinations so that all colonists could remain healthy in Virginia.

Based on humor theory, for instance, he advocated tobacco as an herb with healthful properties. Since tobacco when smoked was hot and dry, Hariot concluded that it "purgeth superfluous fleame & other grosse humors, openeth all the pores & passages of the body," thereby making the body healthy by bringing it back into balance (Hariot 344; Milton 164). Tobacco was particularly good for the phlegmatic personality that was cold and moist and therefore subject to congestion.

National Diets

In addition to individual complexions, people had national complexions. By the time Hariot wrote, there was a growing sense of native traditions in food and eating and a rising suspicion of foreign foods. In fact, by the late 16th century, the traditional dietary distinction discussed above began to break down as dietaries defended what Albala calls "native food customs" (228). This assumption was based in part on a new environmentalism. The products of a region, it came to be thought, were "environmentally adapted to meet the needs of the inhabitants" (Albala 229). These adaptations resulted from a number of elements, including the national climate, the foods available in that nation, and a people's traditional behavior. The Scots, for instance, lived in a harsh climate, exercised hard, and could therefore concoct oat cakes and heavy meats that would ruin the digestion of more refined, sedentary English gentleman (229). People living in cold climates could eat heavier, grosser foods than those living in warmer climate. The national body adapted to the foods available, and humans, being adaptable creatures, could improve their national foods to make the country's inhabitants more healthy. But sudden changes in diet could lead to dangerous imbalances that could result in sickness. A Renaissance dietary theorist might therefore assume that Englishmen forced to eat an Indian diet would be thrown out of balance and fall ill.

To convince his audience that English people could survive in Virginia, Hariot therefore had to prove that Englishmen could concoct the native food and remain healthy. While he does not make this argument explicitly in his discussion of food, he does in his report's conclusion when he claims that the colonists, for all their complaints, were an extremely healthy lot. He asserts, for instance, that of the 108 colonists who began the year in Virginia only four died, and of those four, three were sickly when they left England (384). This low mortality rate was evidence, he argues, of the nutritiousness to the English complexion of the native foods, which the colony began eating about twenty days after the provisions ran out and continued to eat for the rest of the year. This statistic was surprising, Hariot argues, because "some sorts [of native foods] were very strange vnto us, and might haue been thought to haue altered our temperatures [complexions]" (383-84). If the colonists' temperatures, their mixtures of humors, had been thrown out of balance, more colonists would have died of "some greevous and dangerous diseases" (384). One of Hariot's implications, therefore, was that the region offered a range of foods that suited not only the colonists' individual complexions but also the English national complexion. English men and women could flourish on the native diet, a position that flew in the face of much traditional thinking at the time.

Food and Rank

A third major issue in Renaissance dietary theory concerned the relationship between food and rank. In the earlier dietaries of the late 14th- and early 15th-centuries, rank and food were related in terms of occupations and their physical requirements. Laborers worked hard physically, sweated profusely, and therefore stoked a more powerful vital heat that required crude foods to burn. More refined foods, those fit for more refined digestions, would be burned too quickly by the laborer's hot stomach. Crude foods that would putrefy in the refined, cooler stomach would be burned efficiently in the fiery peasant belly. This notion, that the lower ranks required cruder food, remained a common assumption in the dietaries throughout the period. By the time Hariot wrote, however, the dietaries had begun to associate rank and food in political terms. It became common to assume that one became what one ate, so if one ate like a peasant, a person was in danger of being mistaken for one. Crude, unrefined foods of the peasant diet, such as beans, brown breads, and oats, became anathema to the middle ranked writers of the dietaries. To associate oneself with the upper ranks, then, meant that one should eat more refined foods. What were those refined foods that the upper classes ate?

Evidence suggests that the wealthy of the 16th-century ate almost exclusively meat, fowl, and fish, and some dietaries began recommending, for the elite, meals heavy on animal proteins (Milton 162). As William Harrison notes in The Description of England, the wealthy feasted on "beef, mutton, veal, lamb, kid, pork, cony, capon, pig, and so many of these as the season yealdeth" (126). Historian Andrew B. Appleby lists "the astounding array of dishes" consumed by 459 guests at the Duke of Buckingham's table during the feast of Epiphany in 1508:

678 loaves of bread, 36 "rounds" of beef, 12 mutton carcases, 2 calves, 4 pigs, 6 suckling pigs, 1 lamb, numerous chickens and rabbits, as well as oysters, ling, cod, sturgeon, flounder, lamprey, large eels, plaice, a conger eel, roach . . ., dogfish, tench . . ., a salmon, swans, geese, capons, peacocks, herons, mallards, widgeons, teals, woodcocks, snipes, unspecified great and little birds, larks, quails, eggs, butter, milk, and 6d worth of "herbs." (98)

Appleby has also surveyed the dinner accounts of the court of the Star Chamber and found that the lords ate "mutton, lamb, and veal" and all kinds of fowl, including "cocks, hens, pullets, capons, geese, pigeons (cooked in pies), ducks, pheasants, partridges, quails, snipes, woodcocks, plovers, gulls (which were netted and then fed on beef to rid them of their fishy taste), curlews, herons, blackbirds, and larks" (99). When fish days were declared by the government for Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, the lords ate every manner of fish imaginable, including porpoises (99). As Appleby concludes, "The wealthy ate vast amounts of meat, prepared in increasingly elaborate ways and served with growing ostentation" (97) as the century progressed.

The diet of the poor, on the other hand, deteriorated during the century due to several causes, including an increase in population, the rise of inflation, and periodic crop failures. Because of these influences, the diet of the poor worsened until, by the end of the century, starvation stalked this group. As times got worse, the diet of the poor shifted to less desirable grains such as rye, barley, oats, and other foods, including beans, which in better times were fed to animals (Appleby 108). In bad years, the poor resorted to eating bread made out of beans and grasses.

This information places in a new light Hariot's sarcastic comments directed at those colonists who demanded their dainty foods. Colonists, especially those from better families, did not appreciate being forced to eat the crude Indian diet consisting partly of corn and beans, both food types associated in the European mind with the lower ranks. They longed for refined foods that were more easily digested by their more delicate stomachs: white bread and the better meats associated with the wealthy table were the more desirable food.

Hariot therefore draws another point from his survey of native foods. Different foods were appropriate for the nutrition of different ranks, and Hariot attempts to demonstrate that all ranks of English could survive in Virginia. This argument was particularly appealing to the wealthy who Raleigh hoped would purchase and operate large plantations using laborers. The aristocrat himself would find all the meats and fish that his refined system needed to function, as Hariot's extensive list of meat animals, fowl, and seafood demonstrates. He mentions deer, an animal closely associated with the English aristocracy, and the following birds commonly found on the table of the wealthy: doves, partridges, swans, and geese (358). On the other hand, Hariot conspicuously mentions many of the peasant foods to assure his aristocratic readers that their laborers settled in Virginia could be kept in top physical condition. It is telling, for instance, that Hariot talks of growing not wheat but barley and oats (344), two grains then associated with the peasant diet. When he discusses peas, Hariot describes an Indian bread made of peas and beans cooked and pounded with a mortar into the "lumps of dowish bread" similar to the strange peasant breads made and eaten in England during famines (339). The English poor also, when necessary, made bread out of acorns, as did the Indians (354). He also speaks of a bread made from coscushaw, a peppery root that could be dried and pounded into a flour (349-50).

Although Hariot expends much energy demonstrating that the native foods of Virginia suited the colonists' temperatures, he also presented another fantasy theme about food in the Report's conclusion: that Raleigh planned to introduced to his future colonies the native foods of England. These foods would provide future colonists with "victuals that is excellent good and plentie enough" if the transplanted English men and women would work to raise "Englishe sortes of cattaile," fruits, and vegetables (386). If the reader was not convinced that Native American foods could maintain the balance of the English temperature despite all of Hariot's previous evidence that they could, then that reader could take comfort in the plan to raise English foods in America that would feed the colony on foods it traditionally ate. This plan would have the additional advantage of producing commodities that planters could exported to the English market. Discussions of both native and English foods were intended to motivate potential colonists and investors to support colonization.

Part Three: Industrial Commodities and Building Materials: Wood and Brick

The final scenic element of the Report is Hariot's fantasy themes that Virginia would provide material--trees and bricks for the most part--that could be useful both to industrialists shoring up valuable English industries such as iron smelting and ship building and to colonists building houses. Quinn notes that this section continues Hariot's attempt to make "his treatise serve at the same time as an incentive to new settlers and as a practical guide to those" already committed to venturing their persons in America (363). But this section, as did Part I, also appeals to merchants and industrialists, those who would not necessarily settle in Virginia but who would transport, trade, and use the commodities found there. The immediate purpose of this section was to rebut "malitious reports" made by returning 1585 colonists who claimed that no adequate building materials existed with which to construct houses and other structures for the colony.

Industrial Commodities

Hariot creates in Part III fantasy themes closely related to those in Part I that identified commodities needed to support established English industries. One industry that he targets again is ship building by arguing that Virginia provided needed lumber to build English ships. He comments explicitly twice on trees that would supply masts for ships when discussing the fir and the rakiock, which Quinn identifies as either the tulip tree or the white cypress, the former being more likely since it might be a tree pictured in de Bry based on a White drawing. Fir trees were then procured by England in the Baltic region, so Hariot implies that Virginia would provide a more reliable, cheaper source for this commodity so necessary for England's navy. Hariot also mentions the existence of wood that could be used by shipwrights to build hulls. Virginia oaks are "faire, straight, tall, and as good timber as any can be" (363), and walnut trees "haue bene seen excellent faire timber foure & five fadome, & aboue fourscore foote steight without bough" (363). In both cases, the lumber produced from these trees from the virgin wilderness would be long, wide planks free from knots that would be perfect for ship building.

Quinn argues that Raleigh might have been planning to establish a shipbuilding facility in Virginia, but that need not have been the case. Raleigh might have been planning to build lumber mills there to produce lumber to be transported to England for its ship building industry. Something like this happened in Jamestown. One of the first commodities to be manufactured and sent to English were clapboards for the siding of houses.

Iron and Other Metal Industries

As I argued earlier, the iron industry in England was one of the nation's most important commercial enterprises. There was, however, a perception, whether true or not, that the smelting of steel, which required substantial amounts of wood and charcoal produced from wood for fuel, was decimating English forests. By pointing to the abundance of trees in Virginia, Hariot was also pointing to the possibility of establishing iron and other smelting operations there, and these industries would provide England with a cheap source of this valuable commodity from which to manufacture various metal products.

Minor Industries

Hariot also mentions four minor industries based on Virginia trees. First, he mentions for the second time cedar trees that could be used for making furniture--he mentions bedsteads, chests, and boxes--and musical instruments--lutes and virginals, which were small, legless harpsichords then popular. Second, he identifies two trees useful medicinally as supposed cures for syphilis: the sassafras and the ascopo, a tree like the laurel but with hot bark (good for balancing an excess of cold humors) from which an infusion could be made (Quinn 366 n1). Third, he mentions the willow that could be used to make fish weirs "after the English manner" to catch more fish (365), a true necessity since the English were incapable of using the Indian weirs. Finally, he mentions the beech and ash trees that could be used to make the hoops for casts to brew beer and ale and to transport foodstuffs, especially salted meats. By mentioning these diverse commodities, Hariot creates fantasy themes that Virginia could provided raw materials to support a range of English industries both in Virginia and in England.

Building Materials

In addition to providing commodities necessary for various industries, Hariot argues that the Roanoke region offered building materials to construct future colonial homes. As he did with food, he implies a distinction among ranks of future colonists. The building materials could be used to construct both simple dwellings made of wood and stately manor houses made of stones and bricks.

Wooden Houses

Hariot notes in his brief introduction to this section that the trees in Virginia would provide wood for both ship building and houses. So the same long, knot-free planks that could be used to construct ships could also be used to construct houses. Such frame houses could be constructed quickly for colonists of the middle ranks and below. Wood could be used to construct a fort and basic wooden structures to house colonists when they first arrived.

Stone and Brick Houses

Colonists of the higher ranks, however, would expect more spacious manor houses, and for colonists of this station, builders could turn to stone or brick and mortar. Hariot is not certain about stone for building, noting that none existed near the coast but some might be found inland in quarries. The fact that the Roanoke Indians did not use much stone and certainly did not quarry any added to the uncertainty that large stones suitable for building existed in Virginia.

Hariot is clearer on bricks and mortar, pointing to specific sources of material for both. He notes the existence of "excellent good and plentie" clay from which to fire bricks. He also mentions a source for lime to make mortar: oyster shells that had been piled in middens by Indians after eating the oyster meat could be burned to produce lime. As Quinn notes, these piles of shells remained the primary source of lime for mortar through the middle of the 19th century (367 n9).

Hariot makes a clear reference to rank when he mentions that "the planters therein may be as well supplied by Bricke" (367) (italics mine). As Quinn notes (367 n7), this is Hariot's only direct appeal to planters and suggests that Hariot and Raleigh conceived of Virginia consisting in part of a series of substantial plantations. Although the term planters could mean at the time simply a farmer, one who plants seeds, the fact that Hariot mentions brick in the same breath suggests that he meant something closer to the proprietor of a plantation, a large expanse of land owned and farmed by one family that oversaw a number of subordinate, perhaps indentured workers. Bricks suggest that Hariot implied the possibility of a large, permanent domicile, perhaps even a manor house, that would be the center of the estate. Subordinates would live in smaller dwellings, probably made of wood, that would be appropriate to their rank. That Raleigh was thinking in terms of large estates is suggested by Hariot's comments on his employer's system of land distribution. The least Raleigh granted an individual settler in the 1587 colony, Hariot writes, "hath beene fiue hundred acres to a man onely for the adventure of his person" (385). Although we know little about financial arrangements for the 1587 colony, this statement suggests that Raleigh was granting large tracts of land (five hundred acres being the smallest) on which to establish substantial plantations, a fantasy theme that would have considerable appeal to a range of the land-hungry English, including the younger sons of the upper classes.


The various fantasy themes in Hariot's Briefe Report concerning the actors and the scene interact to create a drama of colonization that emphasizes the potential of Virginia as a productive site for Raleigh's colony. As Bormann argues, however, many discourses do more than present individual fantasy themes. Authors often attempt to create a rhetorical vision, a coherent picture that is often expressed in a dominant figure of speech. In the Barlowe report the rhetorical vision is presented by means of the garden metaphor: Virginia as the new Eden, Barlowe asserts. In the Lane report, the vision is presented in the metonymy of the hand of God that first protects the colony and then removes it from Virginia, proving that He did not support Raleigh's efforts. As did the Barlowe and Lane reports, Hariot's contains a dominant figure, in this case a metaphor, that appears twice in prominent places, once at the beginning and once at the end, in the discourse (see Moran, "Figures"). The metaphor is "the fruites of our labours" (321, 386). In the figure's first appearance, Hariot writes that since he had personally been involved in the discovery of Virginia and knew more about the natives than any other English person, he is in the position "to impart as much vnto you of the fruites of our labours, as that you may knowe how iniuriously the enterprise is slaundered" by Lane and the returning colonists (321; italics mine). Hariot thereby promises to explain the accomplishments of the colony to deflect the criticisms of the Lane colonists. Hariot returns to this figure near the end of the report when he concludes, "And this is all the fruites of our labours, that I haue thought necessary to aduertise you of at the present" (386; italics mine). This time he implies that while he has written of many of the colony's accomplishments, he has still more to present because he has only offered the "necessary" ones. Elsewhere in the report, he promises to produce in due course his longer narrative of the colony, a document now lost if it was ever finished, which would present more details of the 1585 colony and its "fruits."

The fruit metaphor is a powerful figure in the context of Hariot's report. It is an agricultural figure that is especially appropriate given the common Renaissance metaphor of settlement being the act of "planting" a colony. Fruit, of course, suggests a harvest, with the fruit being the result of a number of steps: preparing the ground, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and harvesting the fruit. The perspective the metaphor offers is that of a completed process, because planting would suggest an early step, while harvesting would be one of the last, completing the activity. The figure contains the implied argument that the Lane colony, instead of ending in failure, had produced something of value, some sort of a crop. The metaphor implies that the colony had moved from potentiality to actuality, that products of value had been reaped.

This conclusion, however, is misleading at best because, as the Report itself proves, Hariot managed to identify products that the English could only potentially exploit. To prove this potential value, he developed four lines of argument to answer Lane's charges about Virginia's worthlessness. First, since Lane had claimed that the land lacked value, Hariot identified numerous Virginia commodities that colonists and merchants could exploit. Second, since Lane and his colonists had claimed that they had almost starved in Virginia, Hariot listed all the Indian foodstuffs that English colonists could eat and promised that Raleigh would introduce English food. Third, since Lane had claimed that Virginia lacked material to build a colony, Hariot listed all the materials with which future colonists could construct houses. Finally, since Lane claimed that the Indians were dangerous, Hariot argued that they were essentially powerless compared to the English and were therefore no serious threat.

Although all four lines of argument might be convincing to a sympathetic, uncritical reader, none of them pointed to the realization of a tradable commodity or a settled colony. In other words, the colonists had not produced any actual "fruits" beyond a rudimentary fort and village, both of which the colony deserted. In fact, the real fruits of the colony's labor were not the production of any valuable commodity whether that be a cash crop or a mine; instead, the actual fruits that Hariot could legitimately claim consisted of some basic information about Virginia, and this information gives the report its historical value. This information appeared not only in verbal form; it also appeared, in the de Bry edition at least, in visuals-etchings based on White's original water-color illustrations of animals, plants, and people, and especially his highly accurate maps of the region. While valuable to future colonization efforts and to the growing European knowledge of North America, this information alone would not easily translate into profits or an actual settlement, and Hariot's metaphor of the fruits of the colony's labor implies that much more practical work had been accomplished than actually was. But like Barlowe's and Lane's dominant figures, Hariot's carries considerable persuasive power, in this case implying that future investors and colonists would find things of value ready to be exploited.


Hariot's Report achieved its immediate purposes: it answered Lane's criticisms of Virginia as a potential colony, and helped keep the English colonization movement alive. By presenting a series of scenic fantasy themes that outlined the potential of the region to support a colony by exploiting various commodities useful both to future colonists and to English merchants and industrialists, Hariot asserted the views on colonization held by the Raleigh group. These views were not all reliable, however, because Hariot's promises of an easy settlement among docile, friendly natives were contributing factors that led to the twin tragedies of the Lost Colony of 1587 and the early years of Jamestown with its starvation and moral decay.

The immediate reception of the initial version of Hariot's report (published in early 1588) was muted by political and military events in England. The most important of these was the mounting of King Philip II's Armada of that same year, which, in its attempt to invade England, forced Elizabeth's government to curtail temporarily almost all shipping to Virginia. The invasion prevented Raleigh from sending support to his 1587 colony that had been dropped off at Roanoke, and this lack of support momentary stalled the colonization movement. In addition, Raleigh's interests shifted about this time from the New World to Ireland, where he took part in the movement to establish a huge personal estate, and Hariot's Report did little more than keep Virginia alive in the public mind. Raleigh had invested a personal fortune in the enterprise and hesitated to spend more. When he did shift his interests back to Virginia, after inheriting the opulent estates of Anthony Babington, the Catholic traitor who had been put to death, Raleigh was obsessed with finding the 1587 colony to prove that he had satisfied the requirement of his patent to settle a permanent colony in North America. He did not attempt to plant additional settlers in Virginia. By 1603, he had ran afoul of King James, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and prevented from any further colonial action until his debacle in the Amazon, the failure of which contributed to his being executed for treason in 1616.

While the 1588 version of Hariot's Report had little influence, the 1590 version had a much greater affect on the colonization movement, especially in the planning and implementation of Jamestown, settled in 1606. The members of the Virginia Company and the colonists used Hariot's Report as a guide, and based the colony on the Raleigh Circle's vision of Virginia. Virginia Company planners assumed that the natives of Virginia would be friendly and docile, which they were not. Under Hariot's influence, the Virginia Company officials failed to recognize the influence the harsh frontier conditions had on English colonists. Without the strong leadership of a Lane or Captain John Smith, colonists fell into a lethargy and failed to work, even to keep themselves alive. The Company, following Hariot, believed colonists could live on native foods which would be readily available, an assumption that proved to be false. Finally, Company officials assumed that colonists could easily produce various commodities that would quickly turn a profit, a plan that turned out to be wishful thinking.

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