Captain John Smith General History of Virginia Lesson Plans

Captain John Smith was said to be many things: an adventurer, a decorated soldier, an explorer, a conqueror, a poet, a mapmaker, and an author. The General History of Virginia originally The Generall Historie of Virginiais, detailed history of the planters’ years in Jamestown from 1607-1609.

Student Activities for The General History of Virginia

Essential Questions for The General History of Virginia by Captain John Smith

  1. What makes a narrator reliable, or unreliable?
  2. Why are historical narratives important?
  3. What are some ways that people persevere in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation?
  4. Why is self-reliance an important characteristic to have?
  5. Why is the idea of a “fresh start” so appealing to people?
  6. How can an historical narrative be used to promote a new place or idea?

The General History of Virginia Summary

The General History of Virginia by John Smith was published in 1624. Many critics have doubted the validity of Smith’s narrative, and many have called him an embellisher. The narrative describes important moments for the British colonizers, such as Smith’s encounters with the Native Americans, including Pocahontas. When John Smith and the English colonists arrived in coastal Virginia in 1607, it was inhabited by about 14,000 Powhatan Indians who spoke an Algonquian language. They were led by Wahunsonacock who is referred to as Chief Powhatan. One of Chief Powhatan's daughters was nicknamed Pocahontas, which means "playful one". Pocahontas met John Smith in 1607 when she was about 11 years old. In Smith's telling, it is the important alliance that he forges with Chief Powhatan that helps maintain a friendly relationship between the English settlers of Jamestown and the Powhatan Indians. While Smith refers to the Native Americans as “savages” in his narrative, some historians say that Smith did regard the Native Americans with kindness and respect.

In John Smith's history about Virginia, he saw himself as the hero of the colony, referring to himself in the third person throughout his narrative. This style of writing creates an abstract picture of a man who helped to save the settlers by organizing, delegating, building, and always saving the greatest, most difficult and dangerous tasks for himself. Regardless of how genuine this account is, the narrative is nonetheless a fascinating look at the obstacles and perseverance of the settlers in an unfamiliar and dangerous territory. Smith hoped that his narrative about his time in Virginia would attract more settlers to the "New World" who were in search of adventure and new economic opportunities. He looked to the new settlements as a way to strengthen England’s economic prowess and power on the world stage.

Primary Types of Narrative Accounts

Narrative nonfiction comes in many forms, and serve as important historical documents and sources of entertainment.

Captivity NarrativeEvents that occur while the author is in captivity
Slave NarrativeEvents that occur while the author is enslaved; usually documents injustices of the captivity, and includes how the author was freed or escaped
JournalDaily events, observations, and important data is often included in a journal; can also include personal feelings or judgments
Exploration NarrativeEvents that occur during an exploration of a new place or land
Historical NarrativeEvents that attempt to construct a history of a particular time or place; may be the writer’s own observations, or may include other firsthand accounts

Reliability of a Narrator

Narratives are particularly tricky, because bias and subjectivity can creep in, according to the purpose of the writer. In John Smith’s case, he wanted more English people to colonize the New World, so he tried to make it sound as exciting as possible, all while making sure he painted himself as a hero. When reading, try to identify the purpose of the writer:

  • Is it simply to record information?
  • To document personal thoughts?
  • To persuade readers to do something?
  • To entertain?

John Smith’s Early Life and How He Came To Be In Virginia

Captain John Smith was born in 1580 in Willoughby, Lincolnshire, England. He was the son of a farmer, but he was not interested in farming. When he was 16, he left home and went to sea. He sailed to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. He also explored the coasts of Africa and North America. In 1606, King James I of England sent Smith to Virginia to help start a colony there.

Smith arrived in Virginia in April 1607 with about 100 other English settlers. They established a settlement at Jamestown on the James River. The settlers were not prepared for life in the New World, and they faced many challenges, including hunger, disease, and attacks from Native Americans.

The Exploration of Virginia and The Establishment of Jamestown

The English settlers began exploring the area around Jamestown. Captain John Smith led many of the expeditions, and he kept a detailed journal of his travels. In 1608, he explored the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that flow into it. He also mapped the coastline of Virginia. The maps he made were very accurate and they were used for many years.

In 1609, the English settlers faced a severe drought, and food was scarce. Many of the settlers died of starvation or disease. That same year, Smith was injured in a gunpowder accident, and he returned to England. He never came back to Virginia, but his journals and maps were published, and they helped other Englishmen who wanted to settle in Virginia.

The Relations Between The Native Americans and The English Settlers

The English settlers had good relations with some of the Native American tribes, but they also had conflicts with other tribes. In 1622, a group of Native Americans attacked the English settlements and killed more than 400 settlers. This event is known as the Jamestown Massacre.

The English settlers continued to expand their settlements, and they began to force the Native Americans off their land. In 1644, a group of Virginia colonists formed a company to build a fort in present-day Ohio. This fort was built near the Miami tribe’s village of St. Mary’s. The Miami tribe did not want the English settlers on their land, and they attacked the fort. The conflict between the English settlers and the Native Americans continued for many years.

The Powhatan Uprising and Its Aftermath

In 1675, tensions between the English settlers and the Native Americans erupted into violence again. This conflict is known as Bacon’s Rebellion. It began when a group of English settlers, led by Nathaniel Bacon, attacked a Native American village in Virginia. The Powhatan Confederacy retaliated by attacking the English settlements. The conflict ended when Bacon and his men burned Jamestown to the ground.

After Bacon’s Rebellion, the English colonists enacted a series of laws that made it illegal for white men to marry Native American women or have any kind of relationship with them. These laws were designed to keep Native Americans from becoming too powerful.

The relations between the English settlers and the Native Americans continued to be strained, and there were more conflicts in the years to come. In 1722, the Yamasee War broke out in South Carolina. This conflict began when the Yamasee tribe, who lived in South Carolina, attacked the English settlements. The English settlers retaliated by attacking the Yamasee villages. The Yamasee War ended with the defeat of the Yamasee tribe.

Relations between the English settlers and the Native Americans improved for a time after the Yamasee War, but they deteriorated again in the 1730s. In 1736, a group of Creek Indians attacked an English settlement in Georgia. This event is known as the Cherokee War. The Cherokee War was fought between the Creek Indians and the English settlers in Georgia and South Carolina. It ended with a peace treaty that was signed in 1738.

John Smith’s Return to England

In 1609, Captain John Smith returned to England. He had been injured in a gunpowder explosion, and he needed to get medical attention. While he was in England, he wrote a book about the Virginia colony. The book by John Smith The General History of Virginia.

Smith’s book was very popular, and it helped other Englishmen who wanted to settle in Virginia. In 1624, the Virginia Company was dissolved, and the colony became a royal colony. Smith returned to Virginia in 1629, but he did not stay for long. He returned to England in 1634, and he died there in 1631.

The Final Years of John Smith’s Life

Captain John Smith died in England in 1631. He was buried in St. Sepulchre’s churchyard in London. A monument was erected to his memory in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1632.

Smith was a controversial figure during his lifetime, and he is still controversial today. Some people view him as a hero because he helped the English settlers survive in Jamestown. Others view him as a villain because he forced the Native Americans off their land.

Whether you view him as a hero or a villain, there is no denying that Captain John Smith was an important figure in American history.

Why Learn About The History of Virginia

The general history of Virginia is important because it’s the history of the United States. The first English settlers arrived in what is now Virginia in 1607 and established Jamestown, which became the first permanent English settlement in North America. The history of Virginia includes the history of Native Americans, who were living in the area long before the English arrived. It also includes the history of African Americans, who were brought to Virginia as slaves to work on plantations. Understanding the history of Virginia can help us understand the history of the United States and how it became a country.

Learning about Captain John Smith and Pocahontas can also be fun! These two historical figures are famous for their adventures and their involvement in early American history. Pocahontas is especially famous because her story has been told in many movies and books.

So, why not learn a little bit about the history of Virginia? It’s the history of our country, and it’s full of fascinating stories!

Did you know that the first English settlers in Virginia were actually looking for gold? They thought they could find gold in the rivers and streams. Of course, they didn’t find any gold, but they did find something else: tobacco! Tobacco became very popular in Europe, and the colonists began to grow and sell it. That’s how Virginia became known as the “Old Dominion” because it produced so much tobacco.

Student Activities

There are 5 activities students can use to study the general history of Virginia John Smith summary on Storyboard That. They are each explained below.

Key Timeline of Events

This activity is designed to help students understand the key events that have shaped Virginia’s history. Students will create a timeline of events starting with the first English settlers’ arrival in 1607. They can include important events such as the founding of Jamestown, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and more.

Identifying Themes

This activity is designed to help students identify the main themes in John Smith’s book. These themes could be the relationship between the English and Native Americans, the importance of tobacco to the colony, or the effects of slavery. After students have identified the themes, they can explain how these themes are still relevant today.

Smith as an Unreliable Narrator

This activity is designed to help students understand that Captain John Smith was an unreliable narrator. In his book, he often exaggerated or made things up. Students will read a selection from the book and then identify which parts they think are true and which parts they think are false. They can support their answers with evidence from the text.

Promoting a New World

This activity is designed to help students understand how the colonists promoted Virginia as a new world. They will read a selection from John Smith’s book and identify the ways he promotes Virginia.

Visual Vocabulary

This activity is designed to help students understand the visual vocabulary used in John Smith’s book. They will create a storyboard that includes pictures and definitions of key terms such as “savages” and “naturals.” This will help them better understand the meaning of these words and how they were used in the book.

Learning about history doesn’t have to be boring! There are many ways to make it fun and interactive. Storyboard That is one way you can learn about the history of Virginia in a fun and visual way. We hope you enjoy learning about Virginia’s history through our activities!

Why it is Better to Learn in Storyboard Format

When learning about history, it is always better to learn in a storyboard format. A storyboard is a graphical representation of a story that includes the sequence of events, characters, and locations. Learning in storyboard format allows you to see the big picture and understand how all the pieces fit together. It also helps you remember the details better because they are presented visually.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Virginia, we have many resources available. Other ways to learn could be by visiting Jamestown or other historical sites, reading books or articles, or watching movies or documentaries. However, you choose to learn, remember that understanding the history of Virginia is crucial for understanding the history of the United States.

How to Explore the Themes in John Smith's "The General History of Virginia"


Read and Familiarize Yourself with the Text

Start by reading John Smith's "The General History of Virginia" to understand the key events, characters, and narrative structure. Take note of recurring ideas, conflicts, and symbols that appear throughout the text.


Identify Potential Themes

Analyze the narrative to identify potential themes or central ideas. Look for patterns in the text that suggest underlying messages or concepts that the author is conveying. Themes could include survival, exploration, cultural encounters, colonization, self-reliance, or the clash of civilizations.


Gather Evidence from the Text

Highlight or make notes of specific passages, dialogues, or incidents that support the identified themes. Pay attention to Smith's descriptions, character interactions, and the values he emphasizes.


Analyze the Significance of the Themes

Reflect on the meaning and significance of the identified themes. Consider how they contribute to the overall understanding of the text and what broader messages or insights they convey about the historical context or human experience.


Connect the Themes to Historical Context

Examine the historical context in which the narrative takes place, including the Jamestown settlement, encounters with Native Americans, and the early years of English colonization. Explore how the themes relate to the challenges, conflicts, and aspirations of the time period.


Consider Relevance to Contemporary Issues

Reflect on the relevance of the themes in John Smith's narrative to contemporary issues or situations. Draw connections between the historical events described and present-day contexts, exploring how similar themes manifest in different contexts.

Frequently Asked Questions about The General History of Virginia

Who was John Smith?

John Smith was an explorer, navigator, and leader of the first permanent English settlement in America known as Jamestown. Smith's leadership helped the struggling colony survive as his famous "no work no food" order helped to produce the essential work that was needed for survival.

When was The General History of Virginia published?

The General History of Virginia was first printed in 1624.

What is The General History of Virginia about?

The General History of Virginia is a detailed description, from John Smith’s point of view, of the founding of Jamestown, exploring the coast of Virginia, the Pilgrims’ arrival on the Mayflower in 1620, and so much more.

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