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In 1584, Spain dominated the coasts of Central and South America, the Caribbean, and modern day Florida. England, under the rule of Elizabeth I, sought to disrupt and overthrow this control by establishing colonies in the New World. Not only would these colonies help provide a buffer against Spain’s control, but it also helped set up a home base for England’s privateering, which allowed English ships to attack Spanish ships, stealing treasure and gaining control of Spanish trade routes in the region. One of England’s most famous privateers, Sir Walter Raleigh, with the blessing of Queen Elizabeth, sent a reconnaissance expedition to the New World in April, 1584, they arrived in present day North Carolina in July of 1584, and would go on to establish the first English colony in the united States, Roanoke Colony, in 1587. At this site today, Fort Raleigh, named after Sir Walter Raleigh, preserved the history of Roanoke Colony and National Park Ranger Josh Nelson joins us to today to tell us about the Elizabethan history of Raleigh, North Carolina, and to share some of the archaeological finds still there today that you can see from Shakespeare’s lifetime.  

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Josh Nelson is a Park Ranger with National Park Service currently working on Roanoke Island in North Carolina.

Learn more about Josh

Explore Fort Raleigh with a video series

I’ll be asking Josh Nelson about:

  • What potential colony sites did they discover when they arrived? 
  • Was Roanoke originally setup as a military colony and how is that different from a colony like Jamestown, for example?  
  • When they arrived at Roanoke, were they able to make contact with the Carolinian Algonquin, and what was their relationship like? 
  • …and more!

Brief and True Report of the Newfound Land in Virginia by Thomas Hariot

The Secret Token by Andrew Laller

Roanoke the Abandoned Colony by Karen Kupperman

A Kingdom Strange by James Horne

Want to see more visual history?

Find artifacts from Roanoke, period illustrations of The Lost Colony, and original maps of Virginia colony as it was known in the 1580s, all packed into the bonus content right here. Click the “Become a Patron” button to login or join us as a patron and all the extras will expand right on this page.

Sign up now for just $5/mo (or login here) and all the bonus content will immediately expand right on this page. (You will also get access to all our other patrons-only content, too!)

Related Episodes

Here are some recommended episodes from our show that are related to the topic we’re covering this week. If you like today’s conversation, you might enjoy these as well!


Hear some of the history of the interactions of Plymouth Colonists with the Powhatan people, one of the Algonquin speaking tribes traditionally from eastern Virginia.

Andrew Buckley, descended from Stephen Hopkins, shares the story of the man that may have inspired Stephano in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

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That’s it for this week! Thank you for listening. I’m Cassidy Cash, and I hope you learn something new about the bard. I’ll see you next time!