In May 1607 three ships, the Godspeed, the Discovery and the Susan Constant, chartered by the Virginia Company to take a group of settlers to America, arrived at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. is moment is acknowledged as the start of the permanent English presence on the North American continent and as such has achieved a significance not granted to it at the time. e fledgling colony at Jamestown was much less than a success in the first few years of its existence, and in early summer 1610 was almost abandoned after a winter of cruelty and want left barely sixty survivors, a period that these first Virginians called ‘the starving time’. e bedraggled settlers decided to abandon the project and embark for England but they were intercepted by a fleet of relief ships led by Lord De La Warr and persuaded to turn back and try again. De La Warr and omas Gates, who became the first effective governor, were made of sterner stuff and laid down a code of law for establishing a civil society in Jamestown.1 Fortuitously, in 1612, experiments in tobacco cultivation began in earnest and the rest is ‘history’. If the beginnings of Jamestown were so inauspicious, why should 1607 be chosen as the date with which to begin a survey of English literature on America, and all previous contact with that continent relegated to this prologue? It would be perverse to argue that because Jamestown emerged as a successful colony, it was always destined to be one, unlike Roanoke or the Brownist attempt in Newfoundland, which for various reasons, were doomed from the start. Focusing on the English contact with the New World in the reign of Elizabeth I it is possible to demonstrate why it is not anachronistic to divide this period of exploration and settlement from that of James I’s reign.