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Jamestown TV series

Curator blogs connect themes in PBS Passport "Jamestown" dramatic television series and "TENACITY" special exhibition
"Jamestown" television drama. Courtesy of PBS.

“Jamestown” television drama. Courtesy of PBS.

Bly Straube, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation curator, looks for the emotional core of the “Jamestown” TV series, created by the producers of “Downton Abbey,” and parallels the show’s themes to Jamestown Settlement’s upcoming special exhibition,”TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia.” Each of first season’s eight episodes is treated in a separate blog.

The series, produced by Carnival Films, a NBC Universal International Studios company, draws inspiration from true stories, beginning with the Virginia Company’s decision in 1619 to recruit single women “to make wives” for the colony.  The 400th anniversary of this historical event will be marked in 2019 with the “TENACITY” special exhibition, a legacy project of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution.

The current season of “Jamestown” is available in PBS Passport and the PBS MASTERPIECE Amazon Channel and broadcast on select PBS stations beginning Fall 2018.

“Jamestown” Series Season 2

Season 2 of Jamestown, the British television series now airing on PBS (WHRO Passport in the Hampton Roads area), begins with an episode chock-full of the life experiences faced by women in the 17th century Virginia colony. Childbirth, widowhood and the heart-wrenching effects of forced migration are all viewed from the female perspective. More…


“Jamestown” Series, Season 1


Muddy shoe from Jamestown TV showSisters of a Sort
A woman’s foot, clad in a beautiful leather shoe appropriate for walking the paved streets of London, steps into a muddy Jamestown puddle. This image from the opening sequence of the “Jamestown TV Series captures in an instant the realities so at odds with the expectations probably held by the early 17th-century women who had been recruited as brides for the Jamestown colonists. We say “probably” because so little is known about these women. More…


Verity in the stocksThere Will Be Consequences
Verity Bridges shivers in the center of the fort, her arms fastened in the stocks and her body dripping with pig slop that the colony’s Marshall had dumped over her head. Her crime? She had been publicly taunting her husband and, even though he seemed to be enjoying the ribaldry, this ridicule of “one’s better” was viewed by the colony’s leaders as disrupting the social order. Verity required a physical “correction” that would provide a warning to all the  More…



Jamestown TV seriesBloodlines
When numbers of English women began arriving in the nascent Jamestown colony, there were significant impacts that extended beyond those experienced within the predominantly male settlement. The colony’s fragile relationship with the Powhatan Indian society that surrounded it was also profoundly affected. The third episode of the television series “Jamestown” addresses this issue during an exchange between the Powhatan chief Opecancanough  More…


Scene from Jamestown TV seriesA Convivial Afternoon Of Embroidery
“Could there possibly be a better way for a woman to spend her day?” Joselyn (married to the Virginia Company Recorder) sarcastically replies to the governor’s wife in Episode 4 of the “Jamestown” TV series. She had just been invited by Lady Yeardley to join a group of women in “a convivial afternoon of embroidery.” We, of course, don’t know if women in the early colony were truly able to spend hours engaging in such a genteel art.  More…



The White Sheet Jamestown TV seriesThe White Sheet
It was a word—or rather the lack of one—that effectively ended Englishman Robert Barker’s illustrious career in 1631. He had achieved fame as royal printer to James I by producing the first edition of the King James Bible in 1611. But while holding the same office under Charles I, his reprint of the 1611 Bible was published with a glaring typographical error that cost him a hefty fine and the loss of his printer’s license. His mistake? In Exodus 20:14More…



neck ruff“Ruffing” It Up At Jamestown
Episode 6 of “Jamestown,” the PBS Passport television series, continues to focus on the interactions of individuals (particularly women) from differing socio-economic levels that are thrown together in the new colony. The confined and densely populated community of Jamestown meant that people were rubbing elbows on a daily basis with types of individuals they would not normally encounter. The stratified English society that was familiar  More…



cow as wedding giftPut A Ring On It

The “Jamestown” PBS Passport television series continues to explore the experiences of three women from different backgrounds as they navigate the male-dominated world of early Virginia. These women are not depicted as powerless, but their lives are challenging in the new closed society in which they find themselves. For some it is tedium, for others it is backbreaking work, and for still others—from the innkeeper’s wife to the wife of the  More…



Lady Temperance Yeardley, wife of the governor, has functioned as the moral compass of the settlement throughout the first season of the PBS Passport television series, Jamestown. As she clutches a Bible, she is especially vigilant to remind “errant” Jamestown women of their place in the world. In Episode 4 of the series, she chided Joselyn (the Recorder’s wife) to keep in mind that the Bible teaches that “woman is the weaker vessel and inferior to man.”  More…


About the Blogger

Bly Straube, Jamestown Settlement curator imageBeverly (Bly) Straube is a curator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, overseeing enhancements to Jamestown Settlement exhibition galleries and serving as an integral team member on the “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” special exhibition. Straube, a material culture specialist, has spent the past 45 years studying the history and culture of England’s North American colonies. She has a Ph.D. in archaeology and ancient history from the University of Leicester and, in 2005, she was elected as a Fellow in the Society of Antiquaries London. She is one of the founding members of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at Historic Jamestowne that located the long-lost James Fort and served as the project’s senior curator for 21 years. She is a contributor to numerous books and periodicals on material culture, and has appeared in television and documentary programs, including PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and the BBC.