The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the east bank of the Powhatan (James) River about 2.5 mi (4 km) southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg. William Kelso writes that Jamestown "is where the British Empire began". It was established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 4, 1607 O.S.;(May 14, 1607 N.S.), and was considered permanent after brief abandonment in 1610. It followed several failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island. Jamestown served as the capital of the colony of Virginia for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
The settlement was located within the country of Tsenacommacah, which was ruled by the Powhatan Confederacy, and specifically in that of the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined. Relations soured fairly early on, however, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within three years. Mortality was very high at Jamestown itself due to disease and starvation, with over 80 percent of the colonists perishing in 1609–10 in what became known as the "Starving Time".
The Virginia Company brought eight Polish and German colonists in 1608 in the Second Supply, some of whom built a small glass factory—although the Germans and a few others soon defected to the Powhatans with weapons and supplies from the settlement. The Second Supply also brought the first two European women to the settlement. In 1619, the first documented Africans came to Jamestown—about 50 men, women, and children aboard a Portuguese slave ship that had been captured in the West Indies and brought to the Jamestown region. They most likely worked in the tobacco fields as indentured servants, but they became slaves as time went on. The modern conception of slavery in the United States was formalized in 1640 (the John Punch hearing) and was fully entrenched in Virginia by 1660.
The London Company's second settlement in Bermuda claims to be the site of the oldest town in the English New World, as St. George's, Bermuda was officially established in 1612 as New London, whereas James Fort in Virginia was not converted into James Towne until 1619, and further did not survive to the present day. In 1676, Jamestown was deliberately burned during Bacon's Rebellion, though it was quickly rebuilt. In 1699, the capital was relocated from Jamestown to what is today Williamsburg, Virginia, after which Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, existing today only as an archaeological site.
Today, Jamestown is one of three locations composing the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown, with two primary heritage sites. Historic Jamestowne is the archaeological site on Jamestown Island and is a cooperative effort by Jamestown National Historic Site (part of Colonial National Historical Park) and Preservation Virginia. Jamestown Settlement, a living history interpretive site, is operated by the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, a state agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia.