Who knew about Jamestown? In 1607, There was too much else going on

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One of the loveliest attractions in a city with a surfeit of them, the Pont Neuf in Paris is a delicate series of stone arches that spans the Seine. Though its name means "New Bridge," it is in fact the oldest in Paris, having opened the same year that English colonists landed in Jamestown, an ocean away. Bridging, as it does, the old and the new, the Pont Neuf is an apt metaphor for 1607—a year of extraordinary transition around the world.

In Europe, political changes were underway in England and Russia—peacefully in the former, more chaotically in the latter. One major war had just ended and another was heading to a long, if temporary, lull. Science, still years before the Enlightenment, was in a state of flux, as were movements in the arts. Protestantism was breaking into multiple sects, Asia was looking to the end of the Ming Dynasty, and Japan's longlasting Tokugawa Shogunate was gaining strength. Only in the Muslim world was stability the theme: The three great Islamic states were arguably at the height of their influence and power.

It's doubtful that many residents of the world of 1607 would have taken notice that 105 English adventurers had established a settlement in Jamestown, given the myriad other events of the day. Here's what else was occupying the world, starting with the England the voyagers left behind.

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