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WILLIAMSBURG, Va., April 10, 2012 — Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum of 17th-century Virginia, will present “Virginia Economy in the 17th Century,” a two-part evening lecture series on Saturdays, April 28 and May 19, in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the cultivation of tobacco as a cash crop in Virginia. The lectures are free and open to the public.

 John Rolfe, Sidney King, 1960, JYF collection.jpg

John Rolfe, credited with establishing tobacco as a cash crop in Virginia, is depicted in a 1960 watercolor by Sidney King. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

On April 28, Marcy Norton, associate professor of history at George Washington University, will present “How Tobacco Became a Commodity. The lecture will draw from Dr. Norton’s book “Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World,” which explains how these two goods that originated in the Americas became European commodities of mass consumption and puts the encounter between the New World and Old World in a fresh light.

Dr. Norton, whose research focuses on the cultural history of 16th- and 17th-century Europe and its American colonies, received a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

On May 19, Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Silver  Professor of History at New York University and author of numerous books on the Atlantic world in the 16th and 17th centuries, will present “Virginia Seeks a Crop.  Dr. Kupperman will describe efforts in the early years of Jamestown to develop a product to repay the immense costs of establishing the colony and keep investors committed to the project. Experiments with glassmaking, silk production, sassafras, winemaking and tobacco were pursued. Tobacco would become Virginia’s gold, but the frantic search for products colored the first years of colonial life.

Dr. Kupperman’s recent books include “The Early Modern Atlantic World,” to be published this year, “Richard Ligon’s ‘A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657, 1673),’” and “The Jamestown Project.” She received a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

The free evening lectures begin at 7 p.m. Saturdays, April 28 and May 19, in Jamestown Settlement’s Robins Foundation Theater. Advance reservations are recommended by calling (757) 253-4572 or e-mailing rsvp@jyf.virginia.gov.

“Virginia Economy in the 17th Century” is funded in part by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., Annual Fund.

Jamestown Settlement, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, is located southwest of Williamsburg on Route 31 at the Colonial Parkway next to Historic Jamestowne, site of the 1607 English settlement. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838.