Author: Theodore K. Rabb

professor of history, emeritus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Sir Edwin Sandys (1561–1629)

Sir Edwin Sandys, one of the founders of the Virginia Company, was an author and parliamentarian as well as a colonizer. The son and namesake of an Archbishop of York, Sandys served a brief diplomatic mission that led to travels through Europe which became the basis for A Relation of the State of Religion (1605), a survey of religion on the continent that focused on Catholicism. As a member of Parliament for more than three decades, Sandys was an influential and outspoken critic of King James I, as well as an important supporter of English colonization efforts in Bermuda and especially Virginia. Sandys likely helped reorganize the Virginia colony in 1609, transferring control from the king to a company-appointed governor. In 1618, he helped draw up the “Great Charter,” which established the General Assembly, and in 1619 he was elected treasurer, the Virginia Company’s top leadership position. He failed at diversifying Virginia’s economy away from tobacco, but succeeded in a strong effort to promote emigration and bolster its population. A negotiated tobacco monopoly with England in 1622 eventually led to an investigation of the financially troubled Virginia Company and Sandys’s leadership in particular. The king revoked the charter and in 1624 the company dissolved. Sandys died in Kent in 1629.