Primary Sources

Start here to begin your research into Thomas West and his role in the English colonization of the Chesapeake.

  • Calendars of the State Papers Relating to Ireland, Volumes V-IX (1596-1601). Includes all documents related to the Earl of Essex’s five month campaign in Ireland in 1599. Might include information related to Thomas West. 
  • Cole’s Escheats, Thomas Cole Collections, vol. 5, Harley 760, British Library, London, England. p. 421. Provides a death date of June 7th, 1618 for Thomas West. 
  • Coote, Charles Henry.“Argall, Sir Samuel (1626),” Dictionary of National Biography (63 vols.; London, 1885–1900), 2:78–80. Rich, Lost Flocke, B2v (rhymed poetry) Contains a poem about Thomas West’s contribution to the Virginia colony.
  • Dale, Thomas. Letter to the Council of Virginia, 25 May 1611. Reprinted in Edward Haile, Jamestown Narratives. Champlain, Va.: RoundHouse, 1998. Pg. 523. This letter describes the state of the Jamestown colony after Thomas West left. 
  • Day, John George Wilkins, and Wiliam Rowley, The Travels of the Three English Brothers, in Anthony Parr, ed., Three Renaissance Travel Plays. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. A contemporary play that recounts the voyages of Sir Thomas Shirley’s (Thomas West’s father in law) three sons.   
  • De La Warr et al. to company, July 7, 1610, Relation of a Voyage to Virginia, Harleian MSS 7009, fols. 58–61, British Library, London, England. Contains correspondence from Thomas West to the Virginia company after his departure from the colony.
  • De la Warr et al. to the Patentees in England, after his arrival in Virginia in n Strachey’s The History of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, ed. Major, Hakluyt Society (1849), p. xxiii. Letter sent to England after the arrival of Thomas West and crew to Jamestown in 1610. Provides updates on the condition of the colony and names of prominent men. 
  • De La Warr to earl of Salisbury, n.d., received September 1610, Public Record Office, Colonial Office Papers 1/1, fol. 85a, National Archives, Kew, England (available on Virginia Colonial Records Project microfilm, Library of Virginia). Contains correspondence from Thomas West to the Earl of Salisbury, discussing his achievements in the Jamestown colony.
  • De La Warr to earl of Salisbury, June 22, 1611, Public Record Office, State Paper Office 14/64 no. 53, National Archives, Kew, England (available on Virginia Colonial Records Project microfilm, Library of Virginia). Contains correspondence from Thomas West to the Earl of Salisbury after his arrival back in England
  • De la Warr, Thomas West, and Counseil for Virginia (England and Wales). The Relation of the Right Honourable the Lord De-La-Warre, Lord Governour and Captaine Generall of the Colonie, Planted in Virginea.  London: Printed by William Hall, for William Welbie, dwelling in Pauls Church-yeard at the signe of the Swan, 1611. (Available in Virginia Museum of History and Culture Rare Books, F229. D341.) https://llmc-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/docDisplay5.aspx?set=22288&volume=0001&part=001. This publication presented Thomas West’s reasoning for leaving the Jamestown colony and returning to England. 
  •  Foster, Joseph. Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500–1714 . . . (1891–1892), 4:103. Provides that Thomas West was aged 15 on March 9th, 1592, which then provides another possible birth year of 1577. 
  • Governor’s Council. Letter from the Governor’s Council to the Virginia Company of London, January 20, 1623. Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Humanities, January, 2021. This account includes a reflection on the storm that Thomas West’s ship survived on the way to Jamestown and an interaction between his crew and Native Americans who gave them food.
  • Green, Mary Anne Everett, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, of the Reign of James I: 1619–1623 (London, 1858), 77. A paper discussing the annuity given to Cecily West for her late husband’s services. 
  • Green, Mary Anne Everett, and Robert Lemon. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reigns of Edward Vi., Mary, Elizabeth, and James 1. Reign of Elizabeth, 1595-1597. Vol.4. London: Longman, 1869. Pages 97, 100, 169, 326 , 386, 531, 507, 532 contain documents that discuss Thomas West’s economic dealings in England before the settlement of Jamestown.   
  • The Harley Manuscripts, British Library. Ms Harl, 7009 folder 58: “Account of a voyage to Virginia in the West Indies in three ships: the De la War Admiral; the Blessing of Plymouth Vice Admiral; and the Hercules of Rye Rear Admiral. 7 July 1610.” Letter sent to England after the arrival of Thomas West and crew to Jamestown in 1610. Provides updates on the condition of the colony and names of prominent men. 
  • Instructions to Sir Thomas Gates, and Commission and Instructions to Sir Thomas West, Governors of Virginia,1609. Bodleian Library Class Ashmolean MSS 1147.; Virginia Colonial Records Project 1609. Contains the Virginia commission and instructions of Thomas West for the Jamestown Colony. Discusses religious practice and health concerns. 
  • Kingsbury, Susan Myra., ed., Records of the Virginia Company of London (1906–1935), 3:419–420. Provides the death date of July 7th, 1618 for Thomas West.
  • “Lord De La Warr v Talbot. Plaintiffs.” 1589. C2/Eliz/W4/24. The National Archives UK. A pleading of Sir William West Lord Delaware (father) and Thomas West for funds to purchase the Manor of Mayne and surrounding lands.
  • Papers Relating to the Foundation of Virginia, Add MS 21993, fols. 183–189, British Library, London, England. Contains the Virginia commission and instructions of Thomas West.
  • Pedro de Zuniga to the King of Spain, 5 Mar. 1609, AGS Simancas, 2587, f.12, in Brown, Genesis of the United States, 1:244. A letter to the King of Spain that notes the presence of Thomas West in the Virginia colony. 
  • Percy, George (1580-1632.) Autobiography. Manuscript copy located in the Library of Virginia Archives and Manuscripts room, #14053. George Percy was one of the original Virginia colonists. His autobiography includes information related to the state of Jamestown prior to the arrival of supplies with Thomas West. It also describes Thomas West as governor of the colony. 
  • “Petition of Cecily Lady de la Warr to the king,” July 1634. In John Bruce, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1634–5. London, 1864, 171. A petition written by Cecily West addressing the claims of her son and daughter in law that there was a  maldistribution of the late Thomas West’s funds.
  • “Petition of Isabella Lady de la Warr and of Charles Lord de la Warr, her son, the king’s ward, to the King,” June 1634. In John Bruce, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1634–5. London, 1865,  88. A petition written by the son and daughter in law of Thomas West addressing the distribution of funds after his death.
  • Saint Dunstan’s in the West, London, in Evelyn Philip Shirley, Stemmata Shirleiana; or the Annals of the Shirley Family . . . , 2d ed., rev. (1873), 258. Contains a parish record that lists a marriage date for Lord and Lady Delaware.  
  • Samuel, Purchas. Purchas His Pilgrimage, IV. 1626. This book contains a transcription of Thomas West’s Relation
  • “Shareholders in the Virginia Company from 1615 to 1623,” 3 Apr. 1620, in Kingsbury, Records of the Virginia Company. Contains records that describe the exchanges of shares in the Virginia Company, including Thomas West and his family.
  • Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia. London: Printed by I.D. and I.H. for Michael Sparkes, 1631. Smith’s Generall Historie includes the account of William Box, one of the company members Lord De La Ware took on his surreptitious trip to the Azores in 1611. Also note Philip Barbour’s The Complete Works of Captain John Smith 1580-1631, vols. I-III.   
  • Spellman, Henry. n.d. “Relation of Virginia 1613.” First Hand Accounts. Virtual Jamestwon. http://www.virtualjamestown.org/exist/cocoon/jamestown/fha/J1040 Spellman’s account mentions the presence of Thomas West in the Jamestown colony. He recalls a disagreement between West and Smith about the location to establish another town in Virginia. 
  • Strachey, William, and Richard Henry Major. The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia: Expressing the Cosmographie and Comodities of the Country, Togither with the Manners and Customes of the People. London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1849. This book contains a first hand account of English interactions with the Tassantassas tribe. 
  • Strachey, William, and Silvester Jourdain. A Voyage to Virginia in 1609 : Two Narratives, Strachey’s “True Reportory” and Jourdain’s Discovery of the Bermudas (Second ed.) Edited by Louis B Wright. Charlottesville Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2013. Contains descriptions of Thomas West’s role in repairing the Jamestown colony’s church in 1610 and 1611. 
  • Tarter, Brent, ed. Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Humanities 2020. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/lawes-divine-morall-and-martiall/ These laws were enforced by Lord Thomas Gates, Lord Thomas Dale, and Thomas West in Virginia. While known for their severity, these laws are considered a significant change in the Virginia colony that likely saved them from failure.
  • “The Relation of the Right Honourable the Lord De-La-Warre, Lord Governour and Captaine Generall of the Colonie, Planted in Virginea” (London, 1611), B1v.  A notice written by Thomas West to the Council of Virginia alerting them of his return back to England. 
  • Virginia Company of London, and Samuel Merrifield Bemiss. The Three Charters of the Virginia Company of London, with Seven Related Documents: 1606-1621. Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical Booklet, No. 4. Williamsburg, Virginia: 1957. Contains copies of the Virginia Company’s charters. Thomas West is first listed as an owner of the company’s stock in 1619. 
  • Virginia Council. “Instructions Orders and Constitucons…To…Sir Thomas West Knight Lo: La Warr.” 1609(?)/1610. Kingsbury, Vol. III, pp. 24-29. Digitized transcription: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/36181/36181-h/36181-h.htm#pg_6 Physical Location: Ashmolean Manuscripts, 1147, folios 191-205a. Document in Bodleian Library, Oxford University. This document was written in either 1609 or 1610 by the Virginia Council for the purpose of instructing and guiding Thomas West on his new position as governor of the Virginia Colony. Contains fourteen separate instructional points for governance of the colony. 
  • Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corporation,. The Three Charters of the Virginia Company of London with Seven Related Documents, 1606-1621. Project Gutenberg, 2011. Pgs. 60 and 62. Contains documents discussing how the leadership of Jamestown should avoid violence with Native Americans.
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