The Transformation of Colonial Virginia

Table of Content

Taking the step to become a settler in the seventeenth century was a big deal, understandably. Many people left the comfort and safety of their native homes, often becoming the first generations to leave. They faced new and scary experiences, along with a range of challenges. The colonists who settled in Virginia in the seventeenth century were no exemption. The Virginians had many challenges thrown at them and had to learn what they needed to do to survive. The challenges included disease, rivalries with the Native Americans causing wars, foraging for new lands, and extreme starvation and famine.

Their efforts to solve these problems caused serious changes. The colonies were segregated between white people and any others. Taverns were developed and the economy was supported by triangular trade as well as agriculture In Document D, Richard Frethorne explains the battles the Virginians had to fight in a letter he sent back to England. They battled diseases which they had never been exposed to, including dysentery and scurvy. Their bodies were not accustomed to these new sicknesses, nor were their doctors. The amount of casualties from disease was devastating.

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On the other hand, the colonists also brought new disease to America. The Native Americans were hit equally as hard by the disease brought from overseas along with the new colonists. The diseases were expressed in Document B, as well, “A Discourse on the Plantation of Virginia” by George Percy. Percy states “Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases as swellings, burning fevers.. ” The men didn’t know what they were faced with and had little to no immunity and tolerance to the new diseases brought about by completely new land, people, food, and lifestyles in general.

The lack of food was expressed in Document D when Frethorne lamented that he had not seen any deer or venison, and although there were fowl, the men were forbidden from hunting it. The author does not explain why the men were not allowed to hunt the fowl, but explains that they were allowed “a mess of water gruel and a mouthful of bread and beef” after working “both early and late”. In short, the men did incredible labor for very little food at all. This misery specifically led to many men yearning for their home, England, where they could stop living in fear and hunger and be happy and healthy.

In Document B, Percy mentions that “for the most part they died of mere famine”. Although the two documents were written eleven years apart, they touch on many similar points and explain the same issues. The colonists who voluntary traveled to America were not the only who faced challenges, however. The slaves who were forced to travel there and work faced extreme challenges as well. Document H clearly outlines statutes passed by the Virginia Assembly that directly affected slavery. Africans were not granted the right to bear arms at all, according to the first statute.

The statutes declare that a child’s freedom is determined by whether his mother was free or bonded, and baptism did not affect whether a person was free or not. Mentioned was interracial marriage, which, if occurred, would be punished with banishment. The Africans were clearly the lower class, clearly the underdogs and clearly the abused culture. They were faced with such difficult challenges and didn’t have any choice but to continue on and take it all as it came. They were owned by their masters and had to listen to whatever the men said.

As the Colonists overcame their hardships, they became comfortable. They had the time for advertisements, as demonstrated in Document C, a tobacco ad. The colonists clearly did not have the same amount of knowledge we do today about tobacco because it says “Life is a smoke! ” while we know today that smoking isn’t actually a healthy habit to indulge in. The ad suggests that smoking brought the Indians and colonists together. It shows an Indian and a colonist smoking together, with the King’s face in-between them. This expresses companionship between the two races.

The rivalry and hatred had clearly died down at that point, if advertisements could be shown with both groups of people enjoying a relaxing and leisurely activity together. As demonstrated in Document E, indentured servitude became a popular outlook for people. Whether in need of money, in need of transport to America or in need of both, it was popular. Indentured servitude is a concept that involves basically renting out yourself in exchange for payment and the basic human necessities for a few years. Farmers got cheap labor out of it and the servants got both pay and (in a lot of cases) passage to America.

It helped fueled the economy. Another assistance to the economy was the fact that in Jamestown, the colonists learned how to make their own earthenware vessels instead of buying them and transporting them from England. We can see these in Document F. The vessels, however, show serious influence from European cultures. A good portion of the population of Virginia was enslaved at one point or another, whether legitimate slavery or indentured servitude. As expressed in Document G, there was an overall population of approximately 40,000 people in Virginia in 1671.

Of that, 2,000 were black slaves and 6,000 were indentured slaves. However, for the most part, only white male land owners or white males had voting rights and black slaves had little to no rights at all. The colonists faced challenges and hardships when traveling and uprooting their way across the ocean. They took a giant risk, exploring the unknown and facing America bravely. They battled disease, war, famine, and so much more. They were alone in the new world, yet they learned to adapt and gained skills for survival.

Along with their adaptations, they gained social and economic changes. These changes were affected heavily by slavery and indentured servitude, as well as agriculture and the colonists merely becoming acquainted with their new world. The colonists got to know their Native American neighbors and learned how to use their knowledge to their advantage. As they gained confidence and relations with their new world, they gained partnerships and trading routes. The hardships and challenges resulted in social and economic changes that stayed.

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The Transformation of Colonial Virginia. (2017, Mar 29). Retrieved from

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