The Virginia and Massachusetts Colonies: Similarities and Differences

Both the English settlements of Virginia and Massachusetts were borne of the English people thinking that England was already becoming overcrowded, and that migrating to America would ease the problems of population boom (Villamagna, et. al., 2004). Both colonies were a result of the English quest for better lives and greener pastures away from a country that was starting to become unbearable for them.

Many English Puritans who were following the Protestant teachings of John Calvin were also getting weary with the Church of England that was perceived to be turning to Catholicism. Thus, another reason for the English transfer to America was for religious freedom. In both Virginia and Massachusetts, Native Americans helped in the development of the colonies even when there were occasions of strife between natives and settlers. Right from the start, it was quite evident that the English came to America to make themselves rich.

The English first settled formally in what was to be known as the Jamestown colony. This was founded in 1607 by Captain John Smith. Economic gain was logically the main motivation for this settlement in Virginia. Unfortunately, the swampy place was devastated by persistent food shortage and widespread disease. The cultivation of tobacco began in Jamestown and for which droves of farm laborers were needed during harvest times. To meet the huge demand for farm labor, the first African slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619. Virginia, thus, became a colony of plantations and an economy based on a cash crop. These, indeed, made the English rich. By 1650, England was already a solid presence in America.

The Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Religious purpose or mission was the primary driving force in the colonization of New England. For the Pilgrims, it was meant to be a place where the belief in the will of God can be exercised freely. Survival in this colony was more precarious. The winters were harsher. The planting seasons were shorter. The soil was rocky, making farming more difficult. Grain such as corn that proved easier to store staved off the hunger of the colonists (Colonial America, n.d.). Also, the relationship between the natives and the settlers were oftentimes strained, unlike that in Virginia’s colony where strong bonds were formed between the two camps (Gee, n.d.).

The concept of socioeconomic structure emanated from the introduction of colonialism in America. The colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts became both a microcosm and prototype of social structures that were produced by the phenomenon of colonialism. The social structure in Virginia where the African slaves settled turned into a hierarchical society where the few plantation owners occupied the tip of the economic pyramid and the lowly slaves occupied the wide base of the economic pyramid. The colony in New England that was less hierarchical, on the other hand, gave rise to the phenomenon of the working middle class.


Via usgennet

European colonization of America