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Jamestown Colony Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America, is located near present-day Williamsburg, Virginia. Established on May 14, 1607, the colony gave England its first foothold in the European competition for the New World, which had been dominated by the Spanish since the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century.

Jamestown Colony Virginia

The development of Jamestown, Virginia, took the opposite path as the northern Puritan Colonies, which had a collectivistic approach to settlement. It began as a distinctly individualistic colony, and only later acquired group cohesion. The early settlement of Virginia was dominated by young, single men. A host of factors, prominent among them Virginia’s (not entirely undeserved) reputation as a disease-ridden deathtrap, served to discourage the kind of family migration that had characterized the Puritan experience. But as the mortality rate declined and the colony’s prosperity became widely known, it became more sensible for entire families to make their homes in the Chesapeake.


As Virginia became more established, it also became more aristocratic. The aristocracy was attached to the principle of self-government, and these men took their responsibilities seriously. It was a strict requirement that every member be present for the opening session of the House of Burgesses, and that any absence had to be excused. (Poor James Bray: In 1691, the House of Burgesses was so offended by his explanation for his absence that the Speaker actually issued a warrant for his arrest, and held him in custody until he made an apology.) This elite was composed of an extraordinarily talented group of men who, when the crisis with the British came, were able to articulate precisely where and how American rights and liberties were being threatened.

Ultimately, the colonies succeeded in providing the individual liberty that makes civilized life possible while cultivating a community sentiment that led them to resist centralization. That community sentiment translated into an attachment to one’s own colony, a kind of local patriotism.

This article is part of our larger selection of posts about Colonial America. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to Colonial America.

This article is also part of our larger selection of posts about American History. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to American History.

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February 21, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/jamestown-colony-virginia-facts>
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