Development of Virginia


Native Americans were the original inhabitants of Virginia. They settled in a geographic area known as Commonwealth Virginia. However, European settlement started in 1607 when they settled and established Jamestown. This was the beginning of European colonization in the area. With the emergence of tobacco export, there was massive importation of Africans who provided cheap labor for the profitable venture. This made Virginia to be the most populated and wealthiest British colony in northern America.

Native Americans

The present Virginia was in the past inhabited by native indigenous communities which date back thousands of years ago. The population was composed of many tribes, the Algonquian forming the largest group. They had a population of around ten thousand individuals living in the coastal area up to the fall line.

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Other groups included Iroquoian and Siouan who lived in the interior parts of the region. The Algonquian controlled most of Virginia before the arrival of the Europeans. They had formed an alliance with almost all the tribes called Powhatan Confederacy.

This whole empire was under one chief called Wahunsunancock during the late sixteenth and early seventieth century. Although they were peaceful, issues relating to land and ownership of other important resources created mistrust and indifference creating conflicts among the natives.

The colonialist

The Europeans arrived in Virginia in May 1607 under the Virginia Company of London and settled at Jamestown. During the first few years, Captain John Smith kept the colony alive by making peace with the natives and getting food. Virginia usually had a period of drought after every three years. However, due to the good relation between the Europeans and natives the natives usually supplied them with food during these hard times. The colony was not as productive as they thought until the arrival of Governor Thomas West in 1610.

He saved the colony from collapsing after the failure of setting up industries such as glassmaking, ship building and production of naval stores. The Europeans started to plant tobacco from 1612 which was a profitable venture. They also imported slaves from Africa to provide cheap labor in the farms.

In 1624 the British government revoked the charter of Virginia Company of London and made it its first royal colony in northern America. In the years that followed the colony expanded to the north and to the west. There was also political maturity producing strong leaders in the lower house of assembly who wanted independence.

Resistance from the natives

Tobacco growing leads to exhaustion of soil thus the settles needed more land for replacement. This lead to the clearance of the surrounding forests which the natives had used for hunting.

The increasing number of Europeans coupled with clearance of their hunting grounds made the natives to defy the encroachment by the settlers. The Indian massacre of 1622 and the war of 1644 were as a result of this resistance.

The natives however did not match up to the Europeans and the introduction of infectious diseases such as measles and smallpox declined their populations drastically. By the mid 1700`s the eastern part of Virginia up to the fall line was under the rule of Europeans. The surviving populations of the natives were assimilated into the colonialist population.


Most of northern America was inhabited by Indians and other native communities including Virginia. British settlers first arrived in Virginia in 1607 and settled in Jamestown, a town which they later developed.

In the early years they lived in harmony with the natives but once they started to increase in number and occupy more land for tobacco farming the natives started to fight for their land, a fight which they lost making Virginia to become a complete colony of the British.


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