How did the Virginia Company reshape the colony's development?

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Colonization of the New World in the late 16th and early 17th centuries was a risky venture.  Two groups of settlers were lost in North Carolina with no clues as to their fates. England was not yet a rich, world power. So, to finance a colony in Virginia, a joint-stock company composed of private investors financed the establishment of a colony at Jamestown.

The goal of the colony was not primarily the expansion of English power—it was a business enterprise, so its goal was to make a profit. But this did not happen. Survival in the first few years of what would eventually become the United States of America was anything but certain. The colonists were decimated by disease, starvation, and warfare with local Native Americans.

The Virginia Company did not want to lose its investment, so it tried to institute some reforms to motivate the settlers, entice new settlers, and attract new investors. It allowed the colony a greater degree of self-rule. It increased the colony's territorial waters. Back in England, it tried to increase investment by appealing to citizens' patriotic desire to improve England's international power, and it tried to stoke evangelicals by pointing out the need to Christianize the Native Americans (which they referred to as “savages”). Investors were promised land if they paid for the passage of settlers who then worked that land as a type of indentured servant for a period of time.

Eventually, investors tired of the colony's failure to turn a profit. King James made Jamestown a royal colony in 1624, shifting control from the investors to the government. With tobacco, the New World finally had a profitable commodity, and the rest is history.



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