Compare and contrast the colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts Bay.   


The colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts were similar in some ways and different in others. They were both founded in the first half of the 17th century and they both practiced some form of self-governance. They had very different climates, however, which meant that the Massachusetts economy was driven by things like shipping and shipbuilding while Virginia's warmer temperatures allowed for an agriculture-based economy.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colonies both had a number of similarities and differences.  They were both colonies of England and settled in roughly the same time period.  It early inhabitants faced many of the same difficulties in establishing a viable colony.  Both colonies were helped by the native populations in its respective regions.  The story of the help the Pilgrims in Massachusetts received with agriculture celebrated each year during Thanksgiving, and without the help of Pocahontas it is possible Virginia colony would have been destroyed. 

Additionally, each colony established systems of self-government to help them survive that would eventually form some of the foundations of the American political system.  The Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, the first example of self-government in the new world, before they disembarked from their vessel.  Additionally, the Virginians formed the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first representative governing body in America. 

While they had many similarities, some key differences existed between the two colonies.  The Virginia colony was primarily an economic venture, while the Massachusetts Bay colony was founded as more of a social entity.  Massachusetts was settled by people seeking religious freedom and self-determination.  While, undoubtedly, people sought to make a living in the colony, preserving their culture by building a sustainable colony was their focus, not sheer profit.  Obviously many geographic differences existed as well.  Massachusetts, located in modern day New England, was much colder with extreme winter conditions, while the Virginia colony was founded in a much warmer climate.


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