What are the differences between the New England and Jamestown colonies? What were their reasons for coming to the New World, agriculture, climate, and relationship with the natives?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of differences between the New England and Jamestown colonies. First and foremost, the motives behind the establishment of the two differed. In 1607, Jamestown was established by the Virginia Company of London for economic purposes. The company wanted to expand English trade, as well as create a wider market for English manufactured goods.  On the contrary, New England was established around 1620 by pilgrims who left England due to religious persecution. They wanted the freedom to practice their religious beliefs.

Secondly, even though both the two settlements were located in places that had good anchorage, their climate varied greatly. Jamestown had a warm climate with fertile soil that favored plantation farming, whereas New England had a cold climate with thin, rocky soil. In addition, it had limited land. In New England, economic activities included logging, fishing, and the construction of ships, as well as trade.

Lastly, the natives and settlers in Jamestown were hostile to each other. Initially, they had a mutually beneficial relationship and even traded with each other. However, during winter, they experienced a serious food shortage, and that changed the situation. The settlers turned against the natives, grabbed their land, burned their houses, seized their food, and eventually forced a government on them. Although the settlers in New England were less cruel in comparison to those of Jamestown, they also imposed their religious order on the natives. They believed that America was the devil’s land and that the natives were evil. This, in addition to other issues such as land and trade disputes, led the two groups to war.

wmche001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reasons for settling:

New England: Although throughout the New England colony there would be several different religions which were worshiped, the main motivation for settling in the New World was religious freedom.

Virginia/Jamestown: As the article cited below states, "The investors had one goal in mind: gold."  The settlers of Jamestown were not as lucky as the Spanish when they settled in South America; they would need crops to make their money.


New England: With its rocky climate and short growing season, New England was primarily focused on subsistence agriculture.

Virginia/Jamestown: Eventually, Jamestown realized that the soil they had settled on was suitable for growing subsistence crops and cash crops.  The crop that made Virginia successful and eventually very wealthy was tobacco.

Relationship with Native Americans:

New England: Initially, in the Plymouth colony specifically, relations with the natives were cooperative and peaceful.  The only reason why these settlers survived was due to the help from natives.  Their cooperation culminated in what we now know as Thanksgiving.

Virginia/Jamestown: Essentially, relations with the natives were always tense in Jamestown.  The main reason for this was a difference in ideas about the ownership of property, which led to conflict.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jamestown was founded mainly for profit. After a difficult start raising corn, referred to as the "Starving Time," the colony under John Smith turned to raising tobacco, which grew well in the marshy climate. The first recorded arrival of slaves in the colony was in 1619, and the colony relied on slaves and indentured servants. Increasingly, social stratification developed with white plantation owners at the top and an increasingly restive indentured servant and slave class at the bottom. The Jamestown colony had conflict with the Native Americans, including the Powhatan, though the Powhatan were originally hospitable toward them. 

On the other hand, the New England colonies were founded by the Puritans for religions reasons. The Pilgrims who settled on Cape Cod were separatists who had broken away from the Anglican Church, while the Puritans who settled in Boston sought to purify the Anglican Church and establish themselves as a "city on a hill," or an example to the rest to the world. The New England climate was rocky and cold, and settlers turned to small farms and to felling timber. Originally, the Wampanoag in Cape Cod had amiable relationships with the Pilgrims, but the relationship between the Puritans and Native Americans quickly turned to conflict as Europeans sought to take over Native American lands.

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