Massachusetts and Virginia Colonies

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22 March 2016

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Massachusetts and Virginia were two of the early colonies in the new world. Although these two colonies originated from the same place they are very different. Virginia needed slaves for labor while the citizens of Massachusetts worked in production and had less slaves or indentured servants. Virginia traded cash crops such as tobacco and the colonists in Massachusetts build ships and traded fur among other things. While Massachusetts and Virginia were both British colonies, they differed greatly, from what they were able to grow to the religions they practiced, both thrived in different ways. Virginia settlers lived in a very fertile environment favorable for growing large quantities of crops such as tobacco. Settlers living in Massachusetts had a completely different environment with longer, colder winters and shallow rocky soil making it hard to farm.

Unlike Massachusetts, in Virginia farming became the basis of the colony with common exports of the staple crop: tobacco. Massachusetts had a very short planting season so the economy in Massachusetts was based on production such as ships and the exploitation of natural resources such as fur, timber and fish. With the ship building industry in Massachusetts the colony had a formidable trading fleet. Such a fleet could trade furs and meats with other European nations, not just Britain. However in Virginia trans-Atlantic crops were traded with Britain. Such items as tobacco proved to be a huge source of capital for the mother country. So much so that Britain’s King Charles I said Virginia was “founded upon smoke”. With the huge agriculture estates in Virginia, known as plantations, labor was needed to prepare, sow and harvest the crops. Which caused a slight problem; more men were needed to work the land then there were men that were willing to do it. This problem was solved with indentured servants who worked for a period of 5 to 7 years to pay for their voyage over and given land of their own to own after their servitude. Labor was also supplied to these plantation owners in the form of slaves. Slave traders would work with African tribes who captured and sold their fellow Africans to Europeans who in turn brought them to the new world.

Slave labor was far more prevalent in Virginia than in Massachusetts because the difference in the demand for labor and the way of life. Virginia was more of an agricultural society while Massachusetts was more of an urban colony, more people lived and worked within the cities. In 1750 there were more than 150,000 slaves in Virginia and Maryland alone. While Massachusetts had slaves the total number of slaves compared to Virginia was a lot lower. This was solely because of the difference in environment and economy. Socially Virginia Anglicans were more tolerant of other religions, different forms of Christianity, while the Massachusetts Puritans were less tolerant and stricter about religion. In, Virginia most Anglicans were like the people back in England. While in the Massachusetts Bay colony most of the people were Puritans who set sail to the new world in search of religious freedom, to worship how they wanted. The Anglicans of Virginia were more tolerant of other forms of Christianity while in Massachusetts the opposite was true. People who chose to worship differently were ostracized. The differences between these two colonies are clear. The environment and economy create stark differences, from the need of slave labor to what can be traded. Religious views were different, what was socially acceptable in both colonies were different, what they traded and who they traded with was different, yet both Massachusetts and Virginia prospered. It is hard to believe that both of these colonies were created by people from the same place

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StudyScroll. (2016). Massachusetts and Virginia Colonies [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 4 December, 2023]

"Massachusetts and Virginia Colonies" StudyScroll, Mar 22, 2016. Accessed Dec 4, 2023.

"Massachusetts and Virginia Colonies" StudyScroll, Mar 22, 2016.

"Massachusetts and Virginia Colonies" StudyScroll, 22-Mar-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 4-Dec-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). Massachusetts and Virginia Colonies. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 4-Dec-2023]

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