1600s English Farm

Exhibit Overview

English colonization of North America began with the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Over the next century other English colonies were established along the Atlantic coast of what would become the United States. By 1700, almost 250,000 people, most of whom were born in England or were of English descent, lived in the colonies.

Virginia was England’s first North American colony, and as many as 120,000 English migrants arrived here in the 1600s. Some colonists were granted land where they established tobacco plantations worked by white indentured servants and African slaves. Settlement slowly crept westward into the piedmont, and by the mid-1700s Anglo-Virginians crossed the Blue Ridge and began to settle in the Valley of Virginia.

Contributions to American Culture

English culture and traditions were dominant in England’s North American colonies due to the numbers of English settlers, and the role the Crown and English proprietors played in establishing these colonies. In Virginia, this culture quickly took on the characteristics of southern England. This took the form of a patriarchal and hierarchical society led by the “gentlemen” of the colony. With the arrival of other ethnic groups and the emergence of political democracy during the era of the American Revolution, this traditional culture faded. What endured were American versions of English language, law and government, morality, and an ideal of individual liberty