European settlement of the New World began after the famous explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus arrived in the Bahamas in 1942. That event initiated European conquest of the New World, starting with the Spanish establishment of colonies. In the course of time, such countries as Britain, France and the Netherlands also established their colonies in the New World. When studying these colonies, contemporary scientists tend to subdivide them into the following fundamental groups: the Chesapeake, New England, the Middle Colonies, and the Lower South.
The Chesapeake colonies were founded in the XVII century and comprised of Province of Maryland and the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, which later became known as the Commonwealth of Virginia. These colonies were located in British America and concentrated around the area of Chesapeake Bay. Their economies depended mostly upon the Bay’s rich natural resources, shipping lane and port. The plantations of tobacco were also very essential. The first Chesapeake’s colony was Jamestown, established on the James River in 1607. The colony was originated, financed and regulated by the Virginia Company of London. The company expected to benefit financially through finding fruitful gold fields, but, eventually, their major source of profit turned out to be the tobacco industry (Carven n.pag.).
Virginia and Maryland differed considerably in both political and religious matters. As to religion, it was clearly of a secondary matter in Virginia. Due to the lack of clergymen and an eliminated number of churches, the majority of colonists declined church membership. However, the established church in Virginia was The Church of England, and in accordance with the rules of this Anglican Church, all the taxpayers were obliged to pay for its support (Hatch n.pag.).
Since 1650s, the structure of government in Virginia was based on a bicameral pattern. There was an appointed Governor’s Council and the elected lower House of Burgesses (Hatch n.pag.). The assembly raised taxes on a regular basis.
The colony of Maryland was a proprietary colony granted to Lord Baltimore. It was intended as a Catholic settlement, but eventually attracted many Protestants. Hence, in the year of 1649, the Act of Religious Toleration was passed by the colonial assembly. It granted freedom of worship for Christians and was aimed at eliminating possible religious conflicts. However, by 1654, when the Protestants won the majority in Maryland, the document was repealed. This resulted in a civil war, which lasted until 1658. Thus, in contrast with the situation in Virginia, religion never was a secondary matter in Maryland (Morris 138 - 144).
A common feature of the Chesapeake colonies was a slow pace of town development. This was caused by the fact that wealthy tobacco planters invested into building their own separate plantations on the fertile river banks. They also established their own boat storages in order to export their crop to England.
Tobacco plantations demanded a significant amount of labor force, and, therefore, the planters would bring in numerous workers from England. According to the data provided by contemporary scholars, by 1700, more than 110,000 young men arrived in the Chesapeake colonies.
The population growth in Chesapeake area was very slow. This tendency is explained by the high mortality caused by such diseases as typhoid, dysentery, and malaria, and the emphasis on indentured labor, which led to a significant shortage of female population.
The time period between 1660s and early 1700s is characterized by the fluctuations in the prices for tobacco and the subsequent economic depression. This fact strained the relations between the colonists and Native Americans, which was yet another vital characteristic feature of the social and political life in the Chesapeake colonies.