Colonial Life Term Paper

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Colonial life was like in two different areas. The writer compares and contrasts the way of life experienced during colonial times in the Chesapeake area and the new England area during Colonial America. The writer used ten sources to complete this paper.

Each year as Thanksgiving approaches students throughout the nation dress in traditional colonial garb and put on skits and meals to portray colonial life in America. While this has become a tradition for American students it has also become a blended generic portrayal of colonial life with little attention paid to area differences and similarities. Colonial times shared many similar facets as the nation of America began to build its foundation, but within that era there were also region and culture specific differences that set populations apart from each other. The new England Colonial life and the Chesapeake area colonial life can be held side by side to illustrate the sameness and the very real differences for those who lived in each region.


Before one can understand the differences in colonial lives one must first understand how people came to leave the mother nation. Once they arrived in America the division of lifestyles became apparent by the region people chose to live in (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA (

There were several reasons that those who lived during colonial American times came to this country. It was early in the 17th century in England when the idea began to form among those who were upset about unfavorable economic conditions in their home nation of England. There were many factors contributing to the continued unrest of those who endured life in a struggling motherland including low wages, high unemployment rate, and scare commodities. All of these and other elements combined together to provide a harsh life among the commonwealth of England and those who were living their daily lives. Work and wage conditions were not the only elements contributing to the idea to colonize in the new world. Another contributing factor was the inheritance law in England. At that time the law provided that the eldest son inherited virtually all of the father's wealth, property and belongings upon the father's death. This law caused many later born sons and all daughters who had brothers to become impoverished upon the death of their fathers. Younger siblings often found themselves at the mercy of their older brothers and dependent on them for their support. The older siblings may have refused to support their brothers and sisters or the younger siblings may not want to be dependent on their older brother for support. Coupled with the struggling economic times of the nation at the time the inheritance laws provided more stress for those who fell under their jurisdiction (Ubbeohde, 1975). All of these elements created an atmosphere of dissent for many who lived in England at the time which led to the decision by many to cross the sea to America and start their life anew (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA (

Upon hearing the often exaggerated stories of a new unsettled land "of milk and honey," where land was up for the taking and a fortune could be made, and upon discovering that the law allotted to every settler fifty acres of land for each member of his family he brought to the new land, many a man of humble means sacrificed all he had for a chance to seek his fortune and begin a new life in America (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA ("

While economic conditions played an important part in the migration by many to America it was not the only factor. Another foundational aspect to colonial life being sought in America was the religious aspect and the political aspects of life for those residing in England.

In 1642 civil war broke out in England - dividing the country between King Charles I and his supporters (known as Royalists or Cavaliers) and Parliament, with Oliver Cromwell as its leader. The English Puritans (known as "Roundheads"), being a dominant faction of the parliament, were a powerful force against the Crown. As Cromwell gained more and more control of the government, the Royalists came under much persecution (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA"

Others came to the new land for the ability to worship in the manner that they wanted to which was not allowed in their homeland in England.

The trip to America generally took three months and was as difficult as anything endured beforehand. Ships were dirty, crowded, low on food and had substandard living quarters (The Not So Good Lives of New England's Good Wives (

People braved it for the chance at living in the colonies. Once they arrived however, the realities set in and the cultural and regional divisions began to be evidenced by the need to survive.

The gross uncleanliness and generally unwholesome conditions aboard the crowded vessels resulted in the outbreak of epidemic diseases. The great epidemics of measles, small pox and other contagious diseases, which at times spread throughout the colonies taking many victims, were often the result of the disease being originated on these contaminated and unwholesome vessels (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA ("

Once in America the generations began to flourish though there were many differences between the regional areas of colonial life.


Those in the Chesapeake area endured a class system though that is exactly what they claimed to be trying to get away from (Quinn, 1977). The life was hard during the winter and the staple diet at that time consisted mostly of dried meat and water. "Although America, was indeed a land of opportunity, it was not a land without many hardships and dangers. The winters were often severe and many of the very early immigrants suffered greatly through the cold seasons. The colonists, not being able to readily preserve food stuffs, cured or smoked meats and pickled various types of vegetables. They also stored certain types of vegetables and fruits in cool dry cellars (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA ("

Native Americans were a threat to both the Chesapeake and the New England Colonial lives but there seemed to be more of a threat to the southern regions than the New England regions.

What was life like for the yeoman planter on his small farm? The average middle class planter usually owned between 50 and 500 acres of land, usually only part of which was under cultivation at one time (this compares to several thousands of acres held by some of the wealthy aristocrats) (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA ( relatively modest common Virginia Yeoman was without doubt, however, the envy of the farmers in Europe, as, at least in view of the land and livestock he could easily acquire, he compared to many a wealthy squire of England. Although possibly clothed in beggar rags, the yeoman planter, under normal conditions, had no reason to feel the pangs of hunger (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA ( the poorest planter, was usually bestowed with various head of cattle which were quite plentiful in the colony. The cattle not only supplied the families with beef, but with milk from which could be made butter and cheese. They also supplied leather from which could be made shoes and leggings. Often, even more common than beef, was pork. Swine were quite plentiful, and the planter often marked them and let them loose to forage in the forest and feed upon the roots and acorns. Poultry was also exceedingly numerous and in the lakes, rivers, and forests the colonial hunter could bring down all manner of fowl, including turkey, duck, geese, and quail." In addition there were many fruits and vegetables grown which in other colonial areas were not as plentiful (COLONIAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA (

A mainstay in both areas of America was the ability to fish, hunt and plant crops. These were skills that were needed regardless if one lived in New England or in the southern areas of the nation because it was the mainstay of being able to feed one's family.

One of the chief differences between the colonial residents in New England and the south was the crops that were developed. In the Chesapeake area and surrounding regions tobacco was a mainstay of survival in the way of crops being planted and harvested. Tobacco was something that was tilled, worked and sold for the benefit of the rest of the nation but was mainly handled from an agricultural standpoint of the Chesapeake and surrounding regions (Tate, 1979).

Another difference between the north and the south during the colonial times was the abundance of labor forces. The south had serious problems retaining a solid workforce and this caused significant trouble when it came time to harvest crops. While the north had a steady supply of willing workers the south continued to suffer through a small and unavailable workforce for many years during the colonial times. This was one of the chief and most important differences between the north…

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