Dbq1: the Transformation of Colonial Virginia

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In 1606, hundreds of settlers flocked to Virginia in search of wealth and treasure. However, the colony soon began to collapse due to disease and starvation. Despite the challenges the new Virginia colonists faced, they expanded and improved their colony socially and economically with the arrival of the tobacco cash crop, indentured servants, and slaves. While many historians delude the success of Virginia’s first colony, Jamestown, to John Smith, the real savior was John Rolfe’s discovery of tobacco. At the beginning of the 17th century, Jamestown, Virginia was a suffering colony, threatened to become extinct. Disease and hunger took the lives of numerous people and Jamestown looked like it would be just another colony failure. In George Percy’s A Discourse on the Plantation of Virginia, he describes the horrible diseases, fevers, and famine the colonists were faced with (Doc. A). Percy claims that this was the greatest misery Englishmen had ever faced in a foreign country (Doc. A). However, just when the settlement was on the brink of complete failure, a man by the name of John Rolfe discovered a crop that would reverse the deterioration of the colony and make it extremely successful. John Rolfe emerged on the scene with his discovery of tobacco, which would become an instant cash crop. The economy thrived on the selling of tobacco and it soon became the Golden Weed of Virginia. Tobacco not only became the staple product of Virginia, but also a very important import in many other societies. Populations were addicted to the product and revered it. One early tobacco advertisement bore the popular slogan, “Life is a smoke-- If this be true, tobacco will thy life renew; then fear nor death, nor killing Care, whilst we have best Virginia here (Doc. B).” It is interesting to see that a product, which is so criticized and harassed today, was the one thing that saved the Virginia colony from extinction. Consequently, as the economy changed drastically, so did the...
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