The earliest settlements in the United States occurred at Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The Virginia and New England settlements obviously had much in common; all of the people leaved their homelands to create a new world. All of the settlers struggled to survive in the wilderness with none of the accommodations that the Old World offered them. However, despite their similarities, there were significant differences in these two settlements. This paper will compare and contrast the settlements of Jamestown, Virginia and New England. Jamestown was the first English settlement in the New World. It was settled in 1607. The settlers at Plymouth Rock were not far behind them. The Pilgrims settled at Plymouth Rock in 1620. However, while they both settled at similar periods in history, their reasons for settlement were significantly different. The settlers in Jamestown sought the economic opportunities they believed the New World offered. It was a settlement meant to achieve economic growth, and as such, was funded by a company. The Virginia Company of London sponsored the colony; only men left for Jamestown (National Park Service, 2015). However, the settlement in New England was established by pilgrims who sought freedom from the religious wars of persecution of the 16th and 17th Centuries. After the Reformation occurred in the early 16th Century, multiple religions were created; there was heavy persecution of some groups as a result. The Pilgrims wanted to move to a place where they could raise their children according to their religious beliefs without persecution. Both colonies consisted of approximately one hundred individuals (History Channel, 2015).
Their levels of success were quite different. Obviously, both groups tried to farm the land, as well as to hunt and to fish. The Jamestown Settlement was made of men of various ranks from England. As such, there was a hierarchy among the men, and some men manipulated this to their advantage (History Channel, 2015). Furthermore, laziness plagued the men at Jamestown; many did not want to work and claimed their rank should absolve them of all duties. As a result, there was a generalized poor work ethic. The Pilgrims believed that all should work to benefit the community. The Mayflower Compact established the idea of the community working together; it is one of the earliest seeds of democracy in the United States (Mayflower History, 2015). Due to these significant differences, the Jamestown Settlement had a starving period. While the Pilgrims struggled, they survived (National Park Service, 2015).
Both groups had different relationships with the natives. Both areas were surrounded by Native American tribes who quickly recognized that their world had been invaded. While both groups initially had difficulties with the Native Americans, these difficulties continued for those at Jamestown. They had a poor level of relations with the Native Americans, and as such, did not benefit from the expertise of the local tribes. The local tribe was a strong one and resented that the settlers tried to Christianize them. The Pilgrims maintained their own belief systems, but also exchanged knowledge with the native tribes. They did not try to convert the natives to their religion. A symbiotic relationship eventually developed, with both groups benefiting from the knowledge and the expertise of the other group. These positive relations continued until 1636 (National Park Service, 2015).
While both Jamestown and the New England Settlements came to the New World in search of its promise, they were fundamentally different groups. The Jamestown settlers wanted the promise of wealth; the Pilgrims wanted the promise of religious freedom. Furthermore, the Pilgrim colonists had a much stronger work ethic and better relations with the locals. As a result, they were the stronger of the two settlements.

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  • History Channel. (2015). Pilgrims. Retrieved from:
  • Mayflower History. (2015). Mayflower compact. Retrieved from:
  • National Park Service. (2015). Jamestown and Plymouth: compare and contrast. Retrieved from: