The Virginia Company



Use the passage and background information to answer the question that follows.


The following excerpt is from “The New Life of Virginea,” a tract published in 1612 by the Virginia Company, which was given a charter by the King of England to establish a colony in Virginia.

"The New Life of Virginea," 1612.
Source text: 

“You shall know that our Colonie consisteth now of seven hundred men at least, of sundrie arts and professions, some more or lesse, they stand in health, and few sicke. . . . The Colony is removed up the river fourscore miles further beyond James towne to a place of higher ground, strong and defencible by nature, a good aire, wholesome and cleere (unlike the marsh seate at James towne) with fresh and plentie of water springs, much faire and open grounds freed from woods, and wood enough at hand.

Being thus invited, here they pitch, the spade men fell to digging, the brick men burnt their bricks, the company cut down wood, the Carpenters fell to squaring out, the Sawyers to sawing, the Souldier to fortifying, and every man to somewhat. And . . . here they have built competent and decent houses, the first storie all of bricks, that every man may have his lodging and dwelling place apart by himselfe, with a sufficient quantitie of ground alotted thereto for his orchard and garden to plant at his pleasure, and for his own use. . . .” 

Additional facts related to the Virginia Company:
1.    In 1622, an alliance of Indian tribes nearby attacked the English in Virginia, resulting in about 350 colonists killed.
2.    The Virginia Company wrote this tract at a time when it was having trouble attracting new investors.
3.    In the 1600s, it often took months for news to travel from the North American colonies to England.
4.    In 1619, the Virginia Company established the House of Burgesses, the first elected government in the English colonies of North America. 

Question: Which 1 of the 4 facts above might cause you to question the reliability of this tract’s account of life the colony in 1612?  Explain your reasoning.

About the Assessment

Like the Unions in Paterson, New Jersey assessment, this question gauges whether students can source and contextualize a document.  Students must first examine a report on the progress of the Virginia Company, then determine which fact can help them evaluate the report's reliability.  Strong students will be able to explain how the Company's desire to attract new investors (Fact 2) may have led the authors to put a positive spin on life in Virginia.