The Plagues Of Colonial Life Essay

1175 words - 5 pages

Colonial living in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the New World was both diverse and, in many cases, proved deadly through such avenues as disease, Native American attacks, a lack of proper medical treatment, and disastrous weather conditions. Even through all of these hardships, the first colonists persevered, doing their best to see the blessings in their lives and create a better life for their children through all of the uncertainties. Nothing, it seems, in the original colonies was set in stone except for the fact that they never knew what the next day would hold in store. Everything, even small mishaps, had dramatic impacts on the social, economic, and political aspects of their lives. These circumstances, however, were more strongly influenced by geography than class position, unlike what many were used to in England. How population, economics, disease, and climate played into the social conditions of early colonists is truly a story for the ages. Whether people were seeking land, religious freedom, or money and profits, everyone worked to a certain extent just to survive, let alone thrive, in the wilderness that was North America at that time.
Surviving anywhere south of New England was a major challenge for the colonists in the seventeenth century in part due to the overwhelming majority of men in society combined with a high death rate. Just to continue a family was a daunting challenge, and in many cases, this venture proved unsuccessful. Population consistency was sustained only through the immigration of people from England until the later portion of the seventeenth century when the population began to rise on its own. The New England colonies, however, were polar opposites in every sense. Because of the clean water and more mild temperatures, there were far fewer diseases. Life was also, therefore, more family-oriented and the population grew not from immigrants coming from England, but from a “natural reproductive increase.” There was also a high degree of family stability, including the influence of grandparents on childrens’ lives, in large part due to longer average life spans. That’s not to say that life was easier at all. The Puritan way of life was incredibly strict, and the soil in the New England colonies was barren. Population change in the each of the colonies, therefore, was heavily influenced by both diseases and the vast differences in climate.
From the first beginnings at Jamestown, disease claimed the lives of hundreds of men, women, and children trying to start a new life in the New World. To put things in perspective, moving to the Chesapeake Bay area from England in the 1600s automatically subtracted ten years off the average person’s life span because of rampant diseases, not to mention the fact that “half the people born in early Virginia and Maryland did not live to see their twentieth birthdays” (Kennedy, et. al., p.66). In the Deep South, disease went hand-in-hand with the...

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