The Virginia Company of London was a joint-stock company established in 1606 by royal charter from King James I of England. The company’s aim was to establish colonies in the New World and engage in trade with the native population.
The Virginia Company of London sent its first expedition to the New World in December 1606. The expedition consisted of three ships, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, and carried 104 men and boys. The expedition arrived in the Chesapeake Bay area in April 1607 and established the first permanent English settlement in North America, Jamestown.
The early years of the Virginia Company were marked by conflict with the native population, disease, famine, and a lack of leadership. The company’s fortunes improved in 1612 with the introduction of tobacco cultivation, which became the colony’s main export. Tobacco cultivation required large amounts of labor, leading to the use of indentured servants and later, slavery.
Despite the success of tobacco, the Virginia Company struggled financially. In 1622, the native population launched a surprise attack on the colony, killing over 300 settlers and destroying many of the tobacco fields. This event, known as the Indian Massacre of 1622, led to the revocation of the company’s charter in 1624, and Virginia became a royal colony.
The legacy of the Virginia Company is complex. The exploitation of indentured servants and slaves in the tobacco industry contributed to the growth of the slave trade and the establishment of a system of racial inequality that persists to this day. The Virginia Company also played a role in the displacement and genocide of the native population, a legacy that has been acknowledged by the Virginia state government in recent years.