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Southern Colonies: 1566–1733



Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia—collectively known as the Southern colonies—were established between 1566 and 1733. They were founded for a number of reasons, including the pursuit of profit, religious liberty, and social reform. Despite their proprietary differences, the land and climate of the region had a dramatic effect on the way the Southern colonies evolved. Cash crops such as tobacco and cotton came to dominate their economies, wealthy planters oversaw their governments and social hierarchies, and slaves made up their labor force. Similar to other colonies, the arrival of white settlers created conflict between the newcomers and native populations. One such example was Bacon's Rebellion in the Virginia Colony.

At A Glance

  • Profit was the primary motive behind the founding of the Southern colonies of Virginia and the Carolinas.
  • Maryland began as a proprietary colony of Lord Baltimore and served as a refuge for Roman Catholics.
  • The Georgia Colony was established to provide economic opportunities to Britain's debtors and poor as well as to provide a buffer between Spanish Florida and the other English colonies.
  • Before the arrival of white colonists, the Southern region was dominated by several Native American tribes such as the Powhatan, Cherokee, and Muskogee.
  • Bacon's Rebellion arose from differences of opinion on how to deal with Susquehannock raids on European settlements in Virginia. The rebellion failed, and its leaders were executed.
  • Rich soil and a mild climate allowed the Southern colonies to develop a strong agrarian economy. The growing demand for cheap labor by Southern plantations created a regional dependence upon the institution of slavery.
  • A distinct government structure and social order emerged in the Southern colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries.