History 231 Reading Guide

First Settlers—First Settlements:  “The Importance of Being English”

  • Sigmund Diamond, “From Organization to Society:   Virginia in the Seventeenth Century,” American Journal of Sociology 63.5 (1958): 457-475.  JSTOR
  • Martin Quitt, “Immigrant Origins of the Virginia Gentry:  A Study of Cultural Transmission and Innovation,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 45.4 (1988): 629-655.  JSTOR

Please review:


  • According to Diamond, what kind of organizational structure did the crown and the Virginia Company envision for the settlement at Jamestown in 1607, to accomplish their goal of returning a profit to the shareholders of the joint-stock company? What methods did they envision for managing that organization?
  • What factors in Virginia thwarted their design?
  • How did the Virginia Company adapt their organizational model? What inducements did they offer their “employees” and what were the unintended consequences of these?
  • According to Quitt, what conditions in England loosened the ties of the first-generation emigrants to the ways of their English families, and why?
  • Why did competitive individualism emerge as such a dominant value in mid-century Virginia culture? Why were these individuals attracted to the opportunity in Virginia?
  • How did the gentrification and more self-conscious Anglicization of their sons and grandsons evolve from their legacy?