History 248 Reading Guide

White Society in the Chesapeake, 1607-1750

  • document:  "A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia," (July 22, 1620), The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 8. Virginia Records Manuscripts. 1606-1737. Susan Myra Kingsbury, editor. Records of the Virginia Company, 1606-26, Volume III: Miscellaneous Records, 307-312.  LINK
  • Kevin Kelly, “In Dispers’d Country Plantations: Settlement Patterns in 17th century Surry County, Virginia,” in Thad Tate, ed., The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century (1979), 183-205.  (e-reserve)
  • Jan Lewis, “Domestic Tranquillity and the Management of Emotion among the Gentry of Pre-Revolutionary Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd. Ser., 39.1 (1982), 135-149.  JSTOR


  • Where is Surry County? How did Surry’s location and topography affect the settlement of the county? Kelly argues that the “economic necessities of a region” affect its patterns of settlement (191). What were the main determinants of the economic structure in seventeenth-century Virginia?
  • How does Kelly characterize the pattern of settlement of Surry County within the context of the evolution of Virginia’s economy and its population growth? What inhibited the early expansion of settlement? What eventually caused the renewal of settlement?
  • What kind of “community” and society did seventeenth-century inhabitants of Surry County create?
  • Lewis argues that if the gentry in eighteenth-century Chesapeake “nurtured and cherished an intimate and harmonious household … for them neither affection nor self-expression was yet an unqualified value; both were managed and restrained in the service of a higher good, domestic tranquility” (136).
  • According to Lewis, how did the Virginia gentry attempt to maintain harmonious family relationships once children reached adulthood?  What did parents see as their responsibilities to their children?  What had children come to anticipate from their parents, and what behaviors were expected of them in return?
  • What does her evidence and interpretation suggest about the fabric of family life in gentry Virginia?
  • In what ways was that domestic ideal the product of the particular evolution of Chesapeake society and economy?