History of Colonial Williamsburg

The life of the Virginians during the 17th-18th centuries can be examined in detail with the focus on the life in colonial Williamsburg. Although there is a range of aspects and subjects which can be analyzed with references to the topic because of their historical significance, it is interesting to focus on such subjects as the development of the religious principles at Virginia’s territories, the development of the American family concept, the role of trades in the social progress and stratification, and specific elements of the 18th century clothing to add more details to the Virginians’ image.

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Religion in Virginia

During the 17th century, white Virginians worshiped in the Anglican Church which developed depending on the people’s taxes. Much attention was paid to the support of the church’s authority in the society that is why there were no strict lines to distinguish between the religious and civil authority to influence the visions in the society. The church strived to unite the community members not only as the followers of one religious movement but also as the opponents of any other religious visions. Thus, Virginians rejected to demonstrate tolerance regarding not only non-Christian religions followed by blacks but also regarding Protestant sects.

The 18th century was characterized by the significant struggle of Protestants for their religious freedom. Blacks also supported sects as their way to oppose the traditional principles of the community’s life. Religion influenced each aspect of the people’s life because it provided the feeling of security and the feeling of belonging to the society. However, the bill to promote the religious freedom was not passed until 1786, while supporting the idea of connectedness between the civil and religious authorities (Colonial Williamsburg, 2014).

The American Family

The concept of the American family is rather complex because it consists of several elements, and it should be used to describe American families in their variety as it was in Virginia during the 17th-18th centuries. To understand the idea of the American family, it is necessary to concentrate on differences between the European, African, and Indian families. The Europeans brought to America their vision of the patriarchal family where fathers were the ‘heads’ of families, and mothers were occupied with children’s upbringing and household activities.

The African families reflected the European family’s pattern, but their families were more extended, and women were less submissive in their roles in spite of the fact that the majority of African women were slaves. The Indians families differed from the European and African families in their attitudes to women and children (Colonial Williamsburg, 2014). Thus, the focus on the matrilineal culture was observed, and much attention was paid to upbringing children without punishing them.

The Role of Trades

Trades played an important role in Virginia’s social progress and stratification. Men were mostly coopers, brickmakers, and shoemakers, but more attention should be paid to the activities of wigmakers because their business is the characteristic feature of the century. Wigmakers made wigs and hairpieces for the representatives of the social tops because wigs were the part of the formal dress for men and women depending on their social status. The wigmakers’ business was also based on selling perfumes and powders for hairs to support the image of the representatives of the upper classes.

One more interesting feature was the prosperity of milliners’ business. Milliners were women who could be discussed today as business women because milliners produced and sold accessories and other details of garments, and they also developed the import of necessary goods from foreign countries (Colonial Williamsburg, 2014). It is possible to state that in spite of the focus on the patriarchal tradition, women played an important role in trade activities of Virginia.

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The 18th Century Clothing

Having examined the important role of milliners in the American society of the 17th-18th centuries, it is necessary to focus on the details of the 18th century clothing which accentuated the role of the Virginians in the society. However, it is important to note that the clothing of Virginians was divided into groups not only to reflect the social status but also to be used for different types of activities. The word ‘dress’ meant the rich formal clothes which included a lot of lavish elements and accessories to emphasize the person’s status. The formal dress of the rich woman included such an interesting element as a corset which was the basic element of the woman’s clothes because of the necessity to shape the woman’s figure.

Different materials were imported from many foreign countries. The fact of wearing the clothes made of the Chinese silk and shoes imported from England supported the prestige of the Virginians’ upper-class men and women (Colonial Williamsburg, 2014). Actually, only the families of planters and politicians could afford wearing expensive and rich clothes. Many poor families wore the clothes made by women in those families, and the used materials were inexpensive imported textiles which could not satisfy the tastes of the rich Virginians.

The focus on religion in Virginia, the concept of the American family, trades, and clothing is necessary to discuss the life of colonial Williamsburg during the 17th-18th centuries in detail.


Colonial Williamsburg. (2014). Web.

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"History of Colonial Williamsburg." StudyCorgi, 28 Oct. 2020, studycorgi.com/history-of-colonial-williamsburg/.

1. StudyCorgi. "History of Colonial Williamsburg." October 28, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/history-of-colonial-williamsburg/.


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