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Colonial Papers

Learn about reading and transcribing pre-1800 English handwriting from the UK National Archives at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography.

Colonial Papers is a collection of loose papers, more closely connected by age than by any other single factor, which consist largely of records kept by the clerk of the colonial council, House of Burgesses, the governor and other officials, relating to county as well as colony-wide government. The records of the colonial government have, for the most part, been destroyed by wars, fires, and early neglect. The collection consists of petitions to the governor or House of Burgesses, court records, orders, summonses, patents, accounts, proceedings, returns, grants, proclamations, addresses, certificates and correspondence.

The history of Virginia's colonial government is divided into two significant phases by the date of May 24,1624, when the charter of the Virginia Company of London was revoked by the crown. Prior to that date the colony had been run as a private corporation with final authority resting in the hands of the stockholders; afterwards, it was a royal colony with all the trappings and institutions of government that such a status required. The Grand Assembly, begun in 1619, evolved into the House of Burgesses by 1642, governors and lieutenant governors were sent to the colony as the king's viceroys, regular courts were established, and a complex system of government was developed to lead and protect the growing colony.