top of page

A Free Reading Passage on the Smallpox Epidemic at Jamestown for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 7

5

0

0

The smallpox epidemic at Jamestown is a referenced topic in the Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Jamestown
Jamestown/public domain


In 1607, English settlers established Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Founded with aspirations of economic profit and territorial expansion, Jamestown became a focal point of European colonization efforts in the New World.


Not long after its founding, the Jamestown colony faced a devastating crisis that would leave an indelible mark on its history—the smallpox epidemic. Smallpox, a highly contagious and deadly disease caused by the variola virus, wreaked havoc on both settlers and indigenous peoples in the region. The epidemic was a tragic consequence of European colonization, as the arrival of English settlers brought the smallpox virus to a population with no immunity.


The spread of smallpox within the Jamestown colony was facilitated by several factors. First, the close quarters and cramped living conditions of the settlement provided ideal conditions for the transmission of the virus. Additionally, the lack of understanding about disease transmission and the absence of effective public health measures allowed smallpox to proliferate unchecked. As a result, the disease spread rapidly among both settlers and indigenous populations, leading to widespread illness and death.


The impact of the smallpox epidemic on the Jamestown colony was profound. Records indicate that a significant portion of the population fell ill, with mortality rates reaching alarming levels. Among the settlers, the disease claimed the lives of many, weakening the colony’s workforce and disrupting daily life. Similarly, indigenous communities were devastated by the epidemic, as the virus spread rapidly among populations with no prior exposure or immunity to smallpox. Entire villages were decimated, and the social fabric of native societies was irreparably altered. Estimates suggest that the smallpox epidemic at Jamestown resulted in the deaths of thousands of individuals, both settlers and indigenous peoples alike.


The Jamestown colony managed to persevere through the smallpox epidemic by implementing various measures to mitigate the spread of the disease. While the epidemic undoubtedly caused significant suffering and loss of life, the settlers’ resilience and adaptive strategies played a crucial role in their survival. Efforts such as quarantine measures, isolation of the sick, and attempts at rudimentary inoculation helped to contain the spread of the virus to some extent. Additionally, the development of immunity within surviving populations over time contributed to greater resistance against future outbreaks of smallpox. Despite the challenges posed by the epidemic, the Jamestown colony ultimately endured, demonstrating the resilience and determination of its inhabitants in the face of adversity.



PRINTABLE READING PASSAGE ON THE SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC AT JAMESTOWN

Would you prefer to share a printable passage with your students? Click the image below to grab it!




Smallpox at Jamestown FREE Reading Passage



Do you want to watch a video about Jamestown?






Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest



Period 1



AP U.S. History




smallpox at Jamestown



Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 7

5

0

0

Comments
Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page