Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The state’s capital is Richmond. Its most populous city is Virginia Beach, though its most populous subdivision is Fairfax County. Virginia’s population in 2022 was over 8.68 million; slightly over a third, 35%, were in the Washington metropolitan area. The Blue Ridge Mountains cross the western and southwestern parts of the state. The state’s central region lies predominantly in the Piedmont. Eastern Virginia is part of the Atlantic Plain. The Middle Peninsula forms the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
Virginia’s history begins with several Indigenous groups, including the Powhatan. In 1607, the London Company established the Colony of Virginia as the first permanent English colony in the New World. Virginia’s state nickname, the Old Dominion, is a reference to this status. Slave labor and land from displaced native tribes fueled the growing plantation economy, but also fueled conflicts both inside and outside the colony.
Virginia was one of the original Thirteen Colonies in the American Revolution and several key battles were fought there during that war. More major battles were fought in Virginia during the American Civil War, which split the state as the government in Richmond joined the Confederacy, but many northwestern counties remained loyal to the Union, which led to the separation of West Virginia from the state in 1863. Although the state was under one-party rule for nearly a century following the Reconstruction era, both major political parties have been competitive in Virginia since the repeal of Jim Crow laws in the 1970s.
Virginia’s state legislature is the Virginia General Assembly, which was established in July 1619, making it the oldest current law-making body in North America. It is made up of a 40-member Senate and a 100-member House of Delegates. Unlike other states, cities and counties in Virginia function as equals, but the state government manages most local roads inside each. It is the only state where governors are prohibited from serving consecutive terms. Virginia’s economy is diverse. The Shenandoah Valley has a strong agricultural sector. Northern Virginia has high technology companies and U.S. federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency, while Hampton Roads, the site of the region’s main seaport, has a significant military sector.