What is New England?
Nestled in the northeast corner of the United States is New England, a geographical region made up of six states: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It is a region steeped in natural beauty, culture, and lots and lots of history.
Geography and Location
Despite being comprised of six states, New England is relatively small, roughly the same size as the state of Washington. New England is, however, larger than “Old England”.
New England is bordered by New York to the west, Canada to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Long Island Sound to the south. Boston is the largest city in New England.
The landscape of New England is diverse, featuring rugged mountains, fertile farmland, and jagged marine coastlines, the product of retreating ice sheets roughly 18,000 years ago. The Appalachian Mountains roughly follow the border between New England and New York, extending northwards into New Hampshire as the White Mountains, and continuing into Maine and Canada. Mount Washington in New Hampshire is the highest peak in New England, though it is not even among the ten highest peaks in the eastern United States.
In coastal areas of New England, you will find sandy beaches, wetlands, marshes, lakes, and hills.
In New England, the climate can vary greatly depending on where you are.
In Maine, Vermont, and inland New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the climate is described as continental. It is not uncommon for these places to experience long, cold, snowy winters. While summers can get warm, they are usually short.
As you near the coast, like in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, the same humid continental climate exists, though summers are much hotter and winters are shorter and come with less snowfall.
History of New England
Prior to European contact, New England was home to American Indians who spoke a variety of Eastern Algonquian languages. Some of the more well-known tribes in the region were the Abenakis, Pequots, Mohegans, and Wampanoag. These tribes practiced agriculture, hunting and fishing.
In 1614, Captain John Smith (the same guy people mistakenly think married Pocahontas) and his men explored the shores of the region. He is credited with coining the term “New England”. Shortly after, New England would come to be settled by English Puritans, who came to the New World to escape religious persecution in England. They would establish the first colony in New England, eventually leading to further English settlement around Boston and Salem.
These early residents of New England valued education and enlightened thinkers. They would set up some of the first institutions of higher learning in the New World, universities like Harvard (1636) and Yale (1701). Furthermore, due to their isolation from Europe, colonies throughout New England would develop their own regional governments, which differed from the constitutional monarchy across the pond. These governments were largely representative, and encouraged town meetings, civil liberties, and increased political franchise.
During the 18th century, the descendants of these early colonists would help spread revolutionary ideas. These thinkers, intellectuals, and patriots would take the lead in calling for independence from Britain, ultimately helping develop the new United States of America after the American Revolutionary War.
New England Today
In the 19th century, New England became known for its reform-minded individuals, who believed in temperance, increased social freedoms, better working conditions for laborers, and the abolition of slavery. The latter belief would put New England in strong support of the Union during the American Civil War.
After the Civil War, New England would feel the effects of the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing of goods, like textiles, shoes, clocks, and hardware, would help boost the economy. Around this same time, the region ushered in an influx of new immigrants from Ireland and Eastern Europe. These immigrants would bring Roman Catholicism to the traditionally Protestant region.
Eventually, many of the traditional industries in New England would diminish, paving the way for advances in other industries. Today, the economy of New England is supported in part by high-technology manufacturing, with the production of things like jet engines, nuclear submarines, and scientific instruments. The region has also become well-known for its contributions in the fields of education, medicine, finance, and tourism.
New England has played an import role in American history, and continues to have lots to offer residents and visitors alike.
If you love geography, make sure to check out these other geography-related posts from the Sporcle Blog!
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.