A history of New England

Published on by Randy Nicholas

New England was the earliest region in the United States to be clearly defined. First inhabited by indigenous peoples, the area was settled by English puritans and pilgrims in the early to mid 17th century. This article contains a brief introduction to four key periods in New England history: early European settlement, the Dominion years, the American Revolution and early nationalism.

Early European settlement

First settlers

The first settlers in the New England region were sent by King James I from England to discover land and establish trade for the monarch in 1607. The name of "New England" wasn't made official until 1620 when the Royal Charter for the Plymouth Council of New England was established to govern and colonise the area.

Plymouth colony

Later that year, a group of English puritans arrived on a ship called the Mayflower, established Plymouth Colony. When the settlers held a feast of gratitude, it became one of America's most important public holidays: Thanksgiving.

The Dominion of New England

The Dominion of New England was commissioned by King James II over concern that the colonies were gaining too much independence and military strength. After King James II was ousted in the Glorious Revolution of 1689, the Dominion fell after only three years when the Dominion Governor, Edmund Andros, was deported back to England.

The American revolution

The Boston Tea Party

New England, and especially Boston, was at the epicentre of the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party of 1773, when a group of activists protested taxation without representation by raiding a ship and dumping all the tea into the harbour, prompted the British parliament to take swift action by closing down the harbour and shutting down the local government in 1774.

George Washington

Then, General George Washington led the patriots to force the British out of Boston in 1776 and maintained New England as the stronghold for the remainder of the American Revolution.

Early nationalism

The New England states

The six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont were formed by 1820 after a long process of compromise over division of power and resources.

The industrial revolution

New England quickly became the most urbanised, populous and industrialised region in the United States. By the 1840s, political movements for the abolition of slavery originated in New England and the area was on the forefront of American arts, literature and higher education.

daylight photo of statehouse domeharvard university

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