Assess the validity of the following statement.  Geography was the primary factor in shaping the development of the British colonies in North America. 

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will say that geography was a major factor but not the primary factor that shaped the British colonies.  True, climate did allow for the South to have a longer growing season, and this same climate helped to produce the malarial conditions which caused whites to turn to slaves instead of indentured servants for labor.  Also, the abundance of whales and fish off the coast of New England did make that region a major factor in shipbuilding and whaling.  However, I would like to point out that demographics played more of a role than geography in the makeup of the New World.  The Pilgrims of the northeastern United States settled in family groups.  It was normal for each boy of the family to want his own parcel of land.  Pilgrims had large families, so that meant that there was a constant demand for land in order to farm.  The northeastern colonists were also more pious than the colonists of the South, as religious freedom was the primary reason to be there.  The South was initially settled by people who wanted to make their money and then go back home to England in order to spend it.  They did not value the land as much as in the northeast colonies; they thought that producing a cash crop every year was more important than maintaining the farm. I will admit that geography played a major factor, but I contend that one can learn more about the period by looking at which groups settled in the United States, rather than where they settled.  

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Geography was a substantial and primary factor in the development of the North American colonies of Britain. The Southern colonies had rich soil, a warm climate and long growing season; but few natural harbors. Conversely, the North had thin rocky soil, a cooler climate which limited its growing season, and an abundance of natural harbors. This geography practically dictated that the Southern colonies would have an agriculturally based economy and the Northern economies an economy based on shipping, ship building and later manufacturing. it is incorrect to suggest that the "harsh working conditions" in the South led to slavery; quite the contrary. The Southern geography lent itself to large scale production of staple crops which of necessity required substantial amounts of labor. This labor was first supplied by indentured servants who were gradually replaced with slaves. The North had a far more harsh working environment; large scale agriculture was practically impossible, thus the need for large scale labor was not present.  It is also overly simplistic to suggest that the religion and cultural traditions of those who settled North and South were determinative factors. Had the geography been reversed, the economies would likewise have been reversed.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This statement is not valid.  Geography was a factor, but it was not the primary factor.

Geography did help to shape the development of the British colonies.  For example, the relatively harsh working conditions of the southern colonies helped to bring about the "need" for African slaves.  However, geography was not as important as other factors such as religion and culture.  New England and the Chesapeake differed because they were settled by people of different religions (Puritan vs. Anglican) and by people with different cultural traditions (egalitarian Puritans vs. elitist cavaliers).  These differences were much more important than geographical differences.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For a book length discussion that supports my point of view, please refer to Albion's Seed, by David Hackett Fischer.  This book argues that various migrations of people from England brought their folkways with them and that those folkways heavily influenced the development of the cultures, economies, and even educational systems of the various regions of the colonies.