How did the New England, middle, and southern colonies of North America settle, and how did they develop differently?

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hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The first permanent British colony in America was at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 as an investment by the London Company.  These people came primarily for land and to make a new life away from the social and economic inequalities of British life.  In 1608 Hudson (working for the Dutch) discovered the area of today's New York City, which was colonized by the Dutch six years later.  In 1620 colonists (later referred to as "Pilgrims") began a British Crown Colony in Massachusetts, for the purpose of religious freedom.  Four years later Virginia was taken over as a Royal Colony, and through the years various other British colonies were founded up and down the seacoast from the Spanish dominion of Florida to the French colonies in Canada.

The colonies developed differently for several reasons, among them the geography, climate and the various reasons for the founding of the colonies. In Virginia the colonists found a valuable commodity in tobacco, which they began growing in 1613.  The practice spread throughout the Southern colonies, and money crop farming became the main business.  In Massachusetts and the other colonies in the North the land was not as fertile, so farms tended to be small family concerns while people congregated into towns with small businesses and manufactories.  In the Mid-Atlantic colonies farming was the big business of the time, but it was mostly wheat, barley and other grains.  Except for the very largest of the Southern plantation owners, farmers in the middle colonies were the most prosperous of all.  Shipping was also a major business in all the colonies, all of them being on the Atlantic Ocean. The richest of the shippers tended to be in the north, such as John Hancock and Benedict Arnold.

Religiously, the colonies differed also.  In New England most of the population were Puritans, with some Anglicans and others.  In the middle colonies there were Quakers, Lutherans, Catholics and Jews as well as Anglicans. In the South, people were mostly Anglican, but there were Baptists (who also came to the New World for their religious freedom) and a number of  Catholic Cavaliers who fled Cromwell's England.  Education in New England and the middle colonies was religion-based, the middle colonies' children going to private schools based on their religions.  In New England there were grammer schools, which girls were not allowed to attend.  Although there were few schools in the South and children were largely taught at home, all who could afford to sent their sons to England for college or university.

These differences led to New England being a region of towns and intensely social life, the middle colonies being composed largely of big farms, and the South becoming a region of mixed large and small farms and towns, with an aggressive expansion policy into the Appalachian Mountains and the Ohio Valley.