What were some similarities and differences between the Middle Colonies and the New England Colonies?

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Some historians say that the Middle Colonies were “middle” in more ways than just geography.  These colonies had some things in common with both the New England colonies and the Southern colonies.

One thing that all colonies had in common was an agrarian basis.  At this point in our economic history, every colony had a strong agricultural component to its economy.  New England and the Middle Colonies were similar in this sense.  A major difference, though, was that the Middle Colonies had much better growing conditions and so they grew crops for export, which was something that the New England colonies did not do. 

A second similarity/difference between the two regions had to do with how the people grouped themselves together (or didn’t) to live.  Like New England, the Middle Colonies did have some cities (where places like Virginia and Maryland really didn’t).  However, the rural farmers of the Middle Colonies did not live together in villages like the New Englanders did.  Instead, they each tended to live on their own land, somewhat apart from one another.

All of these colonies were, of course, controlled by the English. However, the Middle Colonies and New England differed in their ethnic makeup.  New England was almost all English.  By contrast, there were many Dutch, German, and Scandinavian people in the Middle Colonies.  This also brought much more religious diversity to the Middle Colonies. 

These two sets of colonies were similar in that they had similar forms of government.  They did both have some amount of democracy, but were ultimately controlled by governors and upper legislative houses appointed with the consent of the English government.  However, there were differences in that the New England colonies had stronger local governments (“town meetings”) and were dominated more by church members than by economic elites.

In these ways, New England and the Middle Colonies had some important things in common, but were also significantly different.

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