The Middle Colonies

Start Free Trial

What was the geography of the middle colonies?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

America's middle colonies were comprised of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. The fertility of the land of the middle colonies made them perfect for agricultural pursuits to sustain themselves and the other colonies, such as New England, where the rocky soil made growing food more difficult. The middle colonies' climates were more temperate than the heat of the southern colonies and the cold of the New England colonies. The middle colonies' geographic features include mountains, lowlands, plateau, swamplands, and coastal plains.

The rivers of the middle colonies were wide and easy to navigate, with mild currents that posed relatively little challenge to moving freight and passengers. Hydropower that used current to turn waterwheels assisted industries such as milling. Rivers and coastal areas supported the trapping industry. New Jersey and Delaware's access to the Atlantic Ocean enabled shipping to the southern and New England colonies as well as England.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When discussing regions, remember the boundaries are not fixed and there is some overlap with the New England and Southern colonial regions. On a current map, the Middle Colonies are New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. Keep in mind states did not exist, so these are the current political boundaries the Middle Colonies occupied during colonial times.

The climate of the area is temperate, with warm summers and cold winters. Temperate climates are not subject to wide extremes in weather and as a result are capable of significant agricultural production in the region. During colonial times, the Middle Colonies were known as the "breadbasket" for the colonies, as the climate was favorable to grow wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

The topography of the region consists of a balance of mountains, rolling hills, and coastal plains. The Middle Colonies were strategically located on deepwater ports of access. Numerous protected coves and bays were providing open access to the Atlantic Ocean. The coastal areas became known for the fishing industry, and the ample forests supplied lumber to a dynamic shipbuilding industry.

In general, the geography favored an economy based on grain, cattle, and sheep. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean was favorable to the fishing, shipbuilding, and port-related industries. Of the three regions, the geography of the Middle Colonies was the most desirable for growth and settlement.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team