Colonial America

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How were the Middle and New England colonies similar and different?

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The other answers to this question describe some notable similarities and differences between the Middle and New England Colonies. I will describe a few more below.


Although agriculture was more widely practiced in the fertile Middle Colonies than in New England, both regions also relied on manufacturing and commerce to fuel their economies. Large amounts of timber from the interior meant that shipbuilding was a major industry. Both regions also had valuable minerals, such as iron, for mining. Furthermore, both regions had deep-water ports that allowed for the establishment of successful trading hubs such as New York City, Baltimore, Philidelphia, Newport, and Boston.


The New England Colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were established with royal charters. In fact, there were no royal-charter colonies outside of New England. This means that they were relatively self-governing under the auspices of the English Crown. With the exception of New Hampshire, proprietary and royal colonies were only established outside of New England. Proprietary colonies included Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. As proprietary colonies, all land was owned and managed by a small group of elites and their governors reported directly to the king. The other Middle Colonies were royal colonies. Their governments were established directly by the Crown to directly fulfill the orders of the king. Therefore, they had much less autonomy.

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There were more differences than similarities between the middle colonies and the New England colonies.

The middle colonies were much more diverse than the New England colonies. Their relative diversity was evident in both their ethnic and religious makeup. While New England was overwhelmingly settled by only the English, the middle colonies included numerous nationalities as well as Indian tribes and slaves. As for religion, New England had Pilgrims and Puritans—and not much else. The middle colonies ran the gamut from Quakers to Dutch Calvinists.

In the fecund farmland of the middle colonies, agriculture flourished. In New England, on the other hand, there was relatively little fertile land, and shipbuilding was an important industry.

The middle colonies were also more tolerant than their northern counterparts. William Penn's colony was founded with religious freedom as a core tenet. The infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts could never have happened in the liberal middle colonies.

The similarities between the two regions were fewer. They had the same mother country and King. They both had to manage relations with neighboring Indian tribes. Finally, as colonists in a new world, they faced many common challenges.

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Unlike the colonies in the Chesapeake and the Deep South, the Middle and New England colonies had relatively fewer slaves and smaller farms. While the economies of the Chesapeake and Deep South colonies were based on agriculture, the Middle and New England colonies had more diversified economies based on small farms (wheat was grown in the Middle Colonies and squash, beans, and other crops were grown in New England). In addition, the Middle Colonies and New England had some rudimentary forms of industry, including fur trapping and textile manufacturing in the Middle Colonies and shipbuilding and logging in New England.

The Middle Colonies and New England were different in that New England was largely Puritan, and, save for Rhode Island (which practiced a form of religious tolerance), the government was a kind of theocracy run by the Puritans. There was little religious tolerance, and family life was built around the Puritan church. The Middle Colonies had greater religious diversity, and Pennsylvania, for example, was a haven for Quakers; the Quakers also offered others religious tolerance. In addition, while New England discouraged settlement by people other than Puritans, the Middle Colonies encouraged immigration from different types of people (for example, Germans in Pennsylvania). 

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There were differences and similarities between the New England colonies and the Middle colonies. 

In terms of similarities, we will see that in some of the Middle colonies, the jobs were similar to those in the New England colonies.  In New York and New Jersey, there was a lot of manufacturing and trade, just like there was in the New England colonies.  Business was an important job.  This is because the climate and soil in New York and New Jersey was similar to the climate and soil in New England.  While there was farming in both regions, there were some significant differences between the regions when it comes to farming.  Another similarity is that both regions were very active in the movement for independence.  Lots of significant events occurred in both the Middle and New England colonies.

These colonies were also different. There was more religious freedom in the Middle colonies than in the New England colonies. This was especially true in Pennsylvania. The Middle colonies had some slaves while the New England colonies had very few slaves.  This is true because there was more large scale farming in the southern part of the Middle colonies where the soil was more fertile and the climate more suited for farming.  Thus, another difference is the kind of farming done.  In the New England colonies, subsistence farming was practiced. These farmers grew enough for their family, but didn’t have too much left to sell to other people. In the Middle colonies, farmers grew crops for sale.  The main cash crop was wheat. 

The Middle colonies and New England colonies had both similarities and differences.

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

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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