European Exploration of America

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How did geography affect the settlement of colonial America?

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Many of the regional differences in colonial America were based on the differing geographies of those regions. In the British American colonies, there were three main regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic or Middle, and Southern. Each region had different climates and access to certain natural resources, which impacted the development of their economies as well as their overall way of life.

The New England colonies had a colder, harsher climate. While colonists there did farm, their climate was not conducive to the growing of major cash crops like tobacco. Therefore, the New England colonies never developed a plantation system. Likewise, they did not have a big demand for slave labor to work on the plantations. There was slavery in New England but not on the scale of the Southern colonies. Because people tended to work on small farms or in other industries, people tended to settle more in towns and villages, rather than being spread out on large farms. However, the New England colonies did have access to oceans full of fish. They also had access to large forests and harbors in which to trade. Thus, some of their main economic industries were fishing, lumbering, and shipbuilding.

The mid-Atlantic colonies included some of the best natural harbors and ports in colonial America, such as New York City and Philadelphia. They thus became centers of commercial activity and trade. They also attracted many different ethnic groups, causing them to be the most diverse region ethnically and religiously.

The Southern colonies had land and warm climates well suited to commercial agriculture of cash crops such as tobacco, rice, and indigo. The wealthy owned large plantations that eventually relied on slave labor. The stark income disparity between the plantation owners, small-scale farmers, and slaves created a social system with a rigid class structure. Furthermore, people tended to live farther away from one another and thus were organized more by county than by city or town.

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