- This article is about the region in the United States of America. For other uses, see New England (disambiguation).
The New England region of the United States is located in the northeastern corner of the country. Boston is its business and cultural center and its most populated city. The region includes the following states:
(Curiously, New York east of the Hudson River has occasionally been called part of New England, although this is exceedingly rare and would be considered incorrect by most people in the region. For example, the New England Interstate Highways of the 1920s included eastern New York.)
New England is perhaps the most well-defined region of the United States, with more uniformity and more shared heritage than other regions of the country. But, while there is cultural and historical uniformity throughout the whole region, Northern and Southern New England differ in the fact that the former is more rural whereas the latter is very urban. This difference has always existed, however, even when the region was young, and thus does not imply a growing or changing trend, but rather the result of historical population patterns.
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New England has long been inhabited by Algonquian-speaking native peoples, including the Abenaki, the Penobscot, the Wampanoag, and many others. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans such as Giovanni Verrazano, Jacques Cartier and John Cabot (known as Giovanni Caboto before being based in England) charted the New England coast. They referred to the region as Norumbega, named for a fabulous native city that was supposed to exist there.
The name New England dates to the earliest days of European settlement: in 1616 Captain John Smith described the area in a pamphlet "New England." The name was officially sanctioned in 1620 by the grant of King James I to the Plymouth Council for New England. The region was subsequently divided through further grants, including the 1629 royal grant of "Hampshire" which was issued for "makeing a Plantation & establishing of a Colony or Colonyes in the Countrey called or knowen by ye name of New England in America."
Following the Pequot War in 1637, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut joined together in a loose compact called the New England Confederation. The confederation was designed largely to coordinate mutual defense against the Dutch in the New Netherland colony to the south and the French in New France to the north, as well as to enforce the return of runaway slaves. The confederation had a council comprising two delegates from each of the four colonies, but it had no formal enforcement powers and relied on the individual colonies to voluntarily follow council decisions. The confederation disintegrated in the 1650s when the powerful Massachusetts Bay Colony refused to follow decisions of the confederation council regarding the conflict with the Dutch. King Philip's War (1675-1676), the bloodiest Indian war of the early colonial period, had a devastating effect on the colonies of southern New England, but effectively ended the power and influence of the indians in the region.
In 1686, King James II, concerned about the increasingly independent ways of the colonies, in particular their open flouting of the Navigation Acts, decreed the Dominion of New England, an administrative union comprising all the New England colonies. Two years later, the provinces of New York and New Jersey, which had been acquired from the Dutch, were added. The union, imposed from the outside, was highly unpopular among the colonists. In 1687, when the Connecticut Colony refused to follow a decision of the dominion governor Edmund Andros, he sent an armed contigent to seize the colony's charter, which the colonists, according to popular legend, hid inside the Charter Oak tree. Andros' efforts to unify the colonial defenses met little success and the dominion ceased after only three years, after the removal of King James II in the Glorious Revolution in 1689.
Aside from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, or "New Scotland", New England is the only North American region to inherit the name of a kingdom in the British Isles. New England has largely preserved its regional character, especially in its historic sites. Its name is a reminder of the past, as many of the original English-Americans have migrated further west.
A derivative of meetings held by church elders, town meetings were an integral part of governance and remain so today in towns across New England. At such meetings, any citizen of the town may discuss issues of the day with other members of the community, and vote on them. This is the most direct democracy in the United States today, and the form of dialogue has been adopted under certain circumstances elsewhere.
In the colonial period and the early time of the republic, New England leaders like John Hancock, John Adams, and Samuel Adams joined those in Philadelphia and Virginia to direct the country. At the time of the Civil War, New England and the Midwest combined against slavery, eventually ending the practice in the United States. In the twentieth century, the region remained a source of political thought and intellectual ferment in the nation.
Today, the dominant party in New England is the Democratic Party, which holds control over a vast majority of the region. However, both New Hampshire and Maine have a significant Republican electorate, with both states represented in the U.S. Senate by two Republicans each. In the 2000 presidential election, Democratic candidate Al Gore carried all of the New England states except for New Hampshire, and in 2004, John Kerry, a native New Englander himself, carried all six New England states for the Democrats.
New England contains some of the oldest and most renowned institutions of higher learning, including Harvard University, Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University, Dartmouth College, Amherst College, Williams College, Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College, Middlebury College, Wellesley College, Smith College, Tufts University, Boston College, Boston University, and Brandeis University. The number and renown of secondary and postsecondary schools in the region is unequaled by any other. The first college in America, Harvard, was founded at Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1636. A number of the graduates settle in the region after school, providing the area with a well-educated population and one of its most valuable resources.
As some of the original New England settlers migrated westward, immigrants from Canada, Ireland, Italy, and eastern Europe moved into the region. Massachusetts in particular has the highest concentration of persons of Irish heritage in the country. Today, although the region has attracted many Jewish and Asian-American residents, it has a far smaller proportion of African-Americans and Hispanic Americans than the rest of the country. Though Connecticut and Massachusetts have populations of those groups closer to the national average, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are largely populated with people of European descent. The region has remained consistently openminded towards other backgrounds however, a tradition which has continued from the abolitionist days of William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner to the region's recent controversial legal battle in legal relationships between homosexual couples.
The bulk of the region's population is concentrated in southern New England, which contains Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The most populous state is Massachusetts, whose population is centered mostly around its political and cultural capital, Boston; whereas Western Massachusetts is less densely populated and more spread out. The resulting effect is a minor cultural divide between urban New Englanders, typically Bostonians, and rural New Englanders, who hail from western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The coastline is more urban than western New England, which is typically rural, even in urban states like Massachusetts. These characteristics of the region's population are due mainly to historical factors; the original colonists settled mostly on the coastline of Massachusetts Bay. The only state without access to the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont, is also the least-populated. After nearly 400 years, the region still maintains, for the most part, its historical population layout.
Three of the four most densely populated states in the United States are in New England. In order, the four most densely populated states are: New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. As a result, southern New England is an integral part of the BosWash megalopolis.
The ten largest cities by population in New England are:
Greater Boston: approx. 5,800,000
- Boston, MA: 589,141
- Cambridge, MA: 101,355
- Lynn, MA: 88,025
- Quincy, MA: 88,025
- Newton, MA: 83,829
- Brookline, MA: 57,107
Providence, RI: 173,618
Worcester, MA: 172,648
Springfield, MA: 152,082
Hartford, CT: 141,578
Bridgeport, CT: 139,529
New Haven, CT: 123,626
Stamford, CT: 117,083
Waterbury, CT: 107,271
Manchester, NH: 107,006
As the oldest of the American regions, New England has developed a distinct cuisine, dialect, architecture, and government. New England cuisine is known for its emphasis on seafood and dairy; clam chowder, lobster, and other products of the sea are among some of the region's most popular foods.
Despite a changing population, much of the original spirit of the region remains. It can be seen in the simple, woodframe houses and quaint white church steeples that are features of many small towns, and in the traditional lighthouses that dot the Atlantic coast. New England is also well known for its mercurial weather and its crisp chill. (Mark Twain is quoted as saying "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.") For its vibrant colored foliage in autumn, the region is a popular tourist destination. As a whole, New England tends to be progressive in its politics, although somewhat Puritan in its personal mores. Due to the fact that so many recent European immigrants live in the region and due to the influence of the many universities, the region often shows a greater receptivity to European ideas and culture than the rest of the country.
The region has remained consistently openminded towards other backgrounds, a tradition which has continued from the abolitionist days of William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner to the region's recent controversial legal battle in regarding relationships between homosexual couples. As of 2005, Massachusetts permits gay marriages, and Vermont and Connecticut allow for civil unions between gay couples, putting the region at the forefront of this most recent American civil rights struggle. Although New England has always been one of the more socially progressive regions of the United States, its internal cultural and social battles have always been somewhat paradoxical. Its fervent abolitionism, for instance, was often met with intense racism on the part of its recently-immigrated Irish population. It was Alexis de Tocqueville who noted, in the 1830s, that New England was one of the only regions of the United States to have properly separated religion from its government, an ironic mixture of the region's heavy Puritan and Catholic backgrounds and strong tradition of direct democracy.
Bars and pubs, especially those with Irish themes, are popular social scenes. Closer to Boston, musicians from Ireland often tour pubs, playing traditional Irish folk music, usually with a singer, a fiddler, and a guitarist. In the rural parts of the region, people socialize through typical common activities such as church, sports, and town government.
The overall feeling of the region can be described as decidedly European, with the region's colonial past still alive and thriving through tourism, the hundreds of historic sites that dot region, and the rich cultural traditions that have endured and developed over centuries. Long-time and native residents are typically knowledgeable of the history of the region, and proud of it, as well. The often-parodied dialect of the region is most commonly known as Boston English, although, in reality, this accent is reserved mostly for the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine.
In the twentieth century, most of New England's traditional industries have relocated to states or foreign countries where goods can be made more cheaply. In more than a few factory towns, skilled workers have been left without jobs. Largely around Boston in the ring of Route 128, the gap has been partly filled by high technology industries, in particular biotech. Education, high technology, financial services, tourism, and medicine, continue to drive the local economy.
In the southwestern Connecticut counties of Fairfield and New Haven the economy is more closely associated with New York City. The area is considered part of the expansive New York Metropolitan Area and the economy is more often viewed as an extension of the New York suburbs as opposed to rest of New England. For years many residents of southwestern Connecticut have crossed the state line each day to work in Manhattan. More recently, New Yorkers have begun to travel into Connecticut as part of a reverse commute to many of the job centers developed in the suburbs.
New England has always received a great deal of attention from American writers like Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, John Irving and Arthur Miller. Largely on the strength of local writers like Thoreau, Boston, Massachusetts was for some years the center of the U.S. publishing industry, before being overtaken by New York in the middle of the nineteenth century. Boston remains the home of publishers Houghton Mifflin and Pearson Education, among others, as well as the literary magazine The Atlantic Monthly.
New England is also the setting for most of the gothic horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft, mostly because he lived his life in Providence, Rhode Island. Places like Dunwich, Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingsport, Miskatonic and Salem are featured quite often in his stories. This may also be because of the anglophile's desire to find a part of his own country most analogous to England.
More recently, author Stephen King has also used the small towns of the New England state of Maine as the setting for much of his horror fiction, with much of the action taking place in or near the fictional town of Castle Rock.
Notable New Englanders
- John Adams
- John Quincy Adams
- Samuel Adams
- Some members of Aerosmith
- Crispus Attucks
- Edward Brooke
- Bobby Brown
- Dan Brown
- Charles Bulfinch
- James J. "Whitey" Bulger
- William "Billy" Bulger
- George Herbert Walker Bush
- George W. Bush
- Noam Chomsky
- John Singleton Copley
- Norm Crosby
- Dick Dale
- Ronnie James Dio
- Michael Dukakis
- Mary Dyer
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Benjamin Franklin
- Robert Frost
- Anthony Michael Hall
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
- John Irving
- Edward "Ted" Kennedy
- John F. Kennedy
- Patrick J. Kennedy
- Robert Kennedy
- Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
- John Kerry
- Stephen King
- Denis Leary
- Jay Leno
- Joseph Lieberman
- Robert Lowell
- Rowland Hussey Macy
- Cotton Mather
- Will McDonough
- Ephraim Morse
- James Naismith
- Leonard Nimoy
- Conan O'Brien
- George Patton
- Joe Perry
- Sylvia Plath
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Sumner Redstone
- Paul Revere
- Adam Sandler
- Louis Sullivan
- Paul Tsongas
- Henry David Thoreau
- Barbara Walters
- Daniel Webster
- William "Bill" Weld
- John Greenleaf Whittier
- Howard Zinn
- Mandy Moore
Major Professional Sports Teams
Informal polling, along with a general consensus among the sports media, indicates that baseball is the most-watched sport in New England, with the Boston Red Sox being the region's most popular sports franchise and the region's focal point of conversation throughout the summer. Even Red Sox players have noted the feeling of affection and ownership the entire New England region has towards the team. Nearly every major town in the region carries the Red Sox through the town radio station. The 2004 World Series victory by the Red Sox, the first since 1918, inspired widespread euphoria throughout the region, and three million people attended the team's victory parade in Boston. The recent success of the New England Patriots, a team that has won three of the past four Super Bowls, has sparked a renewed interest in football. The Boston Celtics are also a very popular franchise.
It should be noted that in the parts of southwestern Connecticut that are close to New York City, there are an abundance of New York Yankees and New York Mets fans, who are often identified as suburban New Yorkers. Additionally, until the team relocated to Washington for the start of the 2005 season, the Montreal Expos received some fan support in northern New England.
Below is a list of the major professional sports teams in New England:
- Baseball: Boston Red Sox
- Football: New England Patriots
- Basketball: Boston Celtics
- Hockey: Boston Bruins
- Soccer: New England Revolution
These were other colonial dominions of the same scale and influence in the U.S. Northeast:
U.S. Census Bureau. "Census Regions and Divisions of the United States" (PDF). Retrieved May 11, 2005.
- Historic Descriptions of New England Cities and Towns
- Historic USGS Maps of New England & NY
- New England Articles of Confederation
- Charter of New England
- Discover New England
- New England Governors Conference
- Strange New England Laws
- Flag of New England
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