- 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 populous city. The region is made up of the following states:
Curiously, New York east of the Hudson River has occasionally been called part of New England. For example, the New England Interstate Highways of the 1920s included eastern New York. This nomenclature is exceedingly rare and would be considered incorrect by most people in both New York and New England proper.
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. Western and Eastern New England share similar differences, with the former not only being much more rural, but also usually lacking the Boston accent that typifies the region in the eyes of outsiders. While some parts of Western New England closely border metropolitan New York City, they are still historically, and, for the most part, culturally part of New England.
Therefore, despite the influence of the New York metropolis, New England remains one of the most clearly-defined cultural and historical regions of the United States.
- 1 History
- 2 Politics
- 3 Education
- 4 Population
- 5 Culture
- 6 Economy
- 7 Literature
- 8 Notable New Englanders
- 9 Major Professional Sports Teams
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The indigenous peoples of New England
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.
Early European settlement (1610s-1630s)
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."
The New England Confederation (1630s-1650s)
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.
The Dominion of New England (1686-1689)
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.
Modern New England (1689-present)
The colonies were not formally united again until 1776, when they became part of the United States; however, especially in the 18th century and the early 19th century, New England was still considered to be a very distinct region of the country, as it is today. During the War of 1812, there was talk of secession from the Union, as New England merchants opposed the war with Great Britain.
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.
The early European settlers of New England were English Protestants fleeing religious persecution. This, however, did not prevent them from establishing colonies where religion was legislated to an extreme, and where those who deviated from the established doctrine were persecuted greatly.
Town meetings in New England
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. Such a strong democratic tradition was even apparent in the early 19th century, when Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that:
In New England, where education and liberty are the daughters of morality and religion, where society has acquired age and stability enough to enable it to form principles and hold fixed habits, the common people are accustomed to respect intellectual and moral superiority and to submit to it without complaint, although they set at naught all those privileges which wealth and birth have introduced among mankind. In New England, consequently, the democracy makes a more judicious choice than it does elsewhere.
New England and political thought
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. Henry David Thoreau, one of New England's most iconic thinkers, made the case for civil disobedience, libertarianism, and even had some anarchist tendencies; this spirit is still alive in the Free State Project and occasional discussions of secession. New England led the rest of the country in abolishing the death penalty for crimes like robbery and burglary in the 19th century. In the 20th century, the region remained a source of political thought and intellectual ferment in the nation, eventually becoming the forefront of the civil rights issue of same sex marriage, with Vermont being the first state to allow civil unions between same sex couples, and Massachusetts being the first state to allow marriage between same sex couples. As of 2005, Connecticut now also allows for civil unions.
While most known for its liberal tendencies, the region still has a history similar to the rest of the country. Puritan New England, of course, was highly intolerant of any deviation from the strict social norms. Arguments against slavery, at first, were not moral, but economic, since owning slaves was expensive and not very useful in the northern climate. During the civil rights era, Boston brewed with tension over school busing to end de facto segregation of its public schools. Despite these examples, the region is still known as one of the more liberal regions of the United States.
Contemporary New England politics
Today, the dominant party in New England is the Democratic Party, though most states have a significant Republican electorate, especially New Hampshire and Maine which are both represented in the U.S. Senate by two Republicans. As of the 2004 elections, Maine is the only state that has its governorship and legislature controlled by one party (the Democrats). 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 Hampshire and Connecticut are the only New England states with capital punishment, although New Hampshire currently has no person on death row and has not had an execution since 1939. Connecticut last had an execution in 2005, the first in New England in forty-five years.
New England contains some of the oldest and most renowned institutions of higher learning in the United States. The first such institution, Harvard, was founded at Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1636. According to US News and World Report, 8 of the nation's top-50 universities and 13 of its top-50 liberal arts colleges are located in New England. These include Amherst College, Bates College, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Brown University, Colby College, Connecticut College, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, College of the Holy Cross, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Trinity College, Tufts University, Wesleyan University, Wellesley College, Williams College, and Yale University. 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.
Public and private education
In terms of public education, many New England states spend higher than the national average on their students and schools. Massachusetts and Connecticut, for instance, have some of the best and highest-rated public schools in the United States. The population of Massachusetts, on average, is consistently ranked as one of the most educated states in the country. A recent government-funded survey of the 50 states ranked Massachusetts as number one in public education. The renowned Boston Latin School is the oldest public high school in America.
In addition, New England is also home to many of the United States' most prominent independent schools (also known as private schools), such as Roxbury Latin and Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, St. Paul's School and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. The concept of the elite "New England prep school" and the "preppy" lifestyle is an iconic part of the region's image, especially when viewed from the rest of the United States.
Culturally, education is considered to be very important, especially in the more-populated, more-urban states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
In 1910, 6,552,681 people lived in New England. Today, the total population of New England is 13,922,517. If New England was one state, the population would rank 5th in the nation, behind Florida. The total area in this scenario (181,440 sq km) would rank 20th behind North Dakota.
Regional population layout
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.
Southern New England
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.
Coastal New England
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.
New England's coast is dotted with urban centers, such as Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Providence, New Haven, and Bridgeport, as well as smaller cities, like Newburyport, Gloucester, and New London. The smaller fishing towns, like Gloucester, are popular tourist attractions, as they tend to retain their historical character, and often have colorful pasts.
Cape Cod, also a popular tourist attraction, is lined with sandy beaches and dotted with bed and breakfasts. The rocky coast of Maine is best known for its lobster. New Hampshire, which has the smallest coastline of all of the coastal New England states, is home to Hampton Beach, also frequented by visitors to the region.
Urban New England
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. Indeed, southern New England forms an integral part of the BosWash megalopolis, a conglomeration of urban centers that spans from Boston to Washington, D.C.
The largest cities by population in New England are:
Greater Boston: approx. 5,800,000
- Boston, Massachusetts: 589,141
- Cambridge, Massachusetts: 101,355
- Lynn, Massachusetts: 88,025
- Quincy, Massachusetts: 88,025
- Newton, Massachusetts: 83,829
- Somerville, Massachusetts: 77,478
- Brookline, Massachusetts: 57,107
Providence, Rhode Island: 173,618
Worcester, Massachusetts: 172,648
Springfield, Massachusetts: 152,082
Hartford, Connecticut: 141,578
Bridgeport, Connecticut: 139,529
New Haven, Connecticut: 123,626
Stamford, Connecticut: 117,083
Waterbury, Connecticut: 107,271
Manchester, New Hampshire: 107,006
Lowell, Massachusetts: 105,167
A person from New England is known as a New Englander. Sometimes, they are also referred to as Yankees, although this term has grown to refer to the people of the greater region of the northeastern United States.
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.
New England's unique culture
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 same sex marriages, and Vermont and Connecticut allow for civil unions between gay couples. 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 the recently-immigrated Irish segment of its population, which resented the control of native born Protestants over the region, and often competed economically with African-Americans. It was Alexis de Tocqueville who noted, in 1835, that New England was the only region of the United States at the time to have properly separated religion from its government, an ironic mixture of the region's heavy Puritan heritage and strong tradition of direct democracy.
Social life in New England
Bars and pubs, especially those with Irish themes, are popular social venues. 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 continuing European influence
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 the 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. It is the result of an incomplete transition from 17th century British English, which the standard American dialect imitates, and modern British English. There are also other regional accents as well, such as the Cape Cod Brahmin accent, which is also often heavily parodied.
Intraregional cultural differences
While Boston is typically viewed as the region's cultural center, the extent to which it influences the rest of New England is debatable. Perhaps as a result of the "Hub of the Universe" mentality that is demonstrated by many Bostonians, people from Massachusetts may sometimes have a tendency to over-emphasize the importance of the role that their state and city play in New England. People from the northern parts of the region, such as northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, as well as the southwestern part of the region, such as Fairfield County, Connecticut, may have divergent views with regard to the cultural influence of Boston, with some rejecting its influence entirely. Much of southwestern Connecticut, for example, is considered a part of metropolitan New York City. Boston, however, certainly only exemplifies, for the most part, the gritty culture of urban New England; therefore, to say that its sphere of influence does not encompass all of New England.
New England culture in the mainstream
Family Guy, a highly-popular and very successful animated series created by Seth MacFarlane on the FOX television network, parodies the culture of Eastern New England. Peter Griffin, a resident of the fictional Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Quahog, exemplifies the stereotypical urban New Englander, and especially the loudness, abrasiveness, and belligerence sometimes associated with the stereotypical working class Bostonian.
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, and the economy is more often viewed as an extension of the New York Metropolitan Area. 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.
The GDP of New England is approximately $649 billion; per capita it is $45,786
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, most probably because he lived his life in Providence, Rhode Island. Real New England towns such as Ipswich, Newburyport, Rowley, and Marblehead are given fictional names such as Dunwich, Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingsport, and Miskatonic and then featured quite often in his stories.
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.
The novel Ethan Frome was written in 1911 by Edith Wharton. It is set in turn-of-the-century New England, in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. Like much literature of the region, it plays off themes of isolation and hopelessness.
Notable New Englanders
All of the following people were born in New England or spent a significant portion of their life in New England, making them a well-known figure in the region. Some of them, like Robert Frost, who was actually born in California, emigrated to New England and are now considered to be icons of the region. All of them exemplify some aspect of the region in one way or another.
- John Adams
- John Quincy Adams
- Samuel Adams
- Some members of Aerosmith
- Trey Anastasio
- Crispus Attucks
- Katharine Lee Bates
- Bill Belichick
- Lizzie Borden
- Amar Bose
- Edward Brooke
- Bobby Brown
- Dan Brown
- Charles Bulfinch
- James J. "Whitey" Bulger
- William "Billy" Bulger
- George Herbert Walker Bush
- George W. Bush
- David Byrne
- Calvin Coolidge
- John Singleton Copley
- Norm Crosby
- E.E. Cummings
- Richard Cardinal Cushing
- Dick Dale
- Howard Dean
- Emily Dickinson
- Ronnie James Dio
- Rachel Dratch
- Michael Dukakis
- Mary Dyer
- Kevin Eastman
- Jonathan Edwards
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Patrick Ewing
- Bobby Farrelly
- Peter Farrelly
- Doug Flutie
- John Ford
- Benjamin Franklin
- Robert Frost
- Richard Buckminster Fuller
- Spalding Gray
- Anthony Michael Hall
- Elizabeth Hasselbeck
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
- John Irving
- Edward "Ted" Kennedy
- Ethel Kennedy
- John F. Kennedy
- Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
- Patrick J. Kennedy
- Robert Kennedy
- Rosemary Kennedy
- John Kerry
- Stephen King
- King Philip
- Jack Kerouac
- Stephen King
- Peter Laird
- Denis Leary
- Jay Leno
- Joseph Lieberman
- Robert Lowell
- H.P. Lovecraft
- Rowland Hussey Macy
- Aimee Mann
- Cotton Mather
- Will McDonough
- Seth Meyers
- Mandy Moore
- Ephraim Morse
- James Naismith
- New Kids On The Block
- Leonard Nimoy
- Conan O'Brien
- Ric Ocasek
- Tip O'Neill
- Theodore Parker
- George Patton
- Joe Perry
- Franklin Pierce
- Sylvia Plath
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Amy Poehler
- Josiah Quincy
- Sumner Redstone
- Paul Revere
- Jonathan Richman
- Adam Sandler
- Anne Sexton
- Daniel Shays
- Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
- William James Sidis
- Sarah Silverman
- Olympia Snowe
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Louis Sullivan
- Paul Tsongas
- Henry David Thoreau
- Steven Tyler
- John Updike
- Claus von Bülow
- Sunny von Bülow
- Barbara Walters
- Daniel Webster
- William "Bill" Weld
- Eli Whitney
- John Greenleaf Whittier
- Alicia Witt
- Peter Wolf
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.
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 self-identify 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.
Up until 13 April 1997, Hartford also had its own major hockey team, the Hartford Whalers. Originally known as the New England Whalers, they changed their name to the Hartford Whalers in 1979 after leaving the WHA for the NHL, hoping to carve a niche market in Hartford.
In 1997 the Whalers left Hartford for Raleigh, North Carolina (amid much controversy), where they became the Hurricanes.
In 1999, the New England Patriots also flirted with the idea of moving to Hartford, in exchange for what three NFL franchise owners called "the greatest financial deal any NFL owner has ever received". The package, announced by then Connecticut Governer John Rowland, included, according to the Boston Globe: total costs of building a new stadium, training facility and highways; $175 million dollars to owner Robert Kraft if he failed to sell out premium seats as well as $200 million or more over 30 years for stadium improvements and renovations. The state further offered to waive property taxes on the stadium and adjacent hotel and entertainment pavilion, which Kraft would have built.
The deal fell through after Massachusetts offered a far less generous offer of $70 Million dollars for infrastructure work. Many in Connecticut felt this was a deliberate ploy on the part of Mr. Kraft, a ruse to find public funds in Massachusetts, enabling the Patriots to remain in Foxboro. Fallout from Kraft's backpedaling on the deal resulted in a few Hartford area media outlets dropping coverage of Patriots football for several years and many lost fans from Connecticut.
Below is a list of the major professional sports teams in New England:
- Baseball: Boston Red Sox
- Football: New England Patriots
- 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
- Flag of New England
- New England Pride
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