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Overview of Colonial America 1607 - 1754

The New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies


Signing The Declaration Of Independence

Engraving From 1882 Of The Signing Of The Declaration Of Independence By The American Founding Fathers.

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From the foundation of the colonies beginning with the founding of Jamestown until the beginning of the Revolutionary War, different regions of the eastern coast had different characteristics. Once established, the thirteen British colonies could be divided into three geographic areas: New England, Middle, and Southern. Each of these had specific economic, social, and political developments that were unique to the regions.

  • New England

    Colonies: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. These were known for being rich in forests and fur trapping. Harbors were located throughout the region. The area was not known for good farmland. Therefore, the farms were small, mainly to provide food for individual families. New England flourished instead with fishing, shipbuilding, lumbering, and fur trading along with trading goods with Europe. The famous Triangle Trade occurred in the New England colonies where slaves were sold in the West Indies for molasses. This was sent to New England to make Rum which was then sent to Africa to trade for slaves.

    In New England, small towns were the centers of local government. In 1643, Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven formed the New England Confederation to provide defense against Indians, Dutch, and the French. This was the first attempt to form a union between colonies.

    A group of Massasoit Indians organized themselves under King Philip to fight the colonists. King Philip's War lasted from 1675-78. The Indians were finally defeated at a great loss.

  • Middle Colonies

    Colonies: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. This area was excellent for farming and included natural harbors. Farmers grew grain and raised livestock. The Middle Colonies also practiced trade like New England, but typically they were trading raw materials for manufactured items.

    One important event that happened in the Middle Colonies during the colonial period was the Zenger Trial in 1735. John Peter Zenger was arrested for writing against the royal governor of New York. Zenger was defended by Andrew Hamilton and found not guilty helping to establish the idea of freedom of the press.


  • Southern Colonies

    Colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Southern colonies grew their own food along with growing three major cash crops: tobacco, rice, and indigo. These were grown on plantations typically worked by slaves and indentured servants. The main commerce of the South was with England. Plantations kept people widely separate which prevented the growth of many towns.

    An important event that occurred in the Southern Colonies was Bacon's Rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon led a group of Virginia colonists against Indians who were attacking frontier farms. The royal governor, Sir William Berkeley, had not moved against the Indians. Bacon was labeled a traitor by the governor and ordered arrested. Bacon attacked Jamestown and seized the government. He then became ill and died. Berkeley returned, hanged many of the rebels, and was eventually removed from office by King Charles II.

Part 2: The Thirteen Colonies

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