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:
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. Together, the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions are generally referred to as the Northeastern region of the United States.
The name 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.
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 an 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 American region to inherit the name of a former kingdom of 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 most English have left for the Midwest and Northwest.
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.
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, Boston College, Williams College, and Amherst College. The number and renown of 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 from these schools settle in the region after school, providing the area with a well-educated population and its most valuable resource.
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 the most white states in the nation. 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 groundbreaking in legal relationships between homosexual couples.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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