Characteristics of Middle Colonies

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Before the American Revolution, America was made up of 13 colonies. These were demarcated into three regions: the New England Colonies (Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire), the Southern Colonies (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) and the Middle Colonies (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey).

1 Settlement

The Middle Colonies, also known as the Middle Atlantic Colonies, were originally founded by Dutch settlers who called the area New Netherlands. The colonies later came under British control. During the reign of King Charles II, property within these colonies was given to those who had proven their loyalty to the king. By then, settlers were also arriving from countries other than England. Unlike the New England colonies, which were settled by Puritans seeking religious freedom, settlers who arrived in the Middle Colonies were there for economic reasons.

2 Diversity

The Middle Colonies were more diverse than the other regions, and also less cohesive. This was partly due to the haphazard manner in which these colonies were populated, with many settlers spread throughout the colonies on small family farms. Another factor contributing to this lack of cohesion was the fact that these settlers — unlike earlier Puritan settlers — weren't united by either religion or ethnicity, as settlers to the colonies were now coming from throughout Europe.

3 Agriculture

The Middle Colonies were more agricultural than both the Southern Colonies and the New England Colonies. Farming, in fact, was so dominant in this region that the Middle Colonies earned the nickname of the "bread basket" of the colonies. The Middle Colonies' chief export was grain, in addition to other crops such as corn, vegetables, fruit and livestock. Due to the three large rivers in these colonies — the Susquehanna, the Delaware and Hudson — fur trading was also important to the economy.

4 Industry

The Middle Colonies were less industrial than the New England Colonies, yet more industrial than the Southern Colonies. Lumber and shipbuilding were both important industries in the Middle Colonies. Factories in New York and Philadelphia produced iron products such as tools, nails, kettles and plows for use throughout the colonies. In addition, iron factories would export iron ore to England. Other factories manufactured such consumer goods as paper products and textiles.