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Similarities and Differences of the New England, Middle and Southern Colonies

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Restoration era. New England colonies

The New England, Middle and Southern colonies of colonial America, were similar because it was socially acceptable for males to go to the college and learn about the Bible, but politically and economically, these religions were extremely diverse. To make you understand the similarities between New England and Middle colonies and differences between New England, Middle and Southern colonies, we, first of all, want to provide you with information about them.

Restoration era is a process of restoring, renewal, revival, or reestablishment. It’s a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition. In the history of the USA, it manifests in dividing the territory into three main parts.

New England colonies include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

The main characteristics of their culture:

  • Strong community ties: worshiped and governed together. They built a town around community squares and shared resources;
  • Local communities more important than the colony as a whole;
  • Puritan laws were severe and did use the death penalty (witchcraft);
  • Attending religious services by law. Sabbath was very important;
  • Divided communities: men and women separated from each other along with separation of other races;
  • Very large families with a good survival rate;
  • Suspicious of outsiders.


  • Meetinghouse was a place for religion and government, something like town hall meetings today. Settlers met and discussed their issues;
  • More focused on community politics than what was going on in the entire colony. Men were accustomed to having their voice heard;
  • Up until the mid-1700s, ministers had a huge influence on politics.


  • Puritans believed hard work was godly. The land was not good for full-scale farming because of poor, rocky soil, but they learned to grow successful crops from natives (corn, squash, pumpkins, and beans). Subsistence farming;
  • Fur trapping and trade, lumber, shipbuilding, fishing, and whaling.

The main characteristics of Middle colonies

They include large farms and big cities (New York and Philadelphia), very different from Backcountry.

The economy was very diverse:

  • Commercial agriculture as the Breadbasket colonies growing wheat barley, and rye for cash crops;
  • Fertile soil and a longer growing season (than New England) lead to large farms;
  • “Ranching”: cattle and pigs traded throughout country’s parts, Europe and the West Indies;
  • Skilled craftsmen-furniture, guns, glass, hardware, and more.


  • Focused more on representative government because of the large distance between neighbors. Government centered at the county level because of large farms.


  • Culturally diverse because many Dutch, Swedes, and Germans (many skilled artisans) were presented before the English took over;
  • Backcountry, along with the mountains, was culturally and geographically different. Many German and Scotch-Irish settlers followed the great wagon road to settle on the Appalachian’s eastern slopes;
  • Forests were very important, but they made farming difficult. They became excellent hunters and learned from the natives (Iroquois) how to use the forest to live well;
  • The backcountry experienced hard times with natives when new land was needed.

Specifics of Southern Colonies

Southern parts include Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia with two distinct regions: Southern Backcountry vs. Coastal areas.

The economy was characterized by the long growing season and fertile soil. Another characteristic:

  • Tidewater Plantations: coastal areas VA, Maryland, and N.C. Tobacco, and GA rice and indigo;
  • Not many large plantations, even though large plantations were the best method to make money. Slaves were the basis of the economic success. Often located on rivers, creeks, and coasts of fertile land. Also, access to water allowed for easy trade;
  • Traded raw materials for manufactured goods.
  • Few large seaports in the South because large plantation owners ship goods directly from their property rather than sending to cities;
  • Backcountry farming- small farms that take advantage of excellent soil at the base of the Appalachian Mountains and use the forests for supplies;


  • Economic hierarchy developed culture. Though few, plantation owners establish “life in the South”;
  • Tidewater;
  • Backcountry: Life was hard, and settlers had strong communities that focused on the common good. More economically equal.


  • Representative government where economic hierarchy determines who has a word in government. Large planters have the largest influence.

Comparison and Contrast Between the New England, Middle and Southern colonies

The people of New England shared certain characteristics and lacked the diversity experienced in the Middle or Southern colonies. The vast majority of New Englanders were white, English, extremely religious, and enjoyed large families. With the bulk of the early settlers living in villages and towns around the harbors, many New Englanders interacted in “common spaces” within the town. Living so close to one another made places such as the village school, the village church and the village or town hall, places of common interest that everyone shared. Important town meetings or urgent announcements would be held in a “common space.”

Just like in New England, in Middle areas, the environment greatly impacted the way people who lived in the middle parts made a living and went about their daily lives. A major difference between New England and Middle colonies was the quality of the land. The Middle area had rich farmland and a moderate climate, which made farming much easier than it was in New England. Many people made their living raising livestock or growing grain. Due to the ease of farming, these colonies were able to provide food for their people and send to the other places; the Middle colonies became known as the “breadbaskets.“ Philadelphia was the leading city for both, political and economic life throughout the Middle areas.

In contrast to the New England and Middle colonies were the rural Southern colonies of Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. “Common spaces” such as those in New England were absent in the South as most people lived on large tracts of land, miles upon miles apart. By the late 17th century, Southern economic and social stability rested on the great planters of the region. The planters, supported by slave labor, held most of the political power and owned the best land. They built great houses, adopted an aristocratic (grand, lavish) way of life and kept in touch as best they could with the world of culture overseas.

Slavery in New England, Middle and Southern colonies, was widespread. Slavery represented the economic, social and legal form of the enslavement of people, which bordered on complete injustice and extreme inequality. Slaves greatly outnumbered whites. Planters learned a great deal about farming from the slaves. At first, slaves had some rights, but as slaves became more important to the colony and increased in number, Slave Codes were developed to maintain control. It was okay due to their “inferiority.”

So, there are many economic, cultural and political differences and similarities between the New English, Middle and Southern colonies. There was democracy in three of them, but it was run in different ways. Such factors as climate, position and resources were the most essential in choosing the main industry of the lands.

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