Colonial Life Compare and Contrast: Historical Background

Who, how, and why the colonies settled made a big difference in lifestyle. These differences contributed to the kind of government necessary to include people with different beliefs and livelihoods.

New England came into existence with the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. Ten years later the Puritans came to New England for religious reasons as well. The climate and geography dictated the lives of the New England settlers. The rocky soil and cold winters enabled its residents to specialize in fishing, shipbuilding, and manufacturing metal goods.

The middle colonies were settled by European nations in the middle of the 17th century. In the middle colonies, there was much diversity in how the people lived, from their religion to the food they ate and how they made their living. The middle colonies’ geography and climate dictated how the settlers lived there as well. The winters were cold, but the summers had moderate temperatures, creating a great environment for growing many crops. The forests in this region provided timber. The land also contained many valuable minerals to be mined. Colonists who didn’t farm or mine could become artisans who worked in the market towns.

The southern colonies were established early on after the settlement of Jamestown in 1607. The South also relied on the forests and the water, but tobacco and cotton later emerged as cash crops. Initially these crops were harvested by indentured servants, but with the growth of plantations, slaves were imported from Africa. In the South, there was a great divide between the rich and the poor. The Church of England was the dominant religion and the center of life for southerners. Laws were made by county governments and the economy centered around the large plantations.

Source: Colonial Life Compare and Contrast: Historical Background
© 1996–2013, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. CC BY-SA 3.0

Back to top