Eastern Algonquian peoples
The earliest known inhabitants of New England were
American Indians who spoke a variety of the
Eastern Algonquian languages.
 Prominent tribes included the
 Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Western Abenakis inhabited New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, as well as parts of
Quebec and western Maine.
 Their principal town was
Norridgewock in present-day Maine.
The Penobscot lived along the
Penobscot River in Maine. The Narragansetts and smaller tribes under Narragansett sovereignty lived in most of modern-day Rhode Island, west of Narragansett Bay, including Block Island. The Wampanoag occupied southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the islands of
Martha's Vineyard and
Nantucket. The Pocumtucks lived in
Western Massachusetts, and the Mohegan and Pequot tribes lived in the Connecticut region. The
Connecticut River Valley includes parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, linking numerous tribes culturally, linguistically, and politically.
As early as 1600,
English traders began exploring the
New World, trading metal, glass, and cloth for local beaver pelts.
The Virginia Companies
On April 10, 1606, King
James I of England issued a charter for the
Virginia Company, which comprised the
London Company and the
Plymouth Company. These two privately funded ventures were intended to claim land for England, to conduct trade, and to return a profit. In 1620, Pilgrims from the
Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts, beginning the history of permanent European settlement in New England.
Plymouth Council for New England
In 1616, English explorer
John Smith named the region "New England".
 The name was officially sanctioned on November 3, 1620,
 when the charter of the Virginia Company of Plymouth was replaced by a
royal charter for the
Plymouth Council for New England, a
joint-stock company established to colonize and govern the region.
 As the first colonists arrived in Plymouth, they wrote and signed the
 their first governing document.
Massachusetts Bay Colony came to dominate the area and was established by royal charter in 1629
 with its major town and port of Boston established in 1630.
Massachusetts Puritans began to settle in Connecticut as early as 1633.
Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for heresy, led a group south, and founded
Providence Plantation in the area that became the
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1636.
 At this time, Vermont was yet unsettled, and the territories of
New Hampshire and
Maine were claimed and governed by
French and Indian Wars
Relationships between colonists and local Indian tribes alternated between peace and armed skirmishes, the bloodiest of which was the
Pequot War in 1637 which resulted in the
 On May 19, 1643, the colonies of
New Haven, and
Connecticut joined together in a loose compact called the
New England Confederation (officially "The United Colonies of New England"). The confederation was designed largely to coordinate mutual defense, and gained some importance during
King Philip's War.
 From June 1675 through April 1678, King Philip's War pitted the colonists and their Indian allies against a widespread Indian uprising, resulting in killings and massacres on both sides.
During the next 74 years, there were six colonial wars that took place primarily between New England and
New France (see the
French and Indian Wars as well as
Father Rale's War and
Father Le Loutre's War). Throughout these wars, New England was allied with the
Iroquois Confederacy and New France was allied with the
Wabanaki Confederacy. After the New England
Conquest of Acadia in 1710, mainland Nova Scotia was under the control of New England, but both present-day
New Brunswick and virtually all of present-day Maine remained contested territory between New England and New France. After the British won the war in 1763, the Connecticut River Valley was opened for British settlement into western New Hampshire and what is today Vermont.
The New England colonies were settled primarily by farmers who became relatively self-sufficient. Later, New England's economy began to focus on crafts and trade, aided by the
Puritan work ethic, in contrast to the Southern colonies which focused on agricultural production while importing finished goods from England.
Dominion of New England
King James II had become concerned about the increasingly independent ways of the colonies, including their self-governing charters, their open flouting of the
Navigation Acts, and their growing military power. He therefore established the
Dominion of New England, an administrative union comprising all of the New England colonies.
 In 1688, the former Dutch colonies of
East New Jersey, and
West New Jersey were added to the Dominion. The union was imposed from the outside and contrary to the rooted democratic tradition of the region, and it was highly unpopular among the colonists.
The Dominion significantly modified the charters of the colonies, including the appointment of Royal Governors to nearly all of them. There was an uneasy tension between the Royal Governors, their officers, and the elected governing bodies of the colonies. The governors wanted unlimited authority, and the different layers of locally elected officials would often resist them. In most cases, the local town governments continued operating as self-governing bodies, just as they had before the appointment of the governors.
Glorious Revolution in 1689, Bostonians overthrew royal governor
Sir Edmund Andros. They seized dominion officials and adherents to the
Church of England during a
popular and bloodless uprising.
 These tensions eventually culminated in the
American Revolution, boiling over with the outbreak of the
War of American Independence in 1775. The first battles of the war were fought in
Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, later leading to the
Siege of Boston by continental troops. In March 1776, British forces were compelled to retreat from Boston.
New England in the new nation
Post-Revolutionary New England
After the dissolution of the Dominion of New England, the colonies of New England ceased to function as a unified political unit but remained a defined cultural region. By 1784, all of the states in the region had taken steps towards the abolition of slavery, with Vermont and Massachusetts introducing total abolition in 1777 and 1783, respectively.
 The nickname "Yankeeland" was sometimes used to denote the New England area, especially among Southerners and British.
After settling a dispute with New York, Vermont was admitted to statehood in 1791, formally completing the defined area of New England. On March 15, 1820, as part of the
Missouri Compromise, the territory of Maine, formerly a part of Massachusetts, was admitted to the
Union as a free state.
 Today, New England is defined as the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
For the rest of the period before the
American Civil War, New England remained distinct from the rest of the United States. New England's economic growth relied heavily on trade with the
 and the region's merchants and politicians strongly opposed trade restrictions. As the United States and the United Kingdom fought the
War of 1812, New England
Federalists organized the
Hartford Convention in the winter of 1814 to discuss the region's grievances concerning the war, and to propose changes to the
Constitution to protect the region's interests and maintain its political power.
 Radical delegates within the convention proposed the region's
secession from the United States, but they were outnumbered by moderates who opposed the idea.
Politically, the region often disagreed with the rest of the country.
 Massachusetts and Connecticut were among the last refuges of the
Federalist Party, and New England became the strongest bastion of the new
Whig Party when the
Second Party System began in the 1830s. The Whigs were usually dominant throughout New England, except in the more
Democratic Maine and New Hampshire. Leading statesmen hailed from the region, including
New England was distinct in other ways, as well. Many notable literary and intellectual figures were New Englanders, produced by the United States before the American Civil War, including
Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Henry David Thoreau,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
John Greenleaf Whittier,
George Bancroft, and
William H. Prescott.
New England was key to the
industrial revolution in the United States.
Blackstone Valley, running through Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has been called the birthplace of America's industrial revolution.
 In 1787, the first cotton mill in America was founded in the
North Shore seaport of
Beverly, Massachusetts as the
Beverly Cotton Manufactory.
 The Manufactory was also considered the largest cotton mill of its time. Technological developments and achievements from the Manufactory led to the development of more advanced cotton mills, including
Slater Mill in
Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Towns such as
Lowell in Massachusetts,
Woonsocket in Rhode Island, and
Lewiston in Maine became centers of the textile industry following the innovations at Slater Mill and the Beverly Cotton Manufactory.
Connecticut River Valley - and in particular the
Springfield Armory - became a crucible for industrial innovation, pioneering such advances as
interchangeable parts and the
assembly line, which influenced manufacturing processes all around the world.
 From early in the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth, the region surrounding
Hartford served as the United States' epicenter for
precision manufacturing, drawing skilled workers from all over the world.
The rapid growth of textile manufacturing in New England between 1815 and 1860 caused a shortage of workers. Recruiters were hired by mill agents to bring young women and children from the countryside to work in the factories. Between 1830 and 1860, thousands of farm girls moved from rural areas where there was no paid employment to work in the nearby mills, such as the famous
Lowell Mill Girls. As the textile industry grew, immigration also grew. By the 1850s, immigrants began working in the mills, especially
New England, as a whole, was the most industrialized part of the young U.S.; by 1850, it accounted for well over a quarter of all manufacturing value in the country and over a third of its industrial workforce.
 It was also the most literate and most educated region in the country.
During the same period, New England and areas settled by New Englanders (upstate New York, Ohio's
Western Reserve, and the upper midwestern states of
Wisconsin) were the center of the strongest abolitionist and anti-slavery movements in the United States, coinciding with the Protestant
Great Awakening in the region.
 Abolitionists who demanded immediate emancipation such as
William Lloyd Garrison,
John Greenleaf Whittier and
Wendell Phillips had their base in the region. So too did anti-slavery politicians who wanted to limit the growth of slavery, such as
John Quincy Adams,
Charles Sumner, and
John P. Hale. When the anti-slavery
Republican Party was formed in the 1850s, all of New England, including areas that had previously been strongholds for both the Whig and the Democratic Parties, became strongly Republican. New England remained solidly Republican until Catholics began to mobilize behind the Democrats, especially in 1928, and up until the Republican party realigned its politics in a shift known as the
Southern strategy. This led to the end of "Yankee Republicanism" and began New England's relatively swift transition into a
consistently Democratic stronghold.
20th century and beyond
The flow of immigrants continued at a steady pace from the 1840s until cut off by
World War I. The largest numbers came from Ireland and Britain before 1890, and after that from Quebec, Italy and Southern Europe. The immigrants filled the ranks of factory workers, craftsmen and unskilled laborers. The Irish assumed a larger and larger role in the Democratic Parts in the cities and statewide, while the rural areas remained Republican. Yankees left the farms, which never were highly productive; many headed west, while others became professionals and businessmen in the New England cities.
Great Depression in the United States of the 1930s hit the region hard, with high unemployment in the industrial cities. The Democrats appealed to factory workers and especially Catholics, pulling them into the
New Deal coalition and making the once-Republican region into one that was closely divided. However the enormous spending on munitions, ships, electronics, and uniforms during
World War II caused a burst of prosperity in every sector.
The region lost most of its factories starting with the loss of textiles in the 1930s and getting worse after 1960. The New England economy was radically transformed after World War II. The factory economy practically disappeared. Like urban centers in the
Rust Belt, once-bustling New England communities fell into economic decay following the flight of the region's industrial base. The textile mills one by one went out of business from the 1920s to the 1970s. For example, the Crompton Company, after 178 years in business, went bankrupt in 1984, costing the jobs of 2,450 workers in five states. The major reasons were cheap imports, the strong dollar, declining exports, and a failure to diversify.
 Shoes followed.
What remains is very high technology manufacturing, such as jet engines, nuclear submarines, pharmaceuticals, robotics, scientific instruments, and medical devices. MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) invented the format for university-industry relations in high tech fields, and spawned many software and hardware firms, some of which grew rapidly.
 By the 21st century the region had become famous for its leadership roles in the fields of education, medicine and medical research, high-technology, finance, and tourism.
Some industrial areas were slow in adjusting to the new service economy. In 2000, New England had two of the ten poorest cities (by percentage living below the poverty line) in the U.S.: the state capitals of
Providence, Rhode Island and
 They were no longer in the bottom ten by 2010; Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire remain among the ten wealthiest states in the United States in terms of median household income and per capita income.