For thousands of years, indigenous peoples, including the Mohawk and the Algonquian-speaking Abenaki, occupied much of the territory that is now Vermont and was later claimed by France's colony of New France. France ceded the territory to Great Britain after being defeated in 1763 in the Seven Years' War. Thereafter, the nearby colonies, especially the provinces of New Hampshire and New York, disputed the extent of the area called the New Hampshire Grants to the west of the Connecticut River, encompassing present-day Vermont. The provincial government of New York sold land grants to settlers in the region, which conflicted with earlier grants from the government of New Hampshire. The Green Mountain Boys militia protected the interests of the established New Hampshire land grant settlers against the newly arrived settlers with land titles granted by New York.
Ultimately, a group of settlers with New Hampshire land grant titles established the Vermont Republic in 1777 as an independent state during the American Revolutionary War. The Vermont Republic partially abolished slavery before any of the other states. Vermont was admitted to the newly established United States as the fourteenth state in 1791. Vermont is one of only four U.S. states that were previously sovereign states (along with California, Hawaii, Texas, and many Native American nations), given that the original 13 states were former colonies. During the mid 19th century, Vermont was a strong source of abolitionist sentiment and sent a significant contingent of soldiers to participate in the American Civil War. Protestants (30%) and Catholics (22%) make up the majority of those reporting a religious preference with 37% reporting no religion. Other religions individually contribute no more than 2% to the total.
The geography of the state is marked by the Green Mountains, which run north–south up the middle of the state, separating Lake Champlain and other valley terrain on the west from the Connecticut River valley that defines much of its eastern border. A majority of its terrain is forested with hardwoods and conifers. A majority of its open land is in agriculture. The state's climate is characterized by warm, humid summers and cold, snowy winters.
Vermont's economic activity of $26 billion in 2010 caused it to rank 34th in gross state product. It has been ranked 42nd as a state in which to do business. In 1960, Vermonters' politics started to shift from being reliably Republican towards favoring more liberal and progressive candidates. Starting in 1963, voters have alternated between choosing Republican and Democratic governors; they have sent only Democrats (or independents) to Congress since 2007. Voters have consistently chosen Democrats for president since 1992. In 2000, the state legislature was the first to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples.