Aim: How much of a role did geography have in shaping the colonies? Objectives

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AIM: How much of a role did geography have in shaping the colonies?

Objectives: Economic and social trends of the colonies

How geography shaped life in the colonies

How did geography affect the colonies’ economy?

New England


Inhospitable soil


Little agriculture (subsistence only)

But good for merchants: lumber, streams, and natural harbors

Lumbering, shipbuilding, whaling, fishing, and Trans-Atlantic Trade – triangular trade: fish, grain, lumber to West Indies for sugar and molasses (rum); exchanged for manufactured goods to England; rum to Africa for slaves

  • Restrictions – Navigation Acts allowed only trade

  • English Mercantilist Laws: raw materials produced in colonies exchanged for manufactured goods from England

  • New England shipbuilding prospered

  • Chesapeake tobacco had a monopoly in England

  • English forces protected colonies from Spain and France

How does this reinforce the relationship between mother country and colony?

Middle Colonies

Larger farms that produced surplus wheat to export to the other colonies

Trade with the Indians

Bread colonies

Southern Colonies

Fertile soil

Warm climate

Plantation economy: indigo, tobacco, rice – exported to England

Tobacco depleted soil, so plantation owners gained more and more lands – imitated English aristocracy

  • Social classes: aristocracy: wealthy merchants, plantation owners, and educated (lawyers, printers, clergy)

  • Middle class: small farmers and skilled workers

  • Lower class: indentured servants and slaves

Non hereditary and allowed for mobility, except for slaves

How did the Southern Colonies deal with labor shortages?

Slow growth rate: Indian attacks and disease in the warm climate

Imbalance in number of men and women

  • Indentured servants – under contract with master or landowner

  • Headright system- English government offered 50 acres of land to each immigrant who paid for own voyage or any plantation owner who paid for someone to come

  • Slavery – initially same status as indentured servants

    • But discrimination laws led to separation of classes

Colonial governments were modeled after Parliament and enjoyed self rule for the most part

At times, England revoked charters of colonies as punishment

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