Colonial New England Worksheet
The northeastern New England colonies had generally thin,
stony soil, relatively little level land, and long winters,
making it difficult to make a living from farming. Turning
to other pursuits, the New Englanders harnessed waterpower and
established grain mills and sawmills. Good stands of timber
encouraged shipbuilding. Excellent harbors promoted trade, and
the sea became a source of great wealth. In Massachusetts, the
cod industry alone quickly furnished a basis for prosperity.
With the bulk of the early settlers living in villages and
towns around the harbors, many New Englanders carried on some
kind of trade or business. Common pastureland and woodlots
served the needs of townspeople, who worked small farms nearby.
Compactness made possible the village school, the village
church, and the village or town hall, where citizens met to
discuss matters of common interest.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony continued to expand its
commerce. From the middle of the 17th century onward it grew
prosperous, so that Boston became one of America's greatest
Oak timber for ships' hulls, tall pines for spars and masts,
and pitch for the seams of ships came from the Northeastern
forests. Building their own vessels and sailing them to ports
all over the world, the shipmasters of Massachusetts Bay laid
the foundation for a trade that was to grow steadily in
By the end of the colonial period, one-third
of all vessels under the British flag were built in New England.
Fish, ship's stores, and woodenware swelled the exports.
New England merchants and shippers soon discovered that rum and
slaves were profitable commodities. One of their most
enterprising – if unsavory – trading practices of the time was
the "triangular trade." Traders would purchase
slaves off the coast of Africa for New England rum, then sell
the slaves in the West Indies where they would buy molasses to
bring home for sale to the local rum producers.
Directions: Read the text above, then answer the questions below.
1. Which of the following was not a productive pursuit in New England?
a. Farming; b. Fishing; c. Lumber milling; d. Shipbuilding.
2. Where did citizens of New England meet to discuss matters of common local interest?
a. Beach; b. Common woodlot; c. Street; d. Town hall.
3. By the start of the American Revolution, what percentage of all vessels sailing under the British flag were built in New England?
a. 25%; b. 33%; c. 66%; d. 75%.
4. What trading practice involved purchasing slaves off the coast of Africa for New England rum, then selling the slaves in the West Indies where the traders would buy molasses to bring home for sale to local rum producers?
a. Molasses trade; b. Rum trade; c. Slave trade; d. Triangular trade.
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Text courtesy of the U.S. State Department, Bureau of International Information Programs, 2005