Massachusetts Counties Page
HistoryMassachusetts was first colonized by principally English Europeans in the early 17th century, and became the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the 18th century. Prior to English colonization of the area, it was inhabited by a variety of mainly Algonquian language indigenous tribes. The first permanent English settlement in New England came in 1620 with the founding of Plymouth Colony by the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower. It set precedents but never grew large. A large-scale Puritan migration began in 1630 with the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and spawned the settlement of other New England colonies. Friction with the natives erupted in the high-casualty King Philip's War in the 1670s. Puritanism was the established religion and was strictly enforced; dissenters were exiled. The Colony clashed with Anglican opponents in England over its religious intolerance and the status of its charter. Most people were farmers. Businessmen established wide-ranging trade links, sending ships to the West Indies and Europe, and sometimes shipping goods in violation of the Navigation Acts. These political and trade issues led to the revocation of the Massachusetts charter in 1684.
The king in 1686 established the Dominion of New England to govern all of New England to centralize royal control and weaken local government. The intensely unpopular rule by Sir Edmund Andros came to a sudden end in 1689 with an uprising sparked by the Glorious Revolution in England. The new king William III established the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691, to govern a territory roughly equivalent to that of the modern state and Maine. Its governors were appointed by the crown, in contrast to the predecessor colonies, which had elected their own governors. This created friction between the colonists and the crown, which reached its height in the early days of the American Revolution in the 1760s and 1770s over issues of who could levy taxes. Massachusetts was where the American Revolutionary War began in 1775 when London tried to shut down local self-government.
The commonwealth formally adopted the state constitution in 1780, electing John Hancock its first governor. The state was the first to abolish slavery in 1783. In the 19th century Massachusetts became America's center of manufacturing, with the development of precision manufacturing and weaponry in Springfield, and large-scale textile mill complexes in Worcester, Haverhill, Lowell, and other communities using their rivers for power. It was a major intellectual center and center of abolitionism. The Springfield Armory made most of the weaponry for the Union in the American Civil War. After the war, immigrants from Europe flooded into the state, continuing to expand its industrial base until the 1950s, when textiles and other industries started to fade away, leaving a "rust belt" of empty mills and factories. Labor unions were important after the 1860s, as were big city political machines. The state's strength as a center of education contributed to the development of an economy based on information technology and biotechnology in the later years of the 20th century, leading to the "Massachusetts Miracle" of the late 1980s.