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Middle Colonies: 1681–1730



The four middle colonies were Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. Many of the region's settlers were individuals fleeing religious persecution in Europe. These colonists came from diverse ethnic backgrounds and a broad array of faiths. The governments they established allowed for freedom of worship and influenced the treatment of social groups such as women. The fertile soil and mild climate in the middle colonies encouraged the development of large-scale agriculture—creating surplus goods that could be exported to the other colonies and abroad. Prior to European settlement, a vast population of Native Americans lived in the mid-Atlantic region of North America. Colonization brought devastating effects to the population of Native Americans.

At A Glance

  • New Netherland was a Dutch colony founded by fur traders from the Dutch West India Company in 1624 but was seized by Britain with little resistance in 1664 and renamed New York.
  • The Pennsylvania Colony was established by Quaker William Penn as a refuge for those fleeing religious persecution in Europe.
  • Prior to European settlement numerous Native American tribes lived in the area that would become known as the middle colonies.
  • Interactions between colonists and Native Americans varied, depending largely on motivations of the parties involved, but the overall effect of European colonization on Native American populations was devastating.
  • The geography of the middle colonies provided fertile land suitable for large-scale agriculture as well as harbors on the Atlantic Ocean to support substantial port settlements.
  • Residents of the middle colonies formed local governments, embraced religious tolerance, and were influenced by diverse ethnic groups.