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Maryland (MD) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Maryland is one of the states that borders the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. (the other being Virginia). It is located more or less on the intangible geographical and cultural border that divides the Northern and Southern regions of the country, and this has defined much of its history.
Counties and Regions: Maryland has twenty-three counties, in addition to the free city of Baltimore, which is considered equivalent to a county in terms of state administration. Maryland’s general regions can be accounted as follows:
- Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area
- Capital Region
- Central Maryland
- Chesapeake Bay
- Eastern Shore of Maryland
- Southern Maryland
- Western Maryland
Population: With more than 5.7 million people and a relatively small land area, Maryland is the fifth most densely populated state in the country. Many of its people live in or near the large city of Baltimore, or the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia which spills over much of the state.
Major Cities: Baltimore is the most important city in the state of Maryland with more than 2.5 million residents, although its population has been shrinking in recent years. Washington, D.C., although technically not a part of Maryland, has a huge influence on the state’s metropolitan growth. The capital, Annapolis, has about 38,000 people and is technically a part of the greater Baltimore-Washington metro area.
Story Behind the Name: The colony of Maryland was named after the wife of King Charles I, Henrietta Maria of France. The charter specified both the English name and a Latin equivalent, Terra Mariae, but the latter was never truly used.
History and Colonization: As one of the Thirteen Original Colonies, Maryland has a longer history than many of the other United States. European settlers first began putting down roots there in the sixteenth century, many of them from England. The local Native American population was decimated by newly introduced diseases and marginalized over time, to the point that the tribes of Maryland have essentially vanished. European colonization of the area remained minimal, however, until it really ramped up in the seventeenth century.
Lord George Calvert, a member of the Catholic English minority, applied for a colony in the area, hoping to turn it into a haven for the oppressed Catholics of England. After being granted the colony, newly christened as Maryland, a plan was put into place to encourage Catholics to migrate to the area. There was much competition, however, from the surrounding heavily Protestant colonies. Fights broke out between factions, even as politics in England led to Catholicism being outlawed in the very colony that had been created to enshrine it. Religious freedom would not be permanently returned to Maryland until the end of the American Revolutionary War.
Maryland was very active in the American Revolution and in the resulting creation of the United States. Along with Virginia, it donated some of its land towards the creation of a new capital, the District of Columbia. Later on, as a border state, Maryland found itself profoundly divided during the onset of the American Civil War. Slavery had been a key institution during the formative years of the colony, but so many of the African-American slaves had been freed by their masters that Maryland’s economy was not as dependent on it as most of the Southern states. Maryland joined the Union during the war, but its support was not absolute and a large number of its citizens actually joined the Confederate army. Political divisions between Maryland’s people continued to be a problem even in the decades that followed.
The racial demographic of Maryland changed forever during the Great Migration that followed the Civil War, in which African-American citizens moved in large numbers from the Deep South to the Midwestern and Northeastern states. They congregated near the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., forming a significant slice of the population to this day. Maryland’s population as a whole is largely urban and suburban, and many important cities are located within or near its borders.