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Massachusetts (MA) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a New England state found directly beneath New Hampshire and Vermont. It is known for its complicated system of bays and capes, as well as the socially and historically important city of Boston.
Counties and Regions: Massachusetts has fourteen counties, although some of these are actually less powerful than certain town and city governments in the state. Dividing Massachusetts into general regions gives the following breakdown:
- The Berkshires (western Massachusetts)
- Cape Ann
- Cape Cod
- Central Massachusetts
- Greater Boston (metropolitan area)
- Martha’s Vineyard (island)
- Merrimack Valley
- Nantucket (island)
- North Shore
- Pioneer Valley
- South Coast
- South Shore
- Southeastern Massachusetts
Population: More than 6.5 million people live in Massachusetts, which is remarkable considering its relatively small size. Though it is the seventh smallest state by land area, it is also has the third highest population density.
Major Cities: The most important city in Massachusetts is without a doubt its state capital, Boston. Its metropolitan area, called Greater Boston, has more or less 4.5 million people living there (or about two-thirds of the entire state’s population).
Story Behind the Name: The state was named after the Massachusett Native Americans who originally inhabited the area. Their name could be roughly translated as meaning “the people who live near the big hill,” although there are several theories as to its exact meaning. Very few descendants of the Massachusett people live there today.
History and Colonization: Massachusetts was one of the first areas of the modern-day United States to be settled by British colonists. The new arrivals of the 1600s were Puritans with strict Christian beliefs, who were seeking a new place to make their home due to religious disagreements with the Anglican majority in England. They were famously narrow-minded, and did not cultivate very good relations with the native tribes that already inhabited the area. The Puritans that disagreed and thought that they should treat the natives better were rejected for their views, and many moved out to found their own settlements in what would later become Maine and Rhode Island. Most of the natives were eventually killed through disease and strife.
The Puritans controlled many aspects of the local society for several decades, but European immigrants from other traditions had become much more common by the eighteenth century. The city of Boston became the lifeblood of the area and one of the most important cities in colonial America. The thriving colony in Massachusetts began to chafe more and more under British rule, and it was to become the biggest hotbed of revolutionary sentiment in North America.
Even into the nineteenth century, Massachusetts maintained its reputation for being especially politically active. Immigrants poured in from Ireland and other European countries, transforming the social landscape of the state and making it ever more diverse. The Industrial Revolution brought great prosperity to Massachusetts and the Boston area in particular, with the Progressive movement booming along with it. This would begin to swing downwards as the twentieth century dawned, however.
The Great Depression destroyed much of the manufacturing heritage of the state, but technology rose to replace it as the dominant industry after the World War years. Massachusetts still has a technology and service economy, supplemented with tourism and trade. It is known as a haven of progressive politics even to this day, as well as the population center of the states that make up New England.