New England had long winters and rocky soil. English settlers made up some the largest group in the region’s population.
Life in New England was not easy. The growing season was short, and the soil was rocky. Most farmers practiced subsistence farming. That is, they produced just enough food for themselves and sometimes a little extra to trade in town. Most New England farmers did not sell scattered plots of land to individual farmers. Instead, they sold larger plots of land to groups of people- often to the congregation of a Puritan church. A congregation then settled the town and divided the land among the members of its church. This pattern of settlement led New England towns to develop in a unique way. Usually, a cluster of farmhouses surrounded a green--a central square where a meetinghouse was located and where public activities took place.
New England’s rocky soil made farming difficult. In contrast, the Atlantic Ocean offered many economic opportunities.
New England settlers engaged in three different types of trade. First was the trade with other colonies. Second was the direct exchange of goods with Europe. The third type was triangular trade. New England won enormous profits from trade. England wanted to make sure that it received part of those profits. So the English government began to pass the Navigation Acts of 1651. The Navigation Acts had four major provisions designed to ensure that England made money from it’s colonies’ trade. But even after the passage of the Navigation Acts, England had trouble controlling colonial shipping. Merchants ignored the acts whenever possible. Smuggling--importing or exporting or exporting goods illegally-- was common. England also had great difficulty preventing pirates-- like the legendary Blackbeard-- from interfering with colonial shipping.