Thursday, May 5, 2011
USA: New England: Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010 Census, Massachusetts' population was 6,547,629.
The state features two separate metropolitan areas - the eastern Boston metropolitan area and the western Springfield metropolitan area. Approximately two thirds of the state's population lives in Greater Boston, most of which is either urban or suburban. Western Massachusetts features one urban area - the Knowledge Corridor along the Connecticut River - and a mix of college towns and rural areas. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states, the third most densely populated state in the United States, and also has the U.S.'s third highest GDP per capita.
Culturally, historically, and commercially, Massachusetts has been significant throughout American history. Plymouth was the second permanent English settlement in North America. Many of Massachusetts's towns were founded by colonists from England in the 1620s and 1630s. Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the (now) United States.
In 1692, the towns surrounding Salem, Massachusetts experienced one of America's most infamous cases of mass hysteria, the Salem Witch Trials. In the eighteenth century, the Protestant First Great Awakening, which swept the Atlantic world, originated from the pulpit of Northampton, Massachusetts preacher Jonathan Edwards. In the late 18th century, Boston became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the agitation there that led to the American Revolution and the independence of the United States from Great Britain. In 1777, George Washington founded the Springfield Armory, which during the Industrial Revolution catalyzed numerous important technological advances, including interchangeable parts.
Before the American Civil War, Massachusetts was a center for the temperance, transcendentalist, and abolitionist movements. In 1837, Mount Holyoke College, the United States' first women's college, was opened in the Connecticut River Valley town of South Hadley. In the late nineteenth century, the (now) Olympic sports of basketball and volleyball were invented in the Western Massachusetts cities of Springfield and Holyoke, respectively. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The state has contributed many prominent politicians to national service, including members of the Adams family and of the Kennedy family.
Originally dependent on fishing, agriculture, and trade with Europe, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, the state's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. In the 21st century, the state is a leader in higher education, health care technology, high technology, and financial services.