As the only area of the United States that has retained the name given at the time of the first English charter for the area, New England has contributed a massive amount to the culture and history of the country. Here is some background on the formation the charter, the colonies that eventually numbered among the first states of the new country, and some examples of how the region has often led the way in social reforms.
The designation of New England first appeared in the writings of Captain John Smith, a well-known name to anyone familiar with the story of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrim colony at Plymouth sought to establish other colonies under the terms of the Virginia Company charter, which claimed access to lands as far up the coast the modern-day Maine. In 1614, Smith launched the first of two explorations along the coast and recorded his findings. Within those writings, he coined the name of New England for the region. Soon, the name became part of the common vernacular and remains so to this day.
As the colonies became more organized, trade was established between them as well as with Great Britain. A steady influx of immigrants allowed the region to grow and begin to take on the duties of forming local and colonial governments. By the middle of the 18th century, the borders of the New England colonies had gelled into a more or less defined pattern. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine made up the region referred to as New England. For many people, this collection of colonies had almost the appearance of being their own collective apart from the other developing colonies to the south.
New England consistently led the way in the early years of the battle for independence from Great Britain, with many residents developing strategies and leading skirmishes that eventually led to the Revolutionary War. After the United States became an independent nation, the region continued to be in the forefront of such movements as prison reform, the abolition of slavery, and the absorption of immigrants into local towns and cities during the latter 19th and early 20th centuries.
Together with the mid-Atlantic states, New England today forms a section of the United States that is collectively referred to as the Northeastern United States. With a robust connection to the past that is tempered by a progressive approach to cultural and social issues of the contemporary world, the states of New England continue to be leaders in such important matters as human rights, government reforms, and environmental issues.