Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Massachusetts

Go To

"Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts"
Common bumper stickernote 

One of the contenders for the title "birthplace of the United States," and tied with Mississippi for the title of the most difficult state to spell.

Massachusetts, officially named the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a state in the New England region of the United States and is home to around half of New England's population; it borders the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Prior to European contact and colonization, the area was home to a number of Algonquin Native American tribes, with the pre-contact population of the area potentially exceeded 100,000. In the early 1600s, however, newly introduced European diseases devastated the population, wiping out many tribes completely and leaving the others severely weakened. It was this nearly post-apocalyptic environment that greeted the first English settlers to the area in 1620, arriving on the Mayflower. These English people were members of the Puritans, a strict heterodox Protestant religious group who had earned the ire of the mainstream, royalist Church of England and sought to build themselves a "haven" where they could govern themselves as they saw proper. Their arrival at Plymouth in the southern part of modern Massachusetts was seen as a godsend by one of the tribes of the area, the Wampanoag, who had been devastated by diseases and were facing annihilation at the hands of the Narragansett, another tribe who lived in the area and who had been largely spared the epidemics. The Wampanoag and the English formed a tenuous alliance; in exchange for educating the English on local plants, wildlife, and agriculture, the English would add their military strength to the Wampanoag's.

Tensions between the Church of England and more Puritan-aligned denominations continued to brew in England, eventually breaking out into open civil war, leading more and more English people to emigrate. Over a period of about 20 years, tens of thousands of Puritans and Dissenters (another, similar denomination) left England for America. Many went to Plymouth, but they also founded several other colonies, the largest and most powerful being Massachusetts Bay Colony. The capital of Massachusetts Bay, Boston, became the center of English power in New England. While relations between the English and most of the Native American tribes were good for the first few decades, the flood of new colonists from England, their ever-expanding territorial demands, and the continued decline of Native American populations due to epidemics alarmed Native American leaders. In the summer of 1675, the sachem of the Wampanoag, Metacomet, who also used the English name King Philip, brought an alliance of most of the Native Americans in New England together and rallied them for war against the English invaders; the result became King Philip's War, still the deadliest war per capita in American history. Their larger, more militarized population and the loyalty of a few native tribes saw the English through to victory. The terms of their victory were harsh, with most surviving natives who had fought the English expelled west or sold into slavery in the Caribbean. This war cemented English control of the area.

Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony eventually united, and the colony went on to grow very fast. By 1775, it had a population of around a quarter of a million, one of the largest of Britain's American colonies. Its economy was heavily reliant on the maritime trade, which made it particularly vulnerable to — and hence particularly vocal against — Britain's mercantilist, monopolistic trade policies that sought to use the colonies as a source of revenue for Britain. The area was thus the birthplace of The American Revolution; the colony rose up in rebellion in 1775 over King George III's revocation of the colony's royal charter, which proved to the residents of the colony that Parliament and the imperial government had no respect for their rights as British citizens. The first battles of the Revolutionary War were fought in Massachusetts, and those places remain popular tourist sites. After the revolution, Massachusetts was one of the most powerful northern states, second only to New York. Industrialization forged ahead in the state; Massachusetts has many rivers, which powered the water mills that in turn powered the textile industry and established major new towns such as Lowell. It also became a major hotbed of abolitionist politics; the state was one of the first to abolish slavery, doing so in 1783, and produced fiery anti-slavery figures like Abby Kelly Foster. Accordingly, the state produced many volunteers to fight for the Union Army against the pro-slavery Confederacy. Irish immigration in the 19th century, especially to Boston, forever altered the identity of the state and made it a major center of Catholic and Irish culture in the United States. Additionally, in 1819, The District of Maine (which had been part of Massachusetts since the 1650s, when it was assigned to the Massachusetts Bay Colony) was allowed to secede from Massachussetts and become its own state.

Massachusetts today is home to just over 7 million people, the 16th most populous state, dwarfing the rest of New Englandnote . The maritime industry that built it is still very important, as is the fishing industry, which provides the state with a distinctive local cuisine heavily reliant on seafood. The Massachusetts legislature, the General Court, retains the name of the assemblies of colonial days. It's one of the wealthiest states in the country as well, as anyone apartment shopping in Boston will begrudgingly tell you. Tourism is also a mainstay, especially in the summer; people flock from all over to enjoy the beaches of Cape Cod, the rolling hills of the Connecticut River Valley, or the sites of dozens of crucial historical events in the history of the United States. In politics, Massachusetts is reliably Democratic nationally, but like many New England states, it's more moderate in local politics. Its reputation among the other 49 states is... mixed. For the rest of New England, it has the same reputation that large, wealthy regions tend to have among their smaller neighbors, which is to say, not great — it's like Eagle Land in microcosm, giving rise to the term "Masshole".

Any work of fiction mentioning the American Revolution is bound to either feature or mention Massachusetts. Historical fiction focusing on its early Puritan days, including the notorious Salem Witch Trialsnote , is also quite popular. In modern works, expect working-class Boston culture, or the lives of fishermen and longshoremen, to dominate.