The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. With a population approaching 6.5 million in a relatively small area, it is mostly urban and suburban in its eastern half and still primarily rural in the west. It is the most populous of the six New England states and contains the region's main urban center, Boston.
The first Europeans to settle New England were Pilgrims and Puritans from England seeking religious freedom who landed in present-day Massachusetts. They founded Plymouth and Boston, which soon became the hub of the region. A century and a half later, Massachusetts became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the revolutionary ferment in Boston that helped spawn the battle of the Thirteen Colonies for independence. In addition to its early patriots, Massachusetts supplied the new nation with its second and sixth Presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams.
During the eighteenth century, Massachusetts transformed itself from a mainly agricultural economy to a manufacturing one, making use of its many rivers for power to operate factories for shoes, furniture, and clothing. Its economy declined in the early nineteenth century when industry moved south in search of cheaper labor. A revitalization came in the 1970s when, nourished by the graduates of the area's many elite institutions of higher education, the Boston suburbs (particularly those around Route 128) became home to dozens of high-tech companies.
Massachusetts' colleges and universities, as well as its technology, continue to thrive. The state is also considered a haven for progressive, liberal thought and commonly sends political candidates to the national scene.
Massachusetts is bordered on the north by New Hampshire and Vermont; on the west by New York; on the south by Connecticut and Rhode Island; and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. At the southeastern corner of the state is a large, sandy, arm-shaped peninsula called Cape Cod. The islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket lie to the south of Cape Cod.
A portion of the north-central Pioneer Valley near South Deerfield, much more rural than Springfield, in the southern part of the valley, or Boston, which is on the coast.Massachusetts is known as the Bay State because of the several large bays that give its coastline its distinctive shape: Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay on the state's east coast, and Buzzards Bay to the south. A few cities and towns on the Massachusetts–Rhode Island border are also adjacent to Narragansett Bay. The name Massachusetts comes from the name of an Algonquian tribe that means "at or about the great hill" or "land of the blue hills."
Boston is the largest city, located at the innermost point of Massachusetts Bay, at the mouth of the Charles River, the longest river entirely within Massachusetts. Most of the population of the Boston metropolitan area (approximately 5,800,000) does not live in the city; eastern Massachusetts on the whole is fairly densely populated and largely suburban.
Western Massachusetts is more rural and sparsely populated, especially in the Berkshires, the branch of the Appalachian Mountains which forms the western border of the state. The most populated part of western Massachusetts is the "Pioneer Valley," alongside the Connecticut River, which flows across Western Massachusetts from north to south.
The fourteen counties, moving roughly from west to east, are Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Worcester, Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket.
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