Massachusetts has played a leading role in American politics since the arrival of the first colonists – the Pilgrims – who landed in Plymouth in 1620.

In the 18th century, spurred by a booming maritime trade, Massachusetts colonists revolted against trade restrictions and taxes imposed by Great Britain. The independence movement grew up in Boston, where the Sons of Liberty instigated uprisings and spread propaganda about their cause. These rebellions against the crown set the stage for battles in nearby Lexington and Concord, which kicked off the War for Independence in 1775.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the North Shore of Massachusetts was a shipbuilding center, and Salem in particular grew rich on the returns of merchant ships that sailed around the world. In the southern part of the state, the whaling industry brought unprecedented wealth to Nantucket and New Bedford, whose ports are still lined with grand sea captains' homes. Other towns such as Lowell, Worcester and Springfield grew up when textile mills and other industry were built up during the 20th century.

Nowadays, the Commonwealth continues to thrive, as tourists and students are drawn to its rich history and vibrant cultural life.