New Jersey was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, with historical tribes such as the Lenape along the coast. In the early 17th century, the Dutch and the Swedes made the first European settlements in the state. The English later seized control of the region, naming it the Province of New Jersey after the largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey, and granting it as a colony to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton. New Jersey was the site of several decisive battles during the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century.
In the 19th century, factories in cities (known as the "Big Six"), Camden, Paterson, Newark, Trenton, Jersey City, and Elizabeth helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. New Jersey's geographic location at the center of the Northeast megalopolis, between Boston and New York City to the northeast, and Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., to the southwest, fueled its rapid growth through the process of suburbanization in the second half of the 20th century. In the first decades of the 21st century, this suburbanization began reverting with the consolidation of New Jersey's culturally diverse populace toward more urban settings within the state, with towns home to commuter rail stations outpacing the population growth of more automobile-oriented suburbs since 2008.
Around 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, New Jersey bordered North Africa. The pressure of the collision between North America and Africa gave rise to the Appalachian Mountains. Around 18,000 years ago, the Ice Age resulted in glaciers that reached New Jersey. As the glaciers retreated, they left behind Lake Passaic, as well as many rivers, swamps, and gorges.
New Jersey was originally settled by Native Americans, with the Lenni-Lenape being dominant at the time of contact. Scheyichbi is the Lenape name for the land that is now New Jersey. The Lenape were several autonomous groups that practiced maize agriculture in order to supplement their hunting and gathering in the region surrounding the Delaware River, the lower Hudson River, and western Long Island Sound. The Lenape society was divided into matrilinear clans that were based upon common female ancestors. These clans were organized into three distinct phratries identified by their animal sign: Turtle, Turkey, and Wolf. They first encountered the Dutch in the early 17th century, and their primary relationship with the Europeans was through fur trade.
The Dutch became the first Europeans to lay claim to lands in New Jersey. The Dutch colony of New Netherland consisted of parts of modern Middle Atlantic states. Although the European principle of land ownership was not recognized by the Lenape, Dutch West India Company policy required its colonists to purchase the land that they settled. The first to do so was Michiel Pauw who established a patronship called Pavonia in 1630 along the North River which eventually became the Bergen. Peter Minuit's purchase of lands along the Delaware River established the colony of New Sweden. The entire region became a territory of England on June 24, 1664, after an English fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls sailed into what is today New York Harbor and took control of Fort Amsterdam, annexing the entire province.