Nothing else so much expresses the character of New England as a place to live and as a setting for its economic activity as its topography. Except in a few favored sections, the land is too broken and hilly to be farmed in large fields. Yet only a small part of it is too rugged for ready access by rail or highway or for the harvesting of timber. Not more than a third of the land is over the 1000-foot level, and another third of it is below the 500-foot level. But New England demonstrates that a highly varied landscape can be crowded within a range of a few thousand feet of elevation.
The reasons for this become apparent in the geological history of the territory, which is worth sketching briefly because it also explains other important land characters. At the point in time which we shall take for a beginning, New England was a lofty region of mountainous snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Denudation of these mountains continued for so long a time that not only were the lower river valleys deepened almost to sea level, but the valley sides were flattened out into nearly level plains. New England was then a peneplain or worn-down mountain area. But some of the more dense of the rock masses resisted the erosion and stood up above the plain as "monadnocks," named by geologists from New England's own Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire, now 3166 feet high. The White Mountains, Green Mountains, and other mountains of northern New England are geologically nothing other than these same monadnocks; likewise most of the lower peaks and hills farther south, Wachusett in central Massachusetts, Greylock in the Berkshires, and Blue Hill just south of Boston. (Most of the physical features named in this chapter are indicated on the map in Chart 4.)
The evidence the geologist accepts for the foregoing conclusion is of the following order: First, except for these monadnocks, the general level of the