Northampton is located on the Connecticut River about 16 miles (26 km) north of Springfield. It is the seat of Hampshire College and home to Smith College. European settlement began in 1654 with a group from Springfield. In the 19th century the city became a center for commerce, industry, education, and the arts. Incorporation as a city occured in 1883. Today it is also a center of tourism.
Northampton is noted as a center of America's first great religious revival, The Great Awakening, with the pastorate of Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. It was the birthplace of theologian Timothy Dwight and as a home of former American President Calvin Coolidge. It is also known as a center of the Shays's Rebellion of the 1780s, an armed revolt against the fledgling United States government.