Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Puritan Diaspora

In our continuing historical diversion . . .

With a secure charter from King Charles I, the Massachusetts Bay Company aggressively pursued the settlement of New England.

From another point of view, the company engaged in a de-settlement of old England. For between 1630 and 1640, some 80,000 English left their homeland. About 20,000 moved to nearby Ireland, another 20,000 moved to the Netherlands and the Rhineland of western Europe, a third wave of 20,000 or so settled in the Caribbean Islands of Barbados, Nevis, and St. Kitts, and while a fourth wave of 20,000 or more settlers came to Massachusetts Bay.

What drove this diaspora of English?

Emulating the absolute monarchs of the European continent, King Charles I attempted to enhance his power through the expansion of royal prerogatives. Faced with  opposition from a Parliament that sought to aggrandize its own authority, Charles on several occasions dissolved Parliament and attempted to rule England without it.

In addition, he supported the efforts of Anglican Archbishop William Laud to bring a more severe conformity to the state church. This meant the rooting out of the Puritan reformers who desired a more radical reformation of the English church in both dogma and church government. The aggressive pushed for religious uniformity drove thousands of Puritans to leave their homeland.

This massive diaspora lasted until 1642, when a civil war erupted between Charles and and Parliament and their respective supporters in the army. With the triumph of Parliament and the religious reformers, the massive migrations ceased. (The victory of the Puritan party led to a similar but smaller emigration of royalist "distressed cavaliers" to Virginia.) But the foundations had been laid for the establishment of English societies abroad.

King Charles I

Archbishop William Laud

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