College of Arts and Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)


Benjamin T. Esswein


Puritans, Transatlantic, England, Colonies




When Puritans crossed the Atlantic Ocean to populate the Thirteen Colonies (whether the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Virginia, Maryland, or others), they did so as loyal subjects of England who wanted a place to freely practice their religion. They never stopped their efforts at reforming the Church of England, nor did they stop seeing themselves as Englishmen. Neither did the Crown. As a result, if the Crown took measures that could affect Puritans in England, it could also affect Puritans in the colonies. In addition, if the Puritans in England became involved in a conflict, colonial Puritans often saw it as their duty to support their comrades in the mother country. Colonial Puritans also knew that if England was reformed in their image (politically and religiously), this would have positive effects not only on the nation itself, but also the colonies. This was particularly true of Virginia and Maryland, where Puritans struggled against the established religious authorities of the Church of England for reform. A study of the struggles of Southern Puritans is critical to understanding the weight of the Puritans’ conflict with the Church of England. Eventually, following the English Civil War, the Puritans temporarily achieved what they wanted in England. Nevertheless, their inability to agree on key matters concerning the government of England led to the collapse of the Commonwealth of England and much infighting within the movement in the decades that followed. The Puritans were actively attempting to complete the English Reformation. They sought no middle ground, but to fully advance the Reformation to its logical conclusions. This firm resolve frequently put the Puritans at odds with the Crown and the Church of England, whether in the mother country or the colonies.

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