The Puritans


Waterbury, c. 1830


“From its earliest beginnings, Puritans had exhibited a drive toward immediacy in religious experience.  It was this which stood at the root of its utter rejection of all sarcerdotalism, whether Roman or Anglican.  Here was a thirst for ‘experimental’ knowledge of God, a craving for the immediate relating of the soul to the divine.”  

-James F. Maclear-




1600s Map - This map indicates place names as they were known in the
17th century by capital letters; names in upper and lower case
beneath are the modern day equivalents.





Henry VIII, the king of England, wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, but when he asked the Catholic Church, they refused.  As a result, he established The Church of England.  The Church of England set out to break away from the Catholic Church and introduce some reforms in a new protestant religion.  The Puritans however believed that the newly founded church still held too many remnants of the Catholic Churches.  As a result they choose to leave the Church of England and established their own protestant faith. Eventually the Church of England began to crackdown on those who refused to bow to their authority.  It got to the point where the Puritans decided to face the dangerous journey to the New World rather than be persecuted for their religion.


The hardships continued for the Puritans on their voyage to the New World on the Mayflower.  For sixty-seven days the passengers on the Mayflower had to deal with poor living conditions, spoiled provisions and the constant threat of disease.  Two-thirds of the voyage was filled with storms and squalls which often caused many of the passengers to become seasick making living on the boat that much worse.  Every once in a while the sun would come out and the passengers would get the chance to come out from below deck but that wasn’t an everyday occurrence.  The Passengers on the Mayflower wanted nothing more then to get off of that ship.


Once they landed in New England, the Puritans strong religious beliefs pushed them to start missionary work with the Indian tribes.  Because their values called for a life devoted to Christ, their missionary strategy was to change the way the Indians lived.  The converted Indians became known as praying Indians and were separated from the non-converts into praying towns.  This philosophy was first employed by John Eliot, the greatest Puritan missionary, and was reinforced throughout New England and Long Island by numerous other missionaries. 


The Puritan’s strong religious beliefs on how God and Satan interacted and their beliefs on Satan’s powers, actions and effects on society made their society an easy target for witchcraft hysteria.  These beliefs contributed greatly in their fear of Satan and his followers to the point where it dominated their society in the sixteenth and seventieth centuries and lead to the witchcraft hysteria.


No other group of people was more vulnerable to the witchcraft hysteria than women.  Gender roles were deeply ingrained in all societies.  The ideals of women in early modern Europe traveled across the Atlantic Ocean with the Puritans.  Women were seen as inferior beings that needed to be dominated by a male figure, and those who broke the mold were viewed as dangerous.  Ultimately, the contradictions between the religion and the gender roles illustrate the flaws with Puritan society.







Puritan Beliefs and Reasons for Coming to America



The Atlantic Passage of the Puritans



Puritan Missions to the Indians


Puritan Beliefs on Satan and Witchcraft



Puritan Women





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