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Religion and early American identity

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IEP Grenoble

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  1. Introduction
  2. The people migrating to the west
  3. The Pilgrims: A group of religious dissenters
  4. The Puritan migration
  5. The age structure of the population that migrated to New England
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography

Trying to determine what the motives of the migrants to the new world were is a difficult quest because motivations were diverse depending on the colonies. The migrants could be motivated by economical considerations. They thought they could have a better life, to be richer in North America by escaping hard times in the mother land. There were also religious considerations. Leaving to North America was seen a new start, as a way to build a society more conform to religious behaviours.
We can wonder if religious purposes were the determinant factors or not of immigration in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and as a consequence if religion lies at the heart of Early American identity. As New England was a good example of this paradox between economic and religious purposes in emigration we will focus on the Puritans to point out their motivations.

[...] In 1629 Charles began a campaign of persecution and repression against them. This led to the migration of thousands of Puritans to New England. In 1629 a group of wealthy Puritans created a Company, the Massassuchets Bay Company and 200 settlers left for Massassuchet Bay. They wished to establish city on the a New England model of reform for old England. The Puritan migration was called the Great Migration because more than 20000 people migrated to Massachusetts between 1629 and 1643. [...]


[...] Moreover Europeans used American Indians and Africans to do the difficult and arduous employments. It made life in the colonies less taxing for European settlers. As a consequence more and more people started to believe that they could improve their circumstances by emigrating. Moreover there were more and more from the mid-eighteenth century single women and family units who decided to migrate to America. Obviously men still remained a distinct majority. It revealed that the settlers started to emigrate with the idea of migrating permanently to America. [...]


[...] And finally crisis was not as disastrous for them as it had for consequence the rise of the prices of the grain. Farmers could get the same income even if they faced up a bad harvest. Textile industry was also in severe depression in the early seventeenth century. It is true that many adult male emigrants were employed in a trade related to cloth manufacture. Nevertheless it did not imply that weavers wanted to migrate to New England. Indeed New England was not a well- developed textile industry place. [...]

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