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STUDYWORLD STUDYNOTES:

CLASSIC LITERATURE ANALYSIS

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Reasons For English Immigration To the North American Colonies

Prior to 1650, many Englishmen immigrated to the New World, specifically to the North American Colonies. These immigrants fled from a society that they found to be displeasing in many specific ways. Although economic and political values led to much of the English migration to the New World, religious tumult in England was undoubtedly the main cause for the immigration.

James I, who believed in the divine right of kings, thought he was allowed to disobey Parliament because he answered to no one but God. He started a conflict with Parliament that gained momentum under Charles I's reign. This conflict finally sparked a civil war lasting seven years, during which time the government unsympathetically persecuted its citizens, driving many of them out of the country.

Furthermore, England's unstable economy and inflation led to much poverty. The demand for a certain raw material like wool could put many slaves out of a job if the landowner suddenly decided it was more profitable to raise sheep; thus requiring only a small fraction of the work force. Inflation also made life hard for the poorer people, who found they could no longer pay for basic necessities. People saw that moving to the North American Colonies was a great money-making opportunity. Growing sugar on islands off the North American coast was so profitable that one man's capital may have spilled over to a relative who lived generations later. People were also quite excited about the idea of Capitalism, the economic system in which one makes even more money by investing his capital in a growing business, for example. Finally, people saw that the vast fields in the New World would yield much produce, and that moving to the Colonies was an opportunity too good to pass up.

Religious conflict, however, was the main factor contributing to the English migration to New England. The Catholic Church had become too intense on individuals and their everyday life, and Protestantism seemed to be the best alternative for many people. Also, King Henry VIII had established the Anglican Church, which he strongly enforced upon the Englishmen. Protestants and Catholics in this society were shunned by their neighbors, fined by the government, and even sent to jail. The English nation was in a state of religious turmoil with no religion to unify its citizens.

In addition, Religious warfare had become extremely gory, and the amount of bloodshed was immense, simply because of each side's belief that any killing of the enemy was good since God was on their side. People did not know where to turn, and began looking toward the North American Colonies.

Certain Protestants, however, took the Reformation a step further and tried to simplify or "purify" the Anglican Church, since they believed that even Anglicanism was not as much a reform from Catholicism as they wanted. These Protestants were called Puritans, and they believed that they did not need priests, Anglicanism, or its Church, but that they, alone, could talk to God. Such a feeling was common to all the Protestants, so they decided that they would attempt to create a Protestant nation in North America. Since they knew that changing the ways and customs of an existing society would be far too difficult, they left England and headed straight toward the New World.

Some of the Puritans even believed in typology; that their life was a repetition of the Bible, and that they were compared to the ancient Hebrews, who fled from Egypt only to wander in the desert for forty years before entering the promised land. They believed that while they temporarily settled in the Colonies, England would be destroyed, and that they, the "saving remnants", as they called themselves, would later return and resettle it as the promised land. After a couple of generations with no word of Europe's long awaited destruction, though, the colonists decided that they would create a permanent settlement in the New World, since perhaps this was the promised land.

Many people from England fled to the New World during the late 1500s and early 1600s. Their country was in a state of economic, political, and religious tumult, and they saw great potential in the New World. They were displeased with the Catholic Church and all of England, so they came to the Colonies to start anew, and create what was, in their eyes, the perfect society.

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