The pilgrims didn’t actually leave England because of religious persecution. They left because they were staunch Puritan conservatives and didn’t think the church was strict enough.

Motives for migration to and from Britain – religion and ideas

Ulster Plantations, Pilgrim Fathers and the migration of Huguenots

Looking West

The 16th and 17th centuries were periods of tremendous change in Britain and Europe. Christianity was still the dominant intellectual force but it had been strongly influenced by the cultural Renaissance of the 15th century. The intellectual developments of the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century also played a part in instigating change throughout Europe.

The Christian Church became divided into Catholic and Protestant through a movement called the Reformation. These changes produced a number of situations where groups of people decided to migrate because of their religion.

Ulster Plantations and migration to Ireland

In the 16th century… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

12 thoughts on “The pilgrims didn’t actually leave England because of religious persecution. They left because they were staunch Puritan conservatives and didn’t think the church was strict enough.”

  1. marcvanh

    I grew up thinking the Dutch were super religious and conservative because that’s how my grandparents, who emigrated to the US in the 50s, were. When I found out the Dutch weren’t like that at all, I asked my grandparents about it.

    They said “that’s why we left”

  2. Yesjustlikethegarden

    I think they were persecuted, but people often assume incorrectly, that they were more easygoing and the church was too strict. It was usually the opposite. The words we would use today are fanatics, zealots, heretics, fundamentalists, cult leader… etc.

  3. wjbc

    It’s not accurate to say there was no persecution of Puritans in England at that time. Puritan Edward Wightman was burned at the stake in 1612 for heresy.

    James I seemed much less tolerant of Puritans than Elizabeth I. And there was real fear that James would rejoin the Catholic Church and return to the days of “Bloody Mary,” Elizabeth’s predecessor, who got that nickname because she executed hundreds of Protestants during her brief reign as Queen of England.

    So yes, the Puritans wanted to worship as they pleased. And no, they could not do so without fear of reprisal in England.

    Now, were the Puritans intolerant themselves? Yes. They executed Quakers for Blasphemy in Boston a few decades later, and in England Cromwell came to power and was hardly tolerant. But the fact remains that they came to America seeking to practice their religion without fear of persecution.

  4. daterqa

    I remember when a puritan government was in control in 1647 they even banned Christmas at one point. Almost anything to do with fun they banned .

  5. noprofiles

    They left England and Holland to escape tolerance and live in a way that allows them to persecute whomever they want however they want.

  6. Steph1er

    we’ll make our own country. without blackjack and hookers.

  7. Caassapaba

    The time honoured WASP tradition of naming any instance of not getting their way, persecution.

  8. Exemplar1968

    I genuinely thought that this was known. Apologies OP. Here in the UK we are taught this.

  9. ClF3ismyspiritanimal

    “I’m being persecuted because you won’t let me impose my beliefs on you.” Definitely proto-Americans.

  10. putoelquelolea

    The Pilgrims and the Puritans are not the same.

  11. flaagan

    I remember learning about this when I was younger and not being the least bit surprised that the Catholic school I went to as a kid had portrayed it as the “leaving persecution” angle.

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