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What is Puritanism Essay

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Updated: Dec 17th, 2018

Puritanism developed in the end of the 16th century in England. It was a powerful movement that embraced such spheres as political, religious and social. It also shaped family relations and even everyday life. In the first place, Puritanism was the movement that “sought to purify, or reform the Church” (Kang 148).

Puritans thought that even their national church was still influenced by Catholicism. This was one of the most hostile to Catholicism groups within the group of Protestants. This led to prosecution of Puritans who were forced to move to the New World.

Notably, Puritanism was very popular in the New World (particularly in Massachusetts) throughout the late 16th century and 17th century. There were a number of reasons. In the first place, the immigrants who came to that land were Puritan exiles. Of course, they remained faithful to their religious tenets as this was one of their “safe zones” in the New World.

At the same time, Puritans believed in their being exceptional (Mingiuc 213). They thought they had been chosen by the God to purify the church in this world, so they believed they needed to make the New World purified from paganism, i.e. Indians. Puritanism has always been associated with progress and change. They did believe they were destined to bring the change to the New World.

This was a very ‘suitable’ justification of taking land (i.e. resources) from Indians. Moreover, Puritans tried to live in accordance with the Holy Book. Of course, they referred to the parts of the Bible concerning Noah and Moses who explored new lands, and this was justified by the God (Bercovitch 181). At that, Puritans had a definite code of conduct, they had specific rules to follow, which was also quite convenient as they did not need to invent anything in the New World.

However, it is necessary to note that Puritanism as a potent movement became less popular and even vanished in the end of the 17th century and in the beginning of the 18th century. Again, there were several reasons for the decline. First, political changes in Britain made many Puritans alienated from their roots (Kidd 32).

When William took the throne, Puritans in Massachusetts hoped that they would have their basic rights secured (Kidd 32). Instead, they lost a lot of their freedoms. Of course, this political alienation from Britain also affected faithfulness to the entire movement. Apart from political issues, people were dissatisfied with the movement as it was too strict. New generations of Puritans did not want to tolerate all those restrictions.

The world had changed and Puritans’ tenets also were becoming outdated. Puritanism started declining in the New World. However, it is necessary to note that there are still traces of this movement in the American culture as even the American dream is based on such principles as progress and hard work (Bercovitch 172). Thus, though Puritanism as a potent movement vanished, it has considerably affected the development of the contemporary American society.

Works Cited

Bercovitch, Sacvan. “The Ends of American Puritan Rhetoric.” The Ends of Rhetoric: History, Theory, Practice. Ed. John B. Bender and David E. Wellbery. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990. 171-191. Print.

Kang, Ning. “Puritanism and Its Impact upon American Values.” Review of European Studies 1.2 (2009): 148-151. Print.

Kidd, Thomas S. “What Happened to the Puritans.” Historically Speaking 7.1 (2005): 32-34. Print.

Mingiuc, Andreea. “Key Concepts of Puritanism and the Shaping of the American Cultural Identity.” Philologica Jassyensia 2.12 (2010): 211-217. Print.

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