Everybody knows that the first settlers of Massachusetts were Puritans, who came here to get away from persecution in England. But beyond that, we usually don’t know much of their story— who was persecuting them? What did they do to get themselves persecuted? The common stereotype of the Puritans—a bunch of gloomy religious fanatics who were happy only when spoiling other people’s fun—doesn’t fill most of us with eagerness to make their acquaintance. But they were a more interesting bunch than that stereotype suggests. Knowing the Puritans better probably wouldn’t make most people want to join up, but there are good reasons to give them at least some respect.

Chapters in this section...

  • How Puritanism Began[+]
    Why did these people want to come to Massachusetts? What made them so uncomfortable in England? Was there any difference between them and the Pilgrims?
  • Matters of Faith[+]
    How did Puritan beliefs influence the society the colonists built in Massachusetts?
  • Everyday Puritanism[+]
    How did Puritanism shape private life in Massachusetts Bay?
  • Church and People[+]
    How did the Puritan clergy get to be so powerful when they weren’t allowed to participate in the government?
  • Changes Over Time[+]
    What happened to Massachusetts Bay’s original religious idealism?