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New England Colonies


NEW ENGLAND COLONIES. Settled by Europeans, primarily the English, in the seventeenth century, New England included the Plymouth Colony (1620, absorbed by Massachusetts Bay in 1691), the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630), Connecticut (1636), New Haven (1640), Rhode Island (1636), and New Hampshire (separated from Massachusetts Bay in 1741). The New England Colonies are best known as the destination for Puritan religious reformers and their followers. Diverse European fishermen, however, had been tapping into the vast resources off Cape Cod since the late 1500s. Religious and economic motivations merged in each New England Colony.

Prompted by just those two motivations, in 1630 approximately one thousand people set sail from England under the auspices of the Puritan-controlled Massachusetts Bay Company. Led by John Winthrop, the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony sought to establish a religious utopia made up of Christians who operated in a strict covenant with God.

Tensions in Massachusetts Bay—the product of disagreements over what would constitute a theocratic community and government, relationships with Native Americans, and the role of wealth, status, and land in the colony—resulted early on in a threat of deportation for Roger Williams, a Puritan minister from Salem who openly challenged both church and government policy. In 1635 Williams fled south with a small band of followers to establish Providence, the first settlement in Rhode Island.

In like manner, Puritans from Massachusetts Bay also migrated to Connecticut, settling in Hartford (under the leadership of Thomas Hooker), New Haven (under John Davenport), and in towns along the Connecticut River Valley.


Bremer, Francis J. The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards. Rev. ed. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1995. The original edition was published in 1976.

Leslie J.Lindenauer

See alsoNew Haven Colony ; Pilgrims ; Providence Plantations, Rhode Island and ; Puritans and Puritanism ; Separatists, Puritan .

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