Why Did so Many People Move to Colonial America?

Large numbers of immigrants came to colonial America for many reasons, including religious freedom and economic opportunity. The New World offered colonists the chance to own property for the first time, and many emigrated to escape oppressive situations or religious conflicts in Europe. Still others were brought to the colonies unwillingly as slaves.

Economic reasons motivated many colonists. In Europe, it could be difficult to become a landowner if one was not born into wealth. Absentee landlordism was a system that trapped many of the poor into a cycle of poverty, and the New World offered a break from that. In many cases, governments awarded land to anyone who was willing to farm and develop it. The crown gained colonists to produce goods to ship back home, and those willing to take the chance on emigration or indentured servitude could become extremely wealthy.

Religious freedom was another major motivator. Longstanding religious conflicts, such as the rift between Protestantism and Catholicism, led to violence and oppression in some parts of Europe, and new colonies devoted to one belief or the other offered the faithful a new start. In other cases, those with unpopular beliefs, such as the Puritans, utilized the colonies as a way to found a new home where they could do and live as they pleased.