Why Did the Puritans Leave England?

The Puritans left England in protest of the Church of England out of fear of persecution and prosecution and for the opportunity to live more pious and worthy lives in a Puritan commonwealth. Puritans, as they were referred to by their enemies, wished to reform the Church of England, which they viewed as too similar to the Catholic Church.

The Puritans separated from the churches in their local parishes where preaching was viewed as inadequate, hiring their own lecturers who were well-versed in reform theology. These lecturers were prosecuted by the monarch and Church of England officials. The last straw may have been when King Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629. This dissolution prevented Puritan leaders from working within the system to effect change and left them vulnerable to persecution. Moderate Puritans chartered the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the same year. The New World represented both a refuge from persecution and an opportunity to establish a “Zion in the wilderness.” Puritans imagined their migration to the New World mirrored the Biblical story of Exodus.

Between 1629 and 1640, over 20,000 men, women and children left England to settle permanently in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the Americas. When Parliament was re-established in 1640, migration dropped drastically.