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Factors Behind Early English Colonization

There are numerous factors which prompted many English people to settle in the New World. Early English colonization was not only encouraged by the English government, but was necessary for the survival and safety of many of the early English colonists. The following paper discusses the religious, political and economic factors influencing the early colonization of the English in the New World. England in the late 1500s was in a state of religious, political and economic turmoil which led to many violent acts, civil wars and the persecution of many English.

Catholicism had become a primary factor of dispute among the English, resulting in tyrannical kings and queens and numerous uprisings of English citizens. It wasn’t until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) that colonization of the New World was accepted by England and its people. Due to Queen Elizabeth’s political nature and Protestant faith, she initiated numerous changes to the Church which satisfied some but angered many. Catholicism was ousted and replaced by Protestant practices, isolating and angering Catholics; resulting in Catholic persecution and a loss of rights both politically and social.

The English Reformation proved to be the primary motivator for English colonization. Generations of English were effected by Henry VIII organized the Anglican Church; replacing the Catholic Church with himself as the leader of the new church. Protestant beliefs merged with the Anglican Church under the rule of King Edward VI; which until that time had been demonstrated practices similar to those of the Catholic Church. Catholicism continued to be the subject of debate; it was reinstated by “bloody Mary” (1553-1558), which brought violence to England for anyone opposing her demand for Catholic obedience.

Queen Mary’s short lived reign was parallel to that of the Catholic Church. Mary’s half-sister and successor, Elizabeth ousted the Catholic Church once again in favor of Protestantism. As mentioned previously, Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) protestant and political nature brought both relief and anguish to many English. Elizabeth’s desire to unite the English motivated her to reestablish the Anglican Church with Protestant influence and ideals.

The uprising of several religious groups in the late 1500s influenced many English to move to the New World due to violence and injustice. Although Elizabeth was a Protestant she did not instill total protestant practice in the Anglican Church, allowing for more Catholic worship practices. This angered the Puritans who wanted total Protestant ideal and practices within the Church; specifically, the Puritans wanted abolition of the church hierarchy which was dangerous to all authorities, not only religious authorities.

A Presbyterian form of government was implemented, against Puritan advice. Under the Presbyterian government, ministers and lay elders ran regional governments and individual churches were allowed individual governing; in essence creating a separation between church and state. The Puritans however, were not easily deterred; they proceeded with their demands for the abolition of the church hierarchy, bringing their demands to King James in the form of a Millenary Petition. The Puritans by that time, in 1603, were viewed as dangerous to the king authority.

In response the king began exiling Puritans and people with Puritan ideals to the New World, as well as making Anglican Church attendance mandatory. The king’s actions forced many English to consider the New World. Other religious groups such as the Separatists and the Quakers were extremely vocal and demanding of religious practices. Separatists were forced to leave England or face deadly consequences. Quakers were proactive in their disgust of the Anglican Church and its practices and authority in general.

They caused numerous problems, leading to the King and authorities to be harsh in their punishment including deportment and imprisonment; which is the primary reason for their move to the New World. There were numerous economic changes occurring in England which caused many English to move to the New World. The woolen industry in England grew, while the agricultural industry suffered, causing numerous farmers and agricultural workers to be displaced. The percentage of unemployment rose, causing a rise in homelessness.

Parishes and the government were distraught by the high number of beggars and felt it was for the benefit of all to send them away to the New World. The enclosure movement was beneficial to some farmers, but most were dislocated and all of Europe suffered from inflation and high taxes due to the uneven rise of goods and products versus agriculture. Farmers suffered not only from financial disparity but social as well. Mercantilism was another reason that many English migrated to the New World, to benefit England’s economy by supplying raw material from the colony to England.

This strategy also helped remove the beggars and homeless from the streets of England by providing them with work and means for survival in the New World. Numerous industries, according to mercantilism theory, would benefit from the additional colonial markets and increased manufacturing in England. Sixteenth century families suffered in England due to a lack of options for their future. Many younger sons found the New World to be the new start that they were looking for.

England’s economic status was cause for many families and young individuals to migrate to the New World. Due to religious discrepancies between the various religious groups and economic struggles, the political scene in sixteenth century England was disastrous. Three political upheavals rose along with religious standoffs causing turmoil among the English. Puritan revolts began with King James’ rule of the Anglican Church. The Puritans were successful in their revolt against the Church when King Charles was beheaded.

Their rule ended when King Charles restored the Stuart monarchy; they were either exiled or fled to the New World. English authority was under constant political uncertainty throughout the sixteenth century when various authorities of various religious and political persuasions ruled. This instability was cause for the massive migration of English to the New World during this time period. The instability of Europe’s economy and its religious and political practices and ideals were primary factors of English colonization to the New World.

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