Building a Godly World: The Efforts to Create a Puritan Atlantic in the Early Seventeenth Century
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When English puritans undertook colonization in the seventeenth century, they did so with the purpose of using the Atlantic to finally complete the reformation of the Church of England begun decades earlier in the sixteenth century. This goal was undertaken by three broad groups of puritans, each with a distinct strategy for using the Atlantic to reform. The first were the all-but-exiled English Separatists who hoped to embed themselves in nascent colonial economic and political systems to accrue influence and eventually push for the Church of England’s reformation. Second were the New England puritans centered around Massachusetts Bay, who saw the Atlantic as a refuge in which to create a model godly society that could serve as the inspiration for England’s reforms. Third were the puritan nobles, a group of wealthy English puritans who sought to harness the Atlantic’s potential for wealth and geopolitical power that would enable them to guide England’s godly reformation.Adopting the conception of these group as produced by the expanding historiography of puritans and the Atlantic, this dissertation applies the framework of divergent puritan strategies for using the Atlantic. In addition to studying the impact of the different strategies themselves, this framework is employed to integrate the diversity of puritans and puritanism with the geographic, economic, social, and political diversity of the seventeenth century Atlantic itself. Organized around puritan communities in the Chesapeake, Providence Island, Saybrook, Bermuda, and the Bahamas, this dissertation explores how these three puritan strategies to use the Atlantic caused and exacerbated divisions between puritans in the Atlantic, impacted the decline of colonial puritan communities outside of New England, shaped the ways puritans contended with the challenges of the Atlantic, and complicated puritans’ conceptions of themselves within a broad spiritual community.