Letters Home: Old & New England in the 17th Century

What did the Pilgrim Fathers and other settlers write to the Old Country about? In a new study of their transatlantic correspondence, we find close connections between old and new worlds.

During the reign of Charles I approximately 21,000 men, women and children left their homeland to settle in New England. These long- distance migrants have naturally commanded more attention in American than in English history. From an American perspective this 'great migration' was an event of fundamental importance (though dwarfed by larger migrations to English colonies in the Chesapeake and Caribbean). The New England colonists transformed the landscape and shaped a new society. They brought with them English notions of political order, religious seriousness, moral righteousness, literature, commerce and 'civilisation', and adapted them to local conditions. Their families increased and multiplied; their institutions survived and prospered. American scholars find in the culture and religion of early New England the foundation of many American values, and even the source of the American 'self'. 1776 lies just over the horizon.

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