Who were the Puitans? That is, did a person who called himself (or was called) a Puritan go to say, The First Puritan Church? Or was Puritan more of an informal name for several different churches, perhaps a little like the term “Fundamentalist” is used today?
And what happened to the Puritans? People always talk about how The United States was settled by Puritans, and that helps explain some of our work ethic and sexual mores. But what happened to the Puritans themselves? Does anyone here know any Puritans? I don’t.

Puritans were derived from the Church of England. In it, they saw too many links to Catholicism, and wanted to “purify” the Church into a completely Protestant one.

Many Puritans remained in England, working for reform, while others immigrated to America to make a fresh new start. Their search was not for a land of “religious freedom” as it has been called, but one in which their religion would be dominant, to the exclusion of other faiths-- a land free of other religions.

Like many religious movements, the Puritans died out, or were absorbed into other Protestant movements.

The Puritans were those Protestants in England who wanted to “purify” the Church of England of its “popish” remnants.

During the reign of Queen Mary, when Catholicism was (briefly) restored as the official religion of England, a number of those who fled Mary’s persecutions wound up in Geneva and latched on to Calvin’s doctrines. On the ascension of Elizabeth I to the throne, and the restoration of the Church of England separate from the Roman Catholic church, they returned to England, but were disappointed that Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I continued to use a Catholic-like liturgy. When Charles was deposed, the Puritans, who had been among the supporters of Parliament against the king, seized power under Oliver Cromwell, and established their own liturgy and ecclesisatical rules. (One important difference with the Church of England had to do with governance: the Puritans opposed the episcopal (bishop run) organization, preferring a presbyterian (committe of elders) organization at the local level.)

The Puritans began to lose power in England with the ascension of Charles II. They had already splintered into several groups, of whom the Quakers are the only clear survivors.

They had more luck in New England (where many had fled prior to Cromwell and Parliament seizing power in England). However, even there the original beliefs slowly shifted focus. In what became the U.S., they established the Presbyterian ad Congregational churches (along with the U.S. Quakers) in the U.S., but they are not now strictly Puritan chiurches in the sense of the seventeenth century.

This is a really encapsulated history that misses a fair amount of significant detail. For more information, hit Google or an encyclopedia with the terms Great Persecution, Oliver Cromwell, Separatists, Glorious Revolution, or (for “defeats” of Puritanism), Hampton Court Conference, Westminster Assembly, and Toleration Act.

That greaty exaggerates the number and influence of Puritans who settled in the American colonies, in relation to all the English-speaking colonists. This was a view put forth by Boston-based historians, who thought the colonial world revolved around their ancestors.

Well, Boston-based historians and Max Weber, who you can credit with the term “the Puritan work ethic”. In brief, Weber said that the reason industrial capitalism came so early in England and the United States, especially in New England, was that Calvinism saw wealth and material success as physical signs of G-d’s favor, so Calvinism came to value the accumulation of material wealth in its own right, to be contrasted with earlier Catholicism, which always had an ambiguous view of material success and found poverty to be virtuous.

Not the sexual mores; Puritans were relatively open about sex They invented bundling, for instance (two people of opposite sex sharing a bed) and acknowledged that it sometimes led to sex. They often worked on farms and lived with the entire family in one room, so kids heard and heard about sex a lot younger. Puritans thought sex was an important part of marriage, and in one case when a husband refused to have sex with his wife, he was condemned in a sermon by Cotton Mather.

It was the Victorians who were puritanical, not the Puritans.

They’re now called Congregationalists.

The Victorians weren’t so puritanical, either.

Then how did these people get their reputations?

The Puritans were very strict about observing the Sabbath (well, Sunday) and had quite a few rules against “frivolous” activities on that day. There were also a few (not all) Puritan authors who condemned frivolity of any sort. People who did not like the Puritans then capitalized on those memories when they came to power (either politically or culturally), portraying their Puritan predecessors as “those stern, humorless people who told us never to have fun.”

In terms of the Victorians, the public manners of the Victorians could be quite prudish (covering table legs and referring to legs as limbs so as not to have any “suggestive” comments about legs and such). From that they derived their reputations. However, outside the public manners of the upper and upper-middle classes, (possibly because of it), the private mores of the well off Victorians and the general mores of the poor were rather ribald.

Earl of Sandwhich writes:

> Then how did these people get their reputations?

Because, in general, all one-sentence descriptions of historic periods and of groups of people are wrong. If you want to learn about a historical period or a historical group of people, read a book. In general, if you hear a people described in such a way that that you have trouble believing that any human being could act that way, you’re being given an inaccurate summary of history.

The covering table legs out of modesty thing is myth.

Read Inventing the Victorians: What We Think We Know About Them and Why We Are Wrong.