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Separatists, Puritans, and Now Anglicans

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Joint-stock company: A joint-stock company is a company comprised of many investors or shareholders who own the stock of the company together. Each shareholder in a joint-stock company gives money to the company and in return acquires a portion of the company’s profits. Joint-stock companies were business corporations that collected capital through the sales of stock to the public, which allowed for the production of large sums with limited risk for each investor. Joint-stock companies were important because they signified the transition from strict economic regulation and “just prices” to unrestricted acquisition of wealth and capitalism. 

Also, because England’s government didn’t have much money to spare on sending explorers overseas, the creation of joint-stock companies allowed private investors to sponsor/pay for overseas exploration/colonization of the New World, in turn leading to England playing a huge part in colonizing the Americas. The joint-stock company known as the Virginia Company of London was the corporation that launched the expedition leading to the establishment of Jamestown, and without that company, the English wouldn’t have had the money or resources to be able to launch an expedition like that. Joint-stock companies were the ancestors of modern corporations, and without them England may not have had the resources or desire to make the thirteen colonies. Finally, some joint-stock companies, like the British East India Company, were also used for trade, allowing England to expand its range of imports and exports.

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Protestant Reformation: The Protestant Reformation was a religious movement that began in 1517 by Martin Luther, a German monk that accused the Roman Catholic Church of corruption, defraud, and giving people a false sense of confidence that they could earn salvation only by donating money/doing good works. The Protestant Reformation sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant reformers aimed to get rid of clerical corruption (like selling indulgences), denied that God had given priests special powers, placed a high value on reading, demanded the Bible be translated from Latin into spoken languages, and condemned the replacement of traditional reciprocity by market place values. 

The Protestant Reformation was significant because it ended the untouchable authority of the Roman Catholic Church and led to the creation of Protestantism, one of the three major branches of Christianity, as well as Protestant Churches. The Protestant Reformation also changed the religious map of much of Europe, allowing northern Europe to obtain new religious and political freedoms, though these freedoms soon led to persecutions, rebellions, and wars (like the Thirty Years’ War). The Protestant Reformation was significant because it eventually caused the Roman Catholic Church to get rid of the corruption and lies that it once thrived off of, it lessened the pope’s overall power, and it allowed ordinary people (like merchants, aristocrats, servants, etc.) to stop brooding over their chances of salvation and instead live a life of faith and duty.

Catholic or Counter-Reformation: The Catholic or Counter-Reformation was a religious movement during the 16th century that reformed the Roman Catholic Church by lessening corruption within the church and encouraging wide public participation in religious ceremonies/observances. The Catholic/Counter-Reformation began as a result of the Protestant Reformation and the accusations being made against the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic/Counter-Reformation was significant because this Catholic revival is what brought the modern Roman Catholic Church into existence. Without the Catholic or Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church would’ve stayed as corrupt and greedy as it once was, leading to many people leaving the church altogether. This means that without the Catholic/Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church might not be around today, or it might not be as popular as it is today.

Church of England/Anglicans: The Church of England/Anglican Church became the official Church/religion of England in 1534, when the king at the time, King Henry Ⅷ, separated from the Catholic Church because the pope refused to dissolve his marriage when his wife was unable to bear him a son. King Henry Ⅷ persuaded Parliament to dissolve his marriage and proclaim him supreme head of the Church of England, which included both Roman Catholic and Protestant ideas. The Church of England/Anglican Church was significant because it added yet another religion to the choices that people in England had, further dividing citizens and pitting people against each other. Also, this added religion toughened the jobs of each ruler that came after King Henry Ⅷ, as they now had to unify the people of England under one religion, which is much harder when there are more to decide from. Finally, because the Church of England/Anglican Church had both Roman Catholic and Protestant ideas, it created different “levels” to Protestantism (Separatists, Puritans, and now Anglicans), which further divided the people of England.

Conversion experience: A conversion experience was the name given to an event that a select few people went through, in which they would confront the horrifying truth of their own unworthiness as well as feel God’s transcending power in a vigorous, distinguished personal experience where God revealed their heavenly destiny. According to Calvinists, God predestined/determined in advance that most sinful humans would go to hell, and God saved only a few of these sinners to demonstrate his power and grace. These people, who then underwent a conversion experience, were called the “elect” or the “godly”. 

Their conversion experience was a saving grace, gifted to them by God. Puritans insisted that in order to be a member of a true Christian church like theirs, people had to have undergone a conversion experience (which is why Puritans repudiated the Catholic and Anglican churches, since members of those religions only had to be baptized). The conversion experience was significant because the belief in it was the first thing that separated Protestants into two categories: Lutherans and Calvinists, which further divided the people of England. From there, more branches of Protestantism were created (like Puritans, Separatists, Anabaptists), though without the idea of a conversion experience, the Protestants may have never been broken up in the first place, meaning all of its branches wouldn’t have been created.

Puritans: Puritans were militant Calvinists that demanded an extensive purification of the Church of England from Catholic abuses. Puritans affirmed salvation by predestination, denied Christ’s presence in the Eucharist (the ceremony commemorating the Last Supper), believed that a learned sermon was the heart of true worship, and insisted that each member of their church had undergone a conversion experience before they were allowed to join. Puritans wished to free each congregation as well as its minister from outside interference by Anglican bishops and encouraged nonclergy members to participate in church affairs. 

Puritans repudiated the Catholic and Anglican Churches, though some Puritans who wanted to reform the Church of England from within declined to break openly with it. Puritans’ self-discipline and moral uprightness appealed to few titled nobility and poor, instead their primary appeal was to the small but growing “middling” ranks of English society. People in these ranks included: landowning gentry, yeoman farmers, merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and university-educated clergymen and intellectuals. Because self-discipline had become central to the secular parts of these people’s lives, they were used to it and gladly welcomed more of it in the spiritual parts of their lives as well. Though Elizabeth Ⅰ once distrusted Puritan militancy, she soon regarded English Catholics as more dangerous and in turn began courting influential Puritans and embracing anti-Catholicism after the pope declared her a heretic and urged Catholics to overthrow her. 

Under Elizabeth Ⅰ most Puritans believed they would eventually transform the Church of England as a whole into independent congregations of “saints”, though Elizabeth Ⅰ’s successor, James Ⅰ, opposed Puritan efforts to eliminate the office of bishop. Puritans were significant because it was people that believed in Puritanism, like farmers, artisans, and clergymen, that would later become the settlers of New England, meaning that without Puritans, Plymouth Colony may have never been established. Puritans were also significant because they helped shape early American society, and without their self-discipline and stern religion, many of the settlers in Plymouth Colony would not have survived during the hard times. Finally, Puritans were significant because they not only laid the foundation for the social, political, and religious order of life in New England, but their beliefs and religion also helped shape the society, culture, religion, and history of America even into the 19th century.

Separatists: Separatists were Puritans who insisted that a “pure” church had to avoid all contact with Anglican “pollution”, so they broke away or separated entirely from the Church of England. Separatists were so revolted by the beliefs and rules of the Anglican Church that they didn’t want to be associated with them even a bit, therefore leading to them advocating total withdrawal from the Anglican Church. Separatists desired the right to worship independently from English authority, so they started their own congregations in the Netherlands (though they didn’t want their children to assimilate into Dutch culture, so they immigrated to America). 

Separatists were significant because they were the main group of settlers (known as Pilgrims) that founded Plymouth Colony (though they’re all considered Puritans because Separatism is a branch of Puritanism) as well as the people that created the first form of self-government with the Mayflower Compact. Without the Separatists’ desire to break away from the Church of England, people would have never thought or had the courage to sail away to the New World, meaning Plymouth Colony along with the first form of self-government wouldn’t have been founded.

“New slavery”: “New slavery” was the term coined to the type of slavery that occurred once the Portuguese began voyaging to West Africa, during the new Atlantic slave trade. This “new slavery” included an unprecedented amount of slaves being shipped from West Africa; nearly 12 million Africans would be shipped across the sea before the Atlanic slave trade ended in the 19th century. Before the Portuguese got involved, the magnitude of this slavery was much smaller. “New slavery” was also linked to the new extremes of dehumanization that the African slaves were put through. Previously, in places where slavery occurred like medieval Europe and West Africa, most slaves had lived in their owners’/masters’ houses and had the task of performing domestic duties like cooking, cleaning, caring for the children, etc. 

Other places that embraced slavery, like Arab lands, had slaves that worked in the fields or did more demanding tasks, though these slaves were still treated like and regarded as humans. “New slavery” was different because it was the first time that Africans were seen and treated as property rather than people of a lower class, in turn leading to slaves living in terrible conditions and being worked until death. This type of slavery boomed when, by 1450, the Portuguese and Spanish had created large slave-labor plantations on their Mediterranean and Atlantic islands. Sugar was produced on these plantations, which were supported by Italian investors who funneled money so that the owners of the plantations could buy more African slaves. 

“New slavery” led to labor that was exhausting, mindless, and incessant, and unfortunately became the new normal of the Atlantic world by 1600. In the era of “new slavery”, instead of goods being traded for other goods, Portuguese merchants would trade slaves to Africans for gold, further demonstrating the “less than human” belief about slaves. “New slavery” was significant because it helped redraw the political map of West Africa as a result of Portugese traders giving some African rulers guns, leading to an increase in conflicts among African communities. In places like Guinea and Senegambia, smaller regional kingdoms were forced to expand in order to “service” the slave trade, causing some rulers to become much richer, which was another effect of “new slavery”. 

Finally, “new slavery” was the first major change that caused race and the color of a person’s skin to be the factors that were weighed when deciding how human or civilized a person was. “New slavery” caused Europeans to dehumanize Africans solely based on their blackness, their religion, and their customs, eventually leading to race being the characteristic that defined a slave. Before the Portuguese began voyaging to West Africa, slaves were people that were indebted to someone or had been captured in a raid/war. After the Portuguese’s expansion, slaves were anyone that was black, and slavery became a lifelong, hereditary, nightmare due to “new slavery”. 

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