The Puritans were a group of people loosely defined through a shared and often zealous adherence to the reformed theological tradition, largely following the work of John Calvin. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Puritan movement took root in specific regional locales throughout Germany, Scotland, the Low Countries, and England. Religious conflict simmered from the 1580s forward and intensified during the reign of Charles I (1625–49) as Puritans repeatedly called for further reform, often through appeals to the early church and antiquity. Religious tension and persecution caused groups of Puritans over the years to leave England in search of new lands and communities.

Given this schismatic beginning, it is perhaps ironic that in the twentieth-century, particularly in the work of Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch, the New England Puritans bore the weight of American origins, standing at the head of a tradition...

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