Growth of the English Colonies, Religion
Chesapeake colonies, congregationalism, African religions, middle colonies, Great Awakening
British North America in the 18th century was a religiously and ethnically diverse string of settlements. New England’s population was overwhelmingly English, descended from the Great Migration of the 1630s. New England had a reputation for poor land and intolerance of outsiders, and immigrants avoided the region. New Englanders continued to practice congregationalism, although by the 18th century they seldom thought of themselves as the spearhead of the Reformation. A wave of revivals known as the Great Awakening swept New England beginning in the 1720s, dividing churchgoers into New Light (evangelical Calvinists) and Old Light (more moderate) wings. An increasing minority were calling themselves Baptists.
Nearly all Europeans in these colonies were Protestants, but individual denominations were very different. There were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Dutch Reformed, Mennonites, and Quakers. While the Church of England was the established church (the official, government–supported church) in the Chesapeake colonies, German and Scottish non-Anglicans were migrating south from the middle colonies, and Baptists were making their first southern converts. Although most Chesapeake slaves were American–born by the late 18th century, they practiced what they remembered of African religions, while some became Christians in 18th-century revivals.
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