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English Culture In The Colonies Essay

1539 words - 7 pages

At the start of the 17th century, England was ruled almost entirely by gentlemen – those who could live everyday life without an ounce of manual labor. Even Englishmen who were not extremely poor, such as merchants or small land-owners, had little influence on politics. Due to primogeniture laws, younger sons could not inherit any land from their fathers. The New World was their solution, their hope to building their fortune. As these Englishmen, rich or poor, traveled to the colonies across the Atlantic, they brought with them English culture. The colonies in New England, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies all attracted Englishmen and therefore aspects of English culture. However, the ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, the gentlemen played an important role in establishing English culture in the New World when they emigrated there. Where they chose to emigrate to was also important. The wealthy, noble Englishmen often chose to settle in New England, as did the older men of England. “Those who went to New England edged toward middle age – many, if not most, were in their thirties or early forties. Age made them all the more determined to preserve a way of life known back home… gentlemen, unlike elsewhere, led the great migration into New England.” (16) Hawke writes that the middle-aged gentlemen were more inclined to keep life as it was back in England than others, and that they mostly migrated to the colonies of New England, bringing with them English culture and a desire to maintain their English way of life. The middle colonies’ populations, however, consisted largely of Dutch, Swedish, German, Scottish, and Irish immigrants. These different groups all brought along with them their respective and very different cultures, preventing the establishment of a true English way of life in the middle colonies. The formation of an English way of life in the south was made unlikely due to the nature of the immigrants. A large portion of all immigrants to the Chesapeake region was made up of indentured servants. “In the Chesapeake… above 40 percent.” These indentured servants had no interest in bringing with them an English way of life – their sole purpose in signing several years of their lives to labor in the New World was to escape from the widespread poverty in England. From this it can be concluded that the settlers of New England had the greatest interest in retaining English culture.
Education was also an important matter in the establishment of culture in the New World. In England, education was becoming increasingly valued through the 17th century. “Superstition, coupled with a belief in witchcraft and astrology, flourished, but so, too, did a respect for education. Over nine hundred grammar schools existed in England in 1640, one for virtually every large town and most of the smaller ones; they were free to the poor.” (7) It is clear that the wealthy noblemen who controlled England valued education greatly; they saw it so important as to offer it for free to the poor. This strong value of education transferred over to colonies of New England. “Massachusetts Bay twice, in 1641 and 1647, tried to force its towns to erect and subsidize schools for all.” (69) This shows us that the local officials of Massachusetts strongly valued education to the point where they attempted to force towns to build schools. Education was a very important issue in the middle colonies as well. “The Dutch in New York tied church and education so tightly together that they created what came to be called the parochial school.” However, as those colonies, such as New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, contained vast numbers of immigrants from the Netherlands, Germany, and...

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