How did the Protestant Reformation shape the course of European expansion in the Americas?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the Protestant Reformation in Europe, long held religious beliefs were challenged.  The Catholic Church had been strong and influential for many centuries.  The strength of the Catholic Church was challenged in the 16th century.

The Church of England was officially established in Britain in 1534.  In other parts of Europe, men such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin became leaders in the Protestant Reformation.  Their messages helped spread this new form of Christianity.

The timeframe of these changes in European Christianity coincided with European exploration and settlement in North America.  A group of separatists called the Pilgrims established a colony in Massachusetts.  Soon other Christian groups, such as Quakers, Huguenots, and Anabaptists came to the New World.  The New World became a symbol of religious freedom to some.  It was a wilderness waiting to be molded and shaped.

Puritans in England began to have conflicts with the Church of England leadership.  They wanted to conduct their congregations in their own ways, which were different than the way of the Church of England.  Many Puritans decided to relocate to New England, where they would have more religious freedom.  New England became a Puritan stronghold for many years.