In a recent study, David Cressy examines two central questions concerning English immigration to New England in the 1630’s: what kinds of people immigrated and why? Using contemporary literary evidence, shipping lists, and customs records, Cressy finds that most adult immigrants were skilled in farming or crafts, were literate, and were organized in families. Each of these characteristics sharply distinguishes the 21,000 people who left for New England in the 1630’s from most of the approximately 377,000 English people who had immigrating to America by 1700. With respect to their reasons for immigrating, Cressy does not deny the frequently noted fact that some of the immigrants of the 1630’s, most notably the organizers and clergy, advanced religious explanations for departure, but he finds that such explanations usually assumed primacy only in retrospect. When he moves beyond the principal actors, he finds that religious explanations were less frequently offered and he concludes that most people immigrated because they were recruited by promises of material improvement.
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