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English in America

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Jantz Snedeker

Matthew Greider

History of the U.S.

2 September 2015

English in America

Many people question the foundation of the English’s decision to move to America. During the 16th and 17th century in England, approximately half of the population lived in poverty. During the same period, England was persecuting anyone opposing the countries chosen religious party. Once the new world was discovered, English colonies sprung up all over America, providing a safe haven, a new lease on life, and many new opportunities to the afflicted English society.

During the sixteenth century, England’s population grew from 3 million to 4 million within a 50 year span. Landlords sought out profits by raising sheep for increasing trade of wool. Farmers and landlords started fencing in their land and evicted many small farmers form their fields to make room for their sheep pastures. Loosing this valuable farm ground drove the price of food up and made life in Europe very hard. This known as the “enclosure” movement, which drove thousands of people into cities looking for work. In return, wages dropped and half of the English society fell at or below the poverty level.  

England also was heavily involved in religious persecution which brought forth many battles against foreign countries and unhappy subjects at home. England went back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism, and executed many followers from both parties. With little religious toleration in England, other religious were driven out or into secrecy.

During the 16th century, English nations believed in the philosophy known as mercantilism. As a result, the English started as many colonies as possible and most of them were business endeavors Commercial trade thrived and lumber, animal hides, and especially tobacco became the largest exports of America. Thriving trade companies, such as the London Virginia Company and Massachusetts Bay Company, provided jobs, money, and most of all a new start for the excess English population. With the state of English life declining, immigrating to the new world was a gamble that half a million people were willing to take.

Traveling to the new world wasn’t a difficult task either.  As long as an individual had money to pay for the voyage, or was willing to work a few years as an indentured servant, America was just a boat ride away. A non-indentured servant could then buy land and enjoy liberties such as voting and control over their own labor. An indentured servant would have around the same liberties as a slave, but they would have a home, a job, and be given a small payment “freedom dues” after their service.

English life in the 16th and 17th century was poverty stricken and full of persecution. Discovering the new world gave Europeans hope for finding jobs, escaping religious persecution, and a new start for common people and criminals alike. It provided an abundance of new resources and opened many doors into the trade market. There were also ways for people of every class to move to the new world. It’s no wonder the English took the risk of making the long journey.

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