Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 January 2000
During the late Tudor and early Stuart age, England's parish ministries were increasingly occupied by energetic Puritan preachers who sought to convert souls and build ‘godly’ communities. Together with ‘godly’ magistrates and lay supporters, these preachers laboured to replace a culture rooted in traditional festivals, ales, dances and games with a culture sustained by frequent sermons, Scripture-reading and a strict observance of the Sabbath. Not everyone, however, heeded the call of the preachers. Many people, in most places probably a significant majority, were unable or unwilling to embrace the Puritan theology of grace and were opposed to Puritans' interference in their lives. Resistance to Puritans surfaced in different forms and degrees, ranging from indifference and passivity to organised demonstrations and protests, to street fighting and violence. Verbal abuse seems to have been common; the preferred term of abuse, ‘Puritan’, remained a potent and wounding accusation in spite of its common currency. From about the 1570s and 80s, when Puritan evangelism emerged as a significant movement in England, to the period of the Civil War, tensions between Puritans and anti-Puritans periodically surfaced in towns and villages across the kingdom, with divisions in communities cutting across class lines.