Puritans and the Massachusetts Bay Colony

In 1630, about ten years after the Pilgrims traveled to the New World, a group of people called the Puritans made their own voyage from England. The Puritans believed that the Church of England needed to be purified and that it embraced too many Catholic beliefs. Rather than try to change the church in England, they traveled to find a place where they could set up their own church and run it their own way. Led by a man named John Winthrop, the Puritans settled near what would become Boston. They called it the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Student Activities for Massachusetts Bay Colony

Essential Questions for The Puritans and Massachusetts Bay Colony

  1. Who were the Puritans and what were their beliefs?
  2. Why did the Puritans come to New England/Massachusetts?
  3. What was life like in the Massachusetts Bay Colony?

The Puritans and Massachusetts Bay Colony

During the 1620s and 1630s, the Catholic archbishop wiped out Puritanism in England. In 1630, approximately 1,000 Puritans came to the New World in search of a place to set up a church that was pure and free of Catholic beliefs and centered around the Protestant belief system. They traveled on 11 ships and were led by John Winthrop, who served as the governor of the new colony called the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Puritans had a very strict belief system. For example, they believed that priests should not be the only ones to study and know the Bible, and instead all Puritans should spend Sundays only reading the scriptures and thinking about God. They also believed that Puritans were far better than anyone else and are the only people who have any hope of going to Heaven. If anyone acted outside of these beliefs, they were controlled by the devil.

The Puritans believed that everything should be plain. Women wore long, loose dresses, a long woolen or linen gown, and then an apron over all of that. They always wore their hair up tightly with a coif (a fabric hat) to cover it, and long woolen socks. The men’s clothing was made of linen or wool, and was typically white, brown, or black. They wore loose shirts, pants that only reached their knees, and a sleeveless jacket. They also wore wide brimmed hats and leather shoes. Children began dressing as adults by the age of 7.

After the initial settlers arrived, many more people came to the New World over the next ten years; this is often referred to as the Great Migration. During this time, around 20,000 Puritans moved to New England from England, and the population grew immensely. Since the Puritan rules were so strict, if people disagreed or broke those rules they were forced to leave the colony. Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, Rhode Island, was one of these people. A very famous historical example of people disobeying the Puritan way of life is the Salem Witch Trials in 1693.

The Puritans’ arrival in Massachusetts is a rich part of American and Massachusetts history. The following activities will help students understand the background of how Massachusetts became a colony, how its first settlers lived, and what they believed.

How to Teach Massachusetts Bay Colony with Maps


Introduction to Maps and the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Begin by introducing the concept of maps and their importance in understanding historical geography. Emphasize that maps can provide valuable insights into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Provide an overview of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, its founding, and its historical significance.


Types of Maps and Their Uses

Explain the different types of maps, such as political maps, topographic maps, and historical maps. Discuss their purposes and when they are most useful. Show examples of historical maps of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to illustrate how maps change over time and reflect historical events.


Interactive Mapping Activity

Engage students in an interactive mapping activity. You can use physical maps or digital mapping tools like Google Maps, historical map overlays, or GIS software. Ask students to identify and mark significant locations related to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, such as Salem, Boston, Plymouth, and key river.


Analyzing and Discussing Maps

Instruct students to analyze the maps they've created or explored. Encourage them to discuss the spatial relationships, geographical features, and the significance of the marked locations. Facilitate a class discussion about how maps can help us understand the geography and development of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Create a Map-based Project

As an extension, you can assign students a map-based project. For example, they could create a map illustrating a specific aspect of the colony's history, such as trade routes or settlements.


Map Comparison and Contrast

If time allows, have students compare historical maps of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from different time periods. Discuss how changes in the maps reflect historical events and developments.

Frequently Asked Questions about Massachusetts Bay Colony

In what ways can storyboards illustrate the differences in governance and objectives between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony?

Storyboards can effectively illustrate the differences in governance and objectives between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony by visually representing key aspects of each. For the Massachusetts Bay Colony, storyboards can show scenes of religious leaders and community members in prayer and governance meetings, highlighting the theocratic governance system and the religious motivations behind the colony. In contrast, for the Plymouth Colony, storyboards can depict scenes of democratic town meetings and interactions with Native Americans, emphasizing self-governance and a focus on trade and cooperation.

What types of worksheets are most effective for teaching students about the specific economic activities and industries that sustained the Massachusetts Bay Colony?

Worksheets that are most effective for teaching students about the specific economic activities and industries that sustained the Massachusetts Bay Colony include trade maps, economic charts, and role-play scenarios. Trade maps can help students understand the colony's trade networks and the goods they exchanged. Economic charts can illustrate the main economic activities, such as agriculture, fishing, and trade, and the goods produced. Role-play scenarios can engage students in acting out economic transactions, highlighting the importance of commerce in the colony's sustenance.

What hands-on projects or activities can be integrated with worksheets to create a holistic learning experience when teaching about the Massachusetts Bay Colony?

To create a holistic learning experience, worksheets can be integrated with hands-on projects and activities. For the Massachusetts Bay Colony, students can participate in mock town meetings, replicating the democratic decision-making process. They can also engage in historical simulations of trade agreements and colonial commerce, enabling a deeper understanding of economic activities. Additionally, students can create visual displays or dioramas of key moments in the colony's history, enhancing their comprehension and making the learning experience more immersive.

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