Puritanism in this sense was founded as an activist movement within the Church of England. The founders,
clergy exiled under Mary I, returned to England shortly after the accession of
Elizabeth I of England in 1558.
Puritanism played a significant role in English history during the first half of the 17th century. One of the most effective stokers of anti-Catholic feeling was
John Pym, whose movement succeeded in taking control of the government of London at the time of the
Grand Remonstrance of 1641.
Puritans were blocked from changing the established church from within and were severely restricted in England by laws controlling the practice of religion. Their beliefs, however, were transported by the emigration of congregations to the
Netherlands, and later to
New England in North America, and by evangelical clergy to
Ireland (and later to
Wales), and were spread into lay society and parts of the educational system, particularly certain colleges of the
University of Cambridge. They took on distinctive beliefs about clerical dress and in opposition to the
episcopal system, particularly after the 1619 conclusions of the
Synod of Dort were resisted by the English bishops. They largely adopted
Sabbatarianism in the 17th century, and were influenced by
The Puritans were in alliance with the growing commercial world, with the parliamentary opposition to the
royal prerogative, and with the
Scottish Presbyterians in the late 1630s with whom they had much in common. Consequently, they became a major political force in England and came to power as a result of the
First English Civil War (1642–46). Almost all Puritan clergy left the Church of England after the
Restoration of 1660 and the
1662 Uniformity Act, with many continuing to practice their faith in nonconformist denominations, especially in
Congregationalist, as well as in
 The nature of the movement in England changed radically, although it retained its character for a much longer period in
Puritans by definition were dissatisfied with the limited extent of the
English Reformation and with the Church of England's tolerance of practices which they associated with the
Catholic Church. They formed and identified with various religious groups advocating greater purity of
doctrine, as well as personal and group
piety. Puritans adopted a
Reformed theology and, in that sense, were Calvinists (as were many of their earlier opponents), but they also took note of radical criticisms of
Zwingli in Zurich and
Calvin in Geneva. In church polity, some advocated separation from all other established Christian denominations in favour of autonomous
gathered churches. These separatist and
independent strands of Puritanism became prominent in the 1640s, when the supporters of a
Presbyterian polity in the
Westminster Assembly were unable to forge a new English national church.
The Puritans were never a formally defined sect or religious division within Protestantism, and the term "Puritan" itself was rarely used to describe people after the turn of the 18th century. Some Puritan ideals became incorporated into the Church of England, such as the formal rejection of Roman Catholicism; some were absorbed into the many Protestant denominations that emerged in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in the Americas and Britain. The
Congregationalist Churches, widely considered to be a part of the
Reformed tradition, are descended from the Puritans.
 Moreover, Puritan beliefs are enshrined in the
Savoy Declaration, the
confession of faith held by the Congregationalist Churches, which they originated.