Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Jeffrey R. Watt

Second Advisor

Caroline Wigginton

Third Advisor

Sheila Skemp

Relational Format



The Church of England in the Virginia colony is an institution which has been much overlooked in historiography. Traditionally, historians have focused upon the weakness of the church, with its lack of a complete hierarchy and dearth of ministers. These weaknesses, combined with some of the more unsavory attitudes and actions of early colonists, have led many scholars to postulate that religion did not play much of a role in the Virginia colony. While the early colonists did struggle, and the church was weak, historians have overlooked the fact that most Virginians were seventeenth-century Englishmen, and inhabited a world that knew no sacred-secular divide. This lack of clear division is reflected in the manner in which Virginians shored up the weaknesses of their church: county courts took the place of ecclesiastical courts, and the governor and congregations filled the role of archbishop. In the end, Virginians created a peculiar hybrid of a church, one in which the Book of ComPrayer was taught and reverenced, but also one in which the vestries chose the ministers for individual congregations. This congregational Anglicanism proved strength to Virginia's Church of England when civil war struck England and the church was outlawed. Virginia's church was able to continue to function because, as long as individual congregations were pleased with their ministers, that minister's job was secure, whatever theological differences he may have had with those in power. The restoration in Virginia took only three years, too, because its church had never ceased to function. The colony's religious weakness became its strength.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.