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During the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth I of England, a small number of people took the doctrines of Puritanism to their logical conclusion and separated themselves from the “impure” national church to form small gathered churches. Though never more than several hundred in numbers, they were hunted down and severely punished by the agents of Elizabeth and James I, as well as being strongly criticized by the Puritan preachers. Famous names connected with this movement were Robert Browne,* John Smyth,* and John Robinson.* Some of these men became martyrs. Separatism, often termed “Brownism,” was illegal until in the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1649-59) it became widespread and acceptable. Under the Clarendon Code* after 1660 it became illegal again.

See also Independency.