Cover image for Foreigners in Their Own Land: Pennsylvania Germans in the Early Republic By Steven M. Nolt

Foreigners in Their Own Land

Pennsylvania Germans in the Early Republic

Steven M. Nolt

BUY

$30.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03444-7

248 pages
6" × 9"
14 b&w illustrations/5 maps
2002
Co-published with the Pennsylvania German Society

Pennsylvania German History and Culture

Foreigners in Their Own Land

Pennsylvania Germans in the Early Republic

Steven M. Nolt

“Nolt provides the first truly comprehensive study of the largest non-English-speaking white ethnic group in the early United States. He is the first to trace developments among the German Lutherans and Reformed from the 1780s to the 1850s, and he has explored many little-known unpublished and published materials by largely forgotten writers. Foreigners in Their Own Land is full of historical detail that should be new even to most specialists in the field.”

 

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Historians of the early Republic are just beginning to tell the stories of the period’s ethnic minorities. In Foreigners in Their Own Land, Steven M. Nolt is the first to add the story of the Pennsylvania Germans to that larger mosaic, showing how they came to think of themselves as quintessential Americans and simultaneously constructed a durable sense of ethnicity. The Lutheran and Reformed Pennsylvania German populations of eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the Appalachian backcountry successfully combined elements of their Old World tradition with several emerging versions of national identity. Many took up democratic populist rhetoric to defend local cultural particularity and ethnic separatism. Others wedded certain American notions of reform and national purpose to Continental traditions of clerical authority and idealized German virtues. Their experience illustrates how creating and defending an ethnic identity can itself be a way of becoming American. Though they would maintain a remarkably stable and identifiable subculture well into the twentieth century, Pennsylvania Germans were, even by the eve of the Civil War, the most "inside" of "outsiders." They represent the complex and often paradoxical ways in which many Americans have managed the process of assimilation to their own advantage. Given their pioneering role in that process, their story illuminates the path that other immigrants and ethnic Americans would travel in the decades to follow.
“Nolt provides the first truly comprehensive study of the largest non-English-speaking white ethnic group in the early United States. He is the first to trace developments among the German Lutherans and Reformed from the 1780s to the 1850s, and he has explored many little-known unpublished and published materials by largely forgotten writers. Foreigners in Their Own Land is full of historical detail that should be new even to most specialists in the field.”
“Nolt traces the acculturation process among German Lutherans and Reformed in great detail. This is a scholar’s book, so the author notes and bibliography consume half as much space as the text. Still, the book is highly readable.”
“This regional study of German immigrants comprising the old Lutheran and Reformed groups who migrated to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the Appalachian back country during the mid-eighteenth century is well researched and thoroughly documented.”
“This judicious assessment of the transformation of Pennsylvania German culture from 1790 to 1850 fills a major historiographical gap. Steven M. Nolt convincingly integrates sweeping themes of national, religious, and ethnic identity with clear analyses that remain close to his evidence.

Given the importance of American pluralism, this book deserves a large audience, especially due to its concise and synthetic style.”
“It is well written, accessible, tightly organized, and thoroughly rooted in the primary sources as well as the relevant historiography of early modern Germany, colonial America, new republic, and American church and religion. It provides a fascinating, insightful portrait of German Americans during the period of the new republic.”
“This aside, I recommend the book as a clear, well-written, and carefully edited work that adds a wealth of fascinating information to the expanding mosaic of ethnic histories in America.”
“In the end, Foreigners in Their Own Land is convincing, well-researched, and elegantly written.”

Steven M. Nolt is Assistant Professor of History at Goshen College. He is co-author of Through Fire and Water: An Overview of Mennonite History (1996), with Harry Loewen, and of Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits (1995), with Donald B. Kraybill.

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