The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Pennsylvania


A History of the Commonwealth Edited by Randall M. Miller and William A. Pencak
  • Copyright: 2002
  • Dimensions: 9 x 10.25
  • Page Count: 712 pages
  • Illustrations: 36 color/435 b&w illustrations/
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-02213-0
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-02214-7
  • Series Name: Keystone Books®
  • Co-publisher: Co-published with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Paperback Edition: $47.95
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“From Quaker rule to the devestating decline of the steel industry, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth chronicles political, cultural, and economic developments that have shaped the Keystone State. Edited by Saint Joseph’s University history professor Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, a historian at Pennsylvania State University, this lucid and comprehensive history includes contributions from archivists, historians and other academics on such subjects as the state’s role in the Underground Railroad and the folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The first part of the handsomely illustrated volume is a straightforward chronological history, while the second is divided into thematic chapters on such subjects as the geography, archaeology and literature of the state.”
“This book is not like any other history of Pennsylvania you have ever seen. This is an engagingly-written, profusely-illustrated presentation of the latest academic thinking about the history of the Keystone State, as viewed within the expanded perspective of the nation’s history.”
“A new history that inspires readers to uncover their own stories. With suggested readings and a bibliography, this thoroughly enjoyable work will appeal to both lay readers and specialists. Highly recommended for area academic, public and high school libraries.”
“No need to wonder when you’ll have time to plow through the book . . . Each chapter makes for a satisfying read in itself.”
“Nearly a decade in the making, this weighty tome is one for which historians—avocational and professional—have been waiting! Essays by contributors representing various disciplines and fields make Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth well worth the wait.”
Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth is literate and informative, but it is not a dry encyclopedia. It is readable, reader-friendly and worth reading, whether from start to finish (a great snowy day adventure) or by randomly selecting chapters. In other words, it’s meant to educate, enlighten and entertain today’s people (to whom it’s dedicated) because it’s about yesterday’s people from whence we came.”
“Pennsylvania offers a rich array of people and events to consider. It is quite simply a magnificent book, worthy of the Keystone State’s past and of vital importance to its future. In its pages, the quiet, industrious heroes and heroines of Pennsylvania—who did indeed make William Penn’s colony ‘the seed of a nation’—come alive once more. . . . Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth combines a innovative format, perceptive scholarship, and a compelling literary style.”
“The editors, authors and publishers are to be congratulated for producing such a challenging and handsome product. This volume should find a home in schools, colleges, universities and public libraries. It could be useful to the scholar and layperson alike. Miller and Pencak have performed a signal service to anyone who wants a starting place to learn about Pennsylvania.”
“The editors have chosen a way to present ourselves to ourselves and do it painlessly. If you are worried about being pummeled with names and dates, rest assured there’s more to Pennsylvania than that, as the parade of pages proves.”
“Edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth combines an innovative format, perceptive scholarship, and a compelling literary style.”
“This comprehensive history of Pennsylvania is truly the new social history.

Essential for students and educators, anyone interested in understanding the community where they live will enjoy this book.”
“This fresh, interpretive history is highly recommended for its attention paid to the people of Pennsylvania and the process of historical inquiry and methodology. The book compels reassessment of one’s understanding of Pennsylvania history.”
“Edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, the book is a user-friendly, in-depth look at the significant people, places, institutions and events in the state’s history.”
Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth provides the first definitive history of the Keystone state in nearly 30 years.”
“This fresh, interpretive history is highly recommended for it’s attention paid to the people of Pennsylvania and the process of historical inquiry and methodology.”
“Fresh perspectives for the Keystone State for a modern account of Pennsylvania’s past.”

The Keystone State, so nicknamed because it was geographically situated in the middle of the thirteen original colonies and played a crucial role in the founding of the United States, has remained at the heart of American history. Created partly as a safe haven for people from all walks of life, Pennsylvania is today the home of diverse cultures, religions, ethnic groups, social classes, and occupations. Many ideas, institutions, and interests that were first formed or tested in Pennsylvania spread across America and beyond, and continue to inform American culture, society, and politics. This book tells that story—and more. It recenters Pennsylvania in the American historical narrative.

Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth offers fresh perspectives on the Keystone State from a distinguished array of scholars who view the history of this Commonwealth critically and honestly, using the latest and best scholarship to give a modern account of Pennsylvania's past. They do so by emphasizing the evolution of Pennsylvania as a place and an idea. The book, the first comprehensive history of Pennsylvania in almost three decades, sets the Pennsylvania story in the larger context of national social, cultural, economic, and political development. Without sacrificing treatment of the influential leaders who made Pennsylvania history, the book focuses especially on the lives of everyday people over the centuries. It also magnifies historical events by examining the experiences of local communities throughout the state.

Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth is divided into two parts. Part I offers a narrative history of the Commonwealth, paying special attention to the peopling process (the movement of people into, around, and out from the state); the ways people defined and defended communities; the forms of economic production; the means of transportation and communication; the character, content, and consequences of people's values; and the political cultures that emerged from the kinds of society, economy, and culture each period formed and sustained. Part II offers a series of "Ways to Pennsylvania's Past"nine concise guides designed to enable readers to discover Pennsylvania's heritage for themselves. Geography, architecture, archaeology, folklore and folklife, genealogy, photography, art, oral history, and literature are all discussed as methods of uncovering and understanding the past. Each chapter is especially attuned to Pennsylvania's place in the larger American context, and a Foreword, Introduction, and Epilogue to Part I explore general themes throughout the state's history. An important feature of the book is the large selection of illustrations—more than 400 prints, maps, photographs, and paintings carefully chosen from repositories across the state and beyond, to show how Pennsylvanians have lived, worked, and played through the centuries. This book is the result of a unique collaboration between Penn State Press and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Together they gathered scholars from all over the Commonwealth to envision a new history of the Keystone State and commit their resources to make imagining and writing a new history possible.

Randall M. Miller is William Dirk Warren '50 Sesquicentennial Chair and Professor of History at Saint Joseph's University and President of the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

William Pencak is Professor of History at the Pennsylvania State University and Editor of Pennsylvania History, the journal of the Pennsylvania Historical Association.


Foreword by Brent D. Glass


Introduction: Why Should We Care About Pennsylvania History?

Part I: The History

1. The First Pennsylvanians

Daniel K. Richter

2. Encounter and Experiment: The Colonial Period

Susan E. Klepp

3. The Promise of Revolution: 1750–1800

William Pencak

4. Building Democratic Communities: 1800–1850

Emma Lapsansky

5. Civil Wars: 1850–1900

Walter Licht

6 Reforming the Commonwealth: 1900–1950

David R. Contosta

7 The Postindustrial Age: 1950–2000

Philip Jenkins

Epilogue: The Making and Unmaking of the Pennsylvanian Empire

Michael Zuckerman

Part II: Ways to Pennsylvania’s Past

8. Geography

Wilbur Zelinsky

9. Architecture

Richard J. Webster

10. Archaeology

Verna L. Cowin

11. Folklore and Folklife

Simon J. Bronner

12. Genealogy

James M. Beidler

13. Photography

Linda Ries

14. Art

Randall M. Miller and William Pencak

15. Oral History

Linda Shopes

16. Literature

David Demarest

Appendix: Popular Vote for Governor of Pennsylvania, 1633–1998

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