History 12 Reading Guide

Millennialists and Radical German Pietists:  The Rappites of Harmony and the Separatists of Zoar

  • Karl J.R. Arndt, "George Rapp's Harmony Society," in Pitzer, America's Communal Utopias, 57-87.
  • Charles Nordhoff, "The Harmonists of Economy" and "The Separatists of Zoar," American Utopias, 63-113.

Questions:

  • How does Arndt use the concept of "developmental communalism" to present his analysis of the Rappite communal society and the three sequential Rappite communities in the United States?
  • According to Arndt, what kind of leader was Father Rapp? What was the source of his appeal for the faithful?  What aspects of his leadership led to dissention among other members of the society?
  • Contrast Arndt's account with Nordhoff's account of the Rappites:  how do you account for the similarities and the differences in their focuses and their interpretations?
  • From Charles Nordhoff's accounts, what can we learn about the perspectives of both insiders and outsiders in 1874?
  • What "sources" did Nordhoff use? How did he attribute these?
  • How does his account of Harmony compare with his account of Zoar?  Why?
  • Consider these early nineteenth century communities as a continuation of the German Pietistic impulse of the pre-Revolutionary era.  What generalizations can we begin to make about the German Pietistic (millenarian, mysticism) impulse?
  • What ideals and methods of establishing communal societies did these communal societies share?
  • By what measures were the Harmony Rappites and the Zoar Separatists "successful"?