History 231 Reading Guide

The Mid-Atlantic Colonies in the Late Seventeenth Century:  New Jersey and Pennsylvania

  • Evan Haefeli, "The Pennsylvania Difference:  Religious Diversity on the Delaware before 1683," Early American Studies:  An Interdisciplinary Journal 1.1 (Spring 2003). JSTOR


  • In our reading of Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World, we developed some familiarity with the seventeenth-century colonies and cultures on the Delaware River, and with the nature of religious “tolerance” in the North American mid-Atlantic.
  • How does Evan Haefeli describe and characterize the experiments, experiences, and the extent of religious toleration in each of the colonies and settlements of the Delaware River Valley (and to some extent the Hudson Valley) prior to William Penn’s settlement of Pennsylvania in the early 1680s? 
  • How does he characterize the role and religious goals of each of the established Churches and of the civil magistrates in those colonies?
  • What argument does he make about the consequences of disestablishment for those colonies as the English gained authority and control over each colony?
  • What is “the Pennsylvania difference”?

Further reading:

  • Donna Merwick, “Dutch Townsmen and Land Use:  A Spatial Perspective on Seventeenth-Century New York,” WMQ 3rd ser. 37.1 (1980): 53-78.  JSTOR
  • Ned C. Landsman, "Roots, Routes, and Rootedness:  Diversity, Migration, and Toleration in Mid-Atlantic Pluralism," Early American Studies:  An Interdisciplinary Journal 2.2 (Fall 2004), 269-309.  Project Muse or EBSCOhost

In her study of Albany, New York, Merwick notes that, in contrast to many of the early New England “towns” which actually were rural villages, the Dutch of Albany intended to create a town—“a spatially compact domestic and occupational locale” (53).

  • By what means and methods, for what purpose, and with what vision did Kiliaen van Rensselaer (and his heirs) establish his patroonship on the Hudson in 1629? How did the village around the fort develop?
  • What kind of communal institutions and organization did Peter Stuyvesant envision when he established Albany and the fur-trading center of Beverswijk in 1652 under the Dutch West India company?  How did Dutch expectations about landownership and community shape the continuing evolution of the town?
  • How did the town change in the years after it came under English rule?  In what ways did it become more English?  In what ways did it continue to reflect its Dutch roots?