HIS 350L • Pluralism in Early America-W
The enduring notion that cultural pluralism in America was fundamentally a 19th-century phenomenon is belied by the social and cultural reality experienced by the heterogeneous, often non-English inhabitants of the Long Island Sound region as well as the Hudson and Delaware River Valleys--that is, the vast, wealthy and heavily populated area known collectively in the colonial period as the "middle colonies." Literally in the geographical "middle" between the more homogeneously (and far better studied) English (as well as native and African) New England and Southern colonies, the middle colonies have suffered enormous neglect by historians of colonial America who have habitually dichotomized the colonial experience in broad terms that assert a heavily reductive, binary opposition between Puritan/Yankee New England and the slave/staple producing/plantation societies of the Chesapeake, lower south, and Caribbean. The middle colonies have, on the other hand, been traditionally characterized as somehow out of the mainstream because they didn't fit into this binary model. Instead, this region has been trivialized as "chaotic," "factitious," "wholly materialistic" (and therefore devoid of a spiritual history worth studying) and "confused." But was this "confusion" the experience of the colonists themselves or of their would be historians?
The goal of this reading and research seminar is to bring this neglected region of colonial America into sharp focus; to study the social, cultural, economic and religious meanings of "multiculturalism" in early America as lived and experienced in the middle colonies.