Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania

Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania

Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania

Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania

Synopsis

In its early years, William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom was anything but. Pennsylvania's governing institutions were faced with daunting challenges: Native Americans proved far less docile than Penn had hoped, the colony's non-English settlers were loath to accept Quaker authority, and Friends themselves were divided by grievous factional struggles. Yet out of this chaos emerged a colony hailed by contemporary and modern observers alike as the most liberal, tolerant, and harmonious in British America. In Friends and Strangers, John Smolenski argues that Pennsylvania's early history can best be understood through the lens of creolization-the process by which Old World habits, values, and practices were transformed in a New World setting. Unable simply to transplant English political and legal traditions across the Atlantic, Quaker leaders gradually forged a creole civic culture that secured Quaker authority in an increasingly diverse colony.

Excerpt

The term “creole” has a convoluted, even checkered, genealogy. It originated in sixteenth-century Latin America, where Portuguese and Spanish writers used the terms crioulo and criollo respectively to refer to individuals born in the Americas. Its meaning evolved over time. in Portuguese, the term was overwhelmingly applied to individuals of African descent, while in Spanish, it connoted European ancestry. Nonetheless, it remained in constant use throughout the colonial period and beyond. Its English language history has taken a somewhat different path, having entered the vernacular in the early seventeenth century to describe Americans of Spanish descent. Later in the colonial period, it came to be used in reference to settlers of English descent born in the Caribbean and peoples of African descent born throughout the English colonies. in modern parlance, it has come to signify the peoples, language, and culture native to French Louisiana (though there has been considerable debate as to whether “creole” should refer to those of purely French or Spanish ancestry or those of racially mixed descent). Despite this complex etymology, one thing is clear: the word has, from the colonial period to the present, carried exotic connotations, used to describe cultural, linguistic, or racial migrants to the Americas, though never peoples of European descent in mainland colonial British America.

But what of those people who migrated to North America from England? Did they not also create creole cultures in the New World? This book examines the growth of a creole culture among one particular migrant group, the Quakers, in one particular colony, Pennsylvania. My use of “creole” and “creolization” to describe the cultural development of Quaker Pennsylvania will likely seem unfamiliar to students of American history, as scholars have . . .

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