Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America

Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America

Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America

Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America

Synopsis

American historians have long been fascinated by the "peopling" of North America in the seventeenth century. Who were the immigrants, and how and why did they make their way across the ocean? Most of the attention, however, has been devoted to British immigrants who came as free people or as indentured servants (primarily to New England and the Chesapeake) and to Africans who were forced to come as slaves. Trade in Strangers focuses on the eighteenth century, when new immigrants began to flood the colonies at an unprecedented rate. Most of these immigrants were German and Irish, and they were coming primarily to the middle colonies via an increasingly sophisticated form of transport.

Excerpt

Research for this book began quite a while ago when interest in the patterns of cultural adaptation and persistence among German-speaking settlers in colonial Pennsylvania brought me to Philadelphia. For exploring the circumstances that shaped the "Americanization" of German immigrants in the New World, it soon became apparent that determining the flow and character of such migration to the American colonies was crucial in delineating the necessary framework for understanding how strangers adjusted to life in "the best poor man's country." This study of the characteristics of the colonial German migration and its Irish counterpart made it clear how important it was to assess the impact that the trade in immigrants had on the numbers, types, and experiences of its passengers. Unlike earlier flows of English and Irish colonists and servants, and also unlike the slave trade, the German trade in immigrants established a model for the mass migrations of free persons that have done so much to fashion the nature of America.

Expanding the story this way took longer than planned because of other opportunities that opened up for surviving a tight academic job market and for growing intellectually and professionally. One year as associate editor of The Papers of William Penn stretched into four. Directing the Biographical Dictionary of Pennsylvania Legislators consumed energy and resources well beyond the initial phase of getting started and achieving recognition. Most recently, the challenges of teaching at the urban campus of Indiana University in Indianapolis have been both demanding and reward-

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