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New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty (Early American Studies) Hardcover – 6 Apr 2012


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"Through an examination of the too-often neglected Dutch colony of New Netherland that places its subject firmly in the Atlantic context, Evan Haefeli makes vital contributions both to colonial American history and to American religious history writ large."-Francis Bremer, author of John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father "Evan Haefeli has written an original and quite provocative study of the alleged Dutch origins of religious toleration as a truly American value. The book eschews oversimplified revaluation and presents a nuanced picture of the colony's religious history. Of particular value is the author's familiarity with the literature in Dutch, quite rare even among American historians of New Netherland."-Willem Frijhoff, VU University Amsterdam

About the Author

Evan Haefeli teaches history at Columbia University.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Overturns the myth of Dutch tolerance 22 Aug. 2012
By John M. Kleeberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This important book risks having its light hid under a bushel: First, the title is misleading (the author proves that the Dutch had nothing to do with the origins of American religious liberty); second, although the author's thesis is innovative, well-argued, and well-documented, he pulls his punches when he criticizes scholars who have assumed the opposite; and third, the book runs the risk of being categorized as "History of Religion/History of Churches," which is something no one reads, instead of American history of the colonial period (Columbia's libraries, unfortunately, have assigned their copy to the theological seminary). The author's basic point is that the Dutch granted "freedom of conscience," which meant that people could think what they liked, so long as they kept to themselves. However, when Lutherans wished to use their own rite to baptize children; when Catholics wanted to hold processions; when Quakers wanted to engage in public disputes with Calvinists; or when Jews wanted to build synagogues, they all faced persecution, often quite severe persecution. Amsterdam, back in Holland, ended up being a tolerant city, but Amsterdam was atypical; Nieuw Amsterdam and the rest of the New Netherland colony were more characteristic of the rural Netherlands in its insistence on an official Reformed Church and its intolerance. A great virtue of the book is that it is not confined to New Netherland alone, but contrasts the situation in Dutch colonies in Brazil and Indonesia and Taiwan, plus helpful, contrasting cases in continental Europe (notably Danish tolerance in the town of Glueckstadt). The author also explicates the various religious differences and schisms with great clarity. The book is handsomely printed and fully sewn in signatures, with an attractive jacket and excellent maps. Quibbles: Glueckstadt is spelt without an umlaut (I am using an "e" here, because I don't know how the diacritics work in this program); there are many typos among the titles of the German books in the bibliography (although the Dutch is immaculate - indeed the author's command of that language is one of the virtues of the book); the author several times refers to the ruler of Brandenburg, but never calls him by his proper title (Elector) and also refers to a prince of Brunswick. There were several Brunswick duchies (not principalities) - it would be helpful to know which one was meant. On one page (which I cannot relocate) Enkhuizen is spelt in two different ways. The author ultimately argues that the contribution of the Dutch was a negative one: they kept the Middle Atlantic colonies out of English hands until 1664/1674, so that the English took over during a "single shining moment" when they had an interest in introducing religious toleration. This comes across as a last gasp argument that New Netherland, despite everything, has a relevance to American religious tolerance after all - I ended up convinced that New Netherland was irrelevant to American religious tolerance and that what really mattered was the Quaker colonies. All in all, an important book and an essential antidote to Russell Shorto's hagiography of New Netherland.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Factual History of Dutch Tolerance in New Netherlands 17 May 2013
By E. Inker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that paint a true picture of Dutch "religious tolerance" in both New Netherlands as well as other colonies in the New World. Its refreshing to see a clear unvarnished prospective of historical events that surrounded those of Non-Calvinist Christians (Quakers, Lutherans, Baptists etc) as well as what some of the Dutch Director-Generals of New Amsterdam termed / considered "servants of Baal" (Jews, Moslems, Native Americans). While in theory, religious liberty was a general principal but in practice, this was not the case. Jaap Jacobs "The Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-Century America" clearly makes that point as well.

The book is clearly written and a very scholarly look at life in the Dutch colonies in the New World during the 17th Century.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An important book 15 Jun. 2014
By Lewis Keen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was very well researched and extremely thorough. It is a wonderful text focusing on the role of the Dutch in religious events of America's colonial history. This was the most comprehensive reading I've encountered on the role of the Dutch in relations to both the Quaker and Jewish immigration to the colonies. I found too much information in portions of the book and skimmed those topics I was either not interested in or unable to appreciate the details. As a historian reading for a better understanding of the role of the Dutch in regard to the emigration of Jews and Quakers to Rhode Island, I found this a very useful book.
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