Cover image for Becoming German : the 1709 Palatine migration to New York


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Becoming German tells the intriguing story of the largest and earliest mass movement of German-speaking immigrants to America. The so-called Palatine migration of 1709 began in the western part of the Holy Roman Empire, where perhaps as many as thirty thousand people left their homes, lured by rumors that Britain's Queen Anne would give them free passage overseas and land in America. They journeyed down the Rhine and eventually made their way to London, where they settled in refugee camps. The rumors of free passage and land proved false, but, in an attempt to clear the camps, the British government finally agreed to send about three thousand of the immigrants to New York in exchange for several years of labor. After their arrival, the Palatines refused to work as indentured servants and eventually settled in autonomous German communities near the Iroquois of central New York. Becoming German tracks the Palatines' travels from Germany to London to New York City and into the frontier areas of New York. Philip Otterness demonstrates that the Palatines cannot be viewed as a cohesive "German" group until after their arrival in America; indeed, they came from dozens of distinct principalities in the Holy Roman Empire. It was only in refusing to assimilate to British colonial culture-instead maintaining separate German-speaking communities and mixing on friendly terms with Native American neighbors-that the Palatines became German in America.

Author Notes

Philip Otterness is Professor of History and Political Science, Warren Wilson College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Otterness (Warren Wilson College) discusses the impoverished families of southwestern Germany who, in 1709, migrated to England mistakenly believing that Queen Anne would give them farmland in America. Following long delays, they ultimately reached the colony of New York after agreeing to produce marine stores to repay their passage. Once there, however, they doggedly struggled to obtain farmsteads, defying the governor, moving from the work camps, and buying land from the Mohawks instead of from English landholders. They produced virtually no marine supplies during their odyssey but built significant communities in the Mohawk Valley. This multidimensional work contributes significantly to identity studies. The British (especially Daniel Defoe) saw them as "poor Palatines," although most came from other German states. Otterness demonstrates how their struggle required them to accept this common identity in order to gain support, and how, in New York, they became "obstinate Germans." Colonial and New York historians will enjoy this interesting, well-researched narrative. This valuable study also provides excellent endnotes, an extensive bibliography, and an informative appendix suggesting ways to combine genealogical research with primary and secondary sources to create a working database. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. E. L. Turk emerita, Indiana University East

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Quotations and Datesp. xv
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1. "A Particularly Deceptive Spirit" The German Southwest, 1709p. 7
Chapter 2. "The Poor Palatine Refugees" London, Spring-Summer 1709p. 37
Chapter 3. "A Parcel of Vagabonds" London, Summer-Winter 1709p. 57
Chapter 4. "A Deplorable Sickly Condition" New York City, 1710p. 78
Chapter 5. "They Will Not Listen to Tar Making" The Hudson Valley, 1710-1712p. 89
Chapter 6. "The Promis'd Land" The Schoharie Valley, 1712-1722p. 113
Chapter 7. "A Nation Which Is Neither French, Nor English, Nor Indian" The Mohawk Valley, 1723-1757p. 137
Conclusionp. 161
Appendix. Database of the 1709 Emigrantsp. 167
Abbreviationsp. 171
Notesp. 173
Bibliographyp. 213
Indexp. 227