Cover image for A perfect Babel of confusion : Dutch religion and English culture in the middle colonies
A perfect Babel of confusion : Dutch religion and English culture in the middle colonies
Balmer, Randall Herbert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.

Physical Description:
xi, 258 pages ; 21 cm.
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX9496.N7 B35 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Examining the interaction of the Dutch and the English in colonial New York and New Jersey, this study charts the decline of European culture in North America. Balmer argues that the combination of political intrigue, English cultural imperialism, and internal socio-economic tensionseventually drove the Dutch away from their hereditary customs, language, and culture. He shows how this process, which played itself out most visibly and poignantly in the Dutch Reformed Church between 1664 and the American Revolution, illustrates the difficulty of maintaining non-English culturesand institutions in an increasingly English world. A Perfect Babel of Confusion redresses some of the historiographical neglect of the Middle Colonies and, in the process, sheds new light on Dutch colonial culture.

Author Notes

Randall Balmer is at Barnard College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Balmer describes the process by which Dutch Calvinism was gradually absorbed into the dominant Anglo-American culture in New York and New Jersey during the Colonial period. As elite Dutch settlers and traditional clergy made bedfellows of the Anglican establishment in New York City, they lost the respect of less affluent Dutch-speaking colonists. The latter found a language of dissent in pietism; their pietist congregations both anticipated and provided important support for the Great Awakening of the 1740s. But neither the pietists nor the more traditionally orthodox could prevent the loss of a distinctively Dutch identity. Substantive analysis of Dutch Calvinism as a religion is distressingly absent from the book, and the argument suffers from excessive repetition. Nonetheless, Balmer has mastered the relevant sources, and he provides a new look at the role of religious controversy in the acculturation of the large Dutch-speaking population of the middle colonies. Useful mainly to graduate students and faculty. -L. B. Tipson, Gettysburg College