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 tensions eventually 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 cultures and 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.
"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."--Choice
"A welcome addition to the scholarship....Balmer's narrative of the little-known Dutch experience in the Middle Colonies renders this book a useful addition to the literature....Raises questions and suggests patterns that specialists in the colonial period cannot afford to ignore."--American Historical Review
"[T]his book stands as an important contribution to the history of American ethnic assimilation. Its provocative thesis and impressive documentation willpresent a formidable target for some and an authoritative explanation for others. Scholars interested in the interplay of ethnicity, religion, and culture in colonial America will welcome this book."--Journal of American Ethnic History
"Advances our understanding markedly of just what happens to Dutch religion after the 1664 conquest. The book will be extraordinarily useful to all students of the Middle Colonies, especially New York and New Jersey. It will also fascinate students of ethnicity and religion, and of course all who have an interest in Dutch immigration, religion, family, and culture."--Jon Butler, Yale University
"His extensive documentation leaves no doubt about how thoroughly he has saturated himself in the sources, and how skillfull he is in making his way smoothly and authoritatively through them. Cultural history at its finest; in no sense can the book be regarded as a parochial chapter in history."--Edwin S. Gaustad, University of California, Riverside