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Recent Research: History 2021-2023

A collection of recent Amish and plain Anabaptist studies research publications in history.

Chung-Kim, Esther (2023). 'Hutterites in Moravia: Communal Property'. Economics of Faith: Reforming Poverty in Early Modern Europe. Oxford University Press. Chapter 7.

Abstract: The Hutterites endured generations of persecution, forced migration, as well as loss of property and legal recourse often resulting in desperate poverty. Although plagued by internal conflicts from the beginning, they represented the most radical and most creative form of communal support in the sixteenth century. While religion was the reason for their suffering, it was also the reason for their resilience. As recorded in The Chronicle, Hutterites highlighted their trials and tribulations, as well as their successful reconciliation with other factions. Their leaders, such as Jacob Hutter, Peter Riedemann, and Peter Walpot provided the theological rationale for the practice of the community of goods, which required the total sharing of goods to care for the entire community. The surrender of all temporal goods was a requirement to join the Hutterite colonies (Bruderhof). This practice of communal property became the central marker of Hutterite piety as designated leaders managed the collective resources to alleviate the needs of their community.

Williams, George Huntston (2021). The Radical Reformation, 3rd ed., Penn State University Press.

Description: George Williams' monumental The Radical Reformation has been an essential reference work for historians of early modern Europe, narrating in rich, interpretative detail the interconnected stories of radical groups operating at the margins of the mainline Reformation. In its scope—spanning all of Europe from Spain to Poland, from Denmark to Italy—and its erudition, The Radical Reformation is without peer. Now in paperback format, Williams' magnum opus should be considered for any university-level course on the Reformation.

Frieson, Leonard G. (2022). Mennonites in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union: Through Much Tribulation. University of Toronto Press.

Description: Mennonites in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union is the first history of Mennonite life from its origins in the Dutch Reformation of the sixteenth century, through migration to Poland and Prussia, and on to more than two centuries of settlement in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

Leonard G. Friesen sheds light on religious, economic, social, and political changes within Mennonite communities as they confronted the many faces of modernity. He shows how the Mennonite minority remained engaged with the wider empire that surrounded them, and how they reconstructed and reconfigured their identity after the Bolsheviks seized power and formed a Soviet regime committed to atheism. Integrating Mennonite history into developments in the Russian Empire and the USSR, Friesen provides a history of an ethno-religious people that illuminates the larger canvas of Imperial Russian, Ukrainian, and Soviet history.

Steven M. Nolt, Jean-Paul Benowitz (2022). Plain Dress in the Docket: Lillian Risser, the Pennsylvania Garb Law, and the Free Exercise of Anabaptist Religion, 1908–1910. Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, 89 (2): 227–248. doi:

Description: In 1895 Pennsylvania passed the so-called “Garb Law” prohibiting public school teachers from wearing religiously distinctive clothing. Although aimed at Catholic nuns in western Pennsylvania, the law was first enforced in Lancaster County against plain-dressed Mennonite and Brethren school teachers. The 1908 prosecution of Mennonite Lillian Risser and the school board that hired her was the first case to test the law. Although the district court ruled in Risser’s favor, the Superior and Supreme Courts reversed that judgement and upheld the Garb Law, drawing on the precedents provided by John Banister Gibson, a prominent antebellum Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice whose legal legacy had produced a remarkably narrow view of religious free exercise. Risser’s legal challenge remains an important episode in the ongoing debate over the boundaries of religious liberty in Pennsylvania. It also recalls an early example of legal engagement on the part of Pennsylvania’s plain people.

Jellison, K. (2021). Relations hommes-femmes en milieu rural : une communauté amish dans les années 1930. Le Mouvement Social, 277, 167-179.

Abstract: The experiences of Old Order Amish women and men in 1930s Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, demonstrate in sharp relief the characteristics and practices that enabled successful family farming during the Great Depression. Rejecting the notion of mechanised, capital-intensive agriculture in favour of traditional, labour-intensive family farming, the Amish practised a system of labour that necessarily required the crossing of strict gender-role boundaries. Although men primarily identified as farmers and women as homemakers, agricultural success among the Amish necessitated a significant degree of cooperation and mutual labour. Employing data from the US government’s Consumer Expenditure Surveys, the author investigates how the gender arrangements of Lancaster County’s Amish population enabled them to survive the Great Depression more successfully than many other agrarian communities.

Elwardani, Sheilah R. (2022). Accepting the Cost:

German Baptist Brethren, Faith, and the American Civil War. [Doctoral Dissertation, Liberty University].

Byler, Donovan. (2021). Breaking the migration pattern: why the American Mennonites chose to stay in America despite the hardships of World War One. [B.A. Thesis: Kent State University].


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