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Book Examines Dutch Immigration and
Experience in the United States

Posted November 20, 2000

HOLLAND -- The many aspects of the Dutch immigrant experience that historian Robert Swierenga has examined during the past three decades are brought together in his latest book.

"Faith and Family: Dutch Immigration and Settlement in the United States, 1820-1920," was published earlier this year by Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc. of New York City. The book studies the immigrants' migration to the United States and a variety of dimensions of Dutch- American life in the U.S.

"It's a summary of all my research over the years," said Swierenga, who is a senior research fellow with the A.C. Van Raalte Institute at Hope College and an adjunct professor of history at Hope. "This is the culmination--the big picture of the immigration."

The book developed from many scholarly articles by Swierenga that were previously published in journals in the United States and the Netherlands. In addition to being collected for the volume, the original articles have also been modified to present a unified narrative.

"Faith and Family" features four general sections: immigration patterns, religion, work and politics, and statistics and sources. The book's 12 chapters cover topics ranging from the conditions in the Netherlands during the period covered; to the routes and methods used to cross the Atlantic; to the social factors in the 1857 Dutch Reformed Schism; to the religious life of Dutch Jewish immigrants; to the vote by the Dutch immigrants of Pella, Iowa, during the 1860 Lincoln election.

In his preface, Swierenga notes that his longstanding interest in the Dutch immigration to the United States grew in part from his own family history. He grew up in a Dutch neighborhood on Chicago's West Side. In a nod to his own past, the circa 1910 jacket photo features his grandfather and great uncle with teams of horses hauling limestone slabs bound for the Lake Michigan breakwaters.

Swierenga has been at Hope since 1996. He had previously been a member of the history faculty at Kent State, where he served from 1968 until retiring in 1996. He has written or edited more than a dozen books, and has written numerous journal articles and lectured widely on issues related to the Dutch in America.

On Friday, June 9, Swierenga was named by Queen Beatrix a "Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion" for his many contributions to Dutch-American scholarship. The knighthood was conferred during an all-day Dutch-American history conference held at Hope in his honor. The conference also featured the debut of the book "The Dutch American Experience: Essays in Honor of Robert P. Swierenga."

Swierenga holds his bachelor's degree from Calvin College, where he was an assistant professor from 1965 to 1968, and his master's from Northwestern University and his doctorate from the University of Iowa.

"Faith and Family" is available in hardcover for $45. Copies are available at the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore and at the Joint Archives of Holland.

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