“Pennsylvania History Presents” is an online feature of the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s (PHA) website. Begun in 2019, we offer for free public access one article from the current issue of its quarterly award-winning journal, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.

For the Winter 2022 issue (89.1) we are making available “The Land Called Sweeds Land” “Ancient Settlers,” “Great Capitalists,” and the Anglicization of the Delaware Valley,” by Mark L. Thompson, University of Groeningen. Netherlands.

Abstract: This article considers how struggles over land shaped the process of “anglicization” in colonial Pennsylvania. It focuses on a property dispute in the 1720s that pitted a second-generation Swedish yeoman and his fellow “Ancient Settlers” against an aspiring English Quaker entrepreneur and his high-placed allies. Drawing on property records, official minutes, and contemporary correspondence to reconstruct the controversy, the article demonstrates that disputes over land not only mobilized the Swedish population in Pennsylvania as “Swedes” but also embeddded them within the colony as property-owning and rights-bearing British subjects. Their eighteenth-century cultural transformation was ultimately a negotiated process of “Britonization” that fostered appeals to ethnic and national forms of distinction as well as to shared attachments to Englishness and Britishness.

Assistance in research for this article was generously provided for the author by a 2018 Scholar in Residency at the Pennsylvania State Archives, a collaboration of the Pennsylvania Historical Association and the Archives. 

The article is chosen quarterly by the journal’s editor, and often connects to current events in Pennsylvania and American history. The initiative helps to meet the PHA’s mission of understanding how the past informs the present to help us shape a better future.