College of Arts and Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)


Alan J. Harrelson


colonial Pennsylvania, farmers, Quakers, Ulster-Scots, German immigrants




This study examines the many reasons for the success of farmers in colonial Pennsylvania relative to farmers in the other British North American colonial regions. The timeline focuses on Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch farmers already in the Delaware Valley since 1636 and British and German immigrants to colonial Pennsylvania who arrived between 1682 and 1760. The first chapter examines the plans William Penn implemented before the arrival of his fellow Quaker brethren in 1682. The government designed and implemented by Penn, gave new colonists certain freedoms and legal guarantees. In the second chapter, the study examines Penn’s land distribution policy and how that policy set the benchmark for equality under the law for new immigrants and existing landowners. The third chapter examines the husbandry skills of immigrants between 1636 and 1760, as well as the small community that existed upon arrival that helped Penn and his colonists get off to a healthier start than those in earlier English colonies in North America. The fourth chapter analyzes the sources of labor and the lack of widespread proliferation of chattel slavery and indentured servitude by colonial Pennsylvania farmers. Finally, the fifth chapter examines the differences in land distribution, land owners, and productivity in colonial Pennsylvania relative to the other colonial regions.

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