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The eighteenth century was a time of significant change in the perception of marriage and family relations, the emphasis of reason over revelation, and the spread of political consciousness. The Unity of the Brethren, known in America as Moravians, experienced the resulting tensions firsthand as they organized their protective religious settlements in Germany. A group of the Brethren who later settled in Salem, North Carolina, experienced the stresses of cultural and generational conflict when its younger members came to think of themselves as Americans.
The Moravians who first immigrated to America actively maintained their connections to those who remained in Europe and gave them the authority for deciding religious, social, and governmental issues. But, as the children born in Salem became acclimated to more freedoms, particularly in the wake of the American Revolution, a series of disputes intensified the problems of transatlantic governance. While the group's leadership usually associated Enlightenment principles with rebellion and religious skepticism, the younger Brethren were drawn to its message of individual autonomy and creative expression.
Elisabeth Sommer traces the impact of this generational and cultural change among Moravians on both sides of the Atlantic and examines the resulting debate over the definition of freedom and faith.
"An important contribution to an expanding literature whose base in archival work on both sides of the Atlantic reveals the Moravian struggles to be faithful to their deepest commitments."—A.G. Roeber, Pennsylvania State University
"The international Moravian story is charming and powerful. . . . We are indebted to Sommer for arduous and skillful work in passing on their story to us."—American Historical Review
"Provides a more profound understanding of what the Moravians believed, why they came, and the process by which they increasingly accommodated to the American world."—Appalachian Quarterly
"A detailed and thought-provoking narrative of declension and the formation of new political identities."—Georgia Historical Quarterly
"Creative and well-researched. . . . Will interest a variety of scholars."—H-Net Reviews
"A good book that tells us much about the development of American sensibilities in an immigrant religious group and does so with a helpful transatlantic perspective."—Journal of American History
"Contributes significantly to our understanding of the evolution of Moravian communities and of the forces that influenced their future direction."—Journal of Southern History
"Gives additional depth to our comparative understanding of the social as well as the religious experience of people on two sides of the Atlantic in the eighteenth century."—Journal of the Early Republic
"Should prove beneficial not only to those primarily interested in Moravian studies but also to those whose field includes wider social history concerns."—North Carolina Historical Review
"A valuable contribution not only to the field of early American religious history, but also to the sociology of religion and Moravian and Pietist studies."—Religious Studies Review
"Represents the best trends in transatlantic history. . . . Invites us to search for other religious cables binding early America to a wider world."—William and Mary Quarterly
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Moravians, North Carolina, Salem, Transatlantic history
History of Religion
Sommer, Elisabeth W., "Serving Two Masters: Moravian Brethren in Germany and North Carolina, 1727-1801" (2000). History of Religion. 5.