Peopling Colonial New York:
the Multicultural Roots of the Empire State

Stefan Bielinski
Colonial Albany Social History Project
New York State Museum

From the beginning, New York was a place where many different peoples or minorities came together to make up a colonial majority. A great mix of people made early New York society both culturally diverse and pluralistic. This general audience program explains the initial settlement of what became New York State by bringing together the experiences of the heterogeneous groups of people who came to the colony before 1776.

Focusing on New York's economic and cultural diversity and on the adaptability and opportunism of its people, this illustrated lecture considers the formation and evolution of a pre-industrial economy while assessing the ecological impact of the peopling process. This presentation provides a basic social history of early New York set against the backdrop of traditional, narrative history. Major historical topics to be covered include the setting for the settling, Native peoples, the birth pyramid, the founding and growth of communities and other social networks, intercultural relations, the modification of traditional practices and institutions to meet New World needs, and a summary discussion of why some colonial New Yorkers would become revolutionaries while others did not.

Peopling Colonial New York" is illustrated by more than eighty images from the Colonial Albany Social History Project's Graphics Archive and is supplemented by a reading list and other materials. Presentation time is under an hour and questions are always welcome.

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