Georg Hansen and the Danzig Flemish Mennonite Church : a study in continuity

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Plett, Harvey
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This is a study of Georg hansen and the Danzig Flemish Mennonite Church in Poland from 1650-1700. Mennonites from the Netherlands moved to the Vistula Delta beginning in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, in order to escape persecution, but also in response to the recruiting efforts of locators, land renting agents for the noblemen. The Mennonite peasants involved in agricultural production, brought their farming and land reclamation skills to the new homeland. Those moving to urban centers brought their occupations such as textile manufacturing and distilling, with them. Both groups sought the continued use of these in the new homeland. Through an examination of primary sources such as letters, reports, government decrees, and the writings and activity of Georg Hansen and the Flemish Mennonite Church in Danzig, the question of ethnic continuity has been studied. Various sociological and anthropological constructs were use to evaluate the information found. Included were such concepts as endogamy, density of population, education, "boundedness", belief systems, and leadership style and effectiveness. This thesis has discovered that there was strong ethnic continuity and group identity maintenance in the Flemish Mennonites. The separate identity the Flemish Mennonites maintained involved separation from both the wider society and the Frisians. An examination of the interplay of a hostile environment, the ambivalent treatment by the king of opposition and protection, the theology of the Flemish, and the effective leadership of Hansen were helpful in developing an understanding of the continuity and change the Flemish Mennonites experienced during the last half of the seventeenth century. This thesis found that ethnic identity was maintained despite such adaptations as language shift and postponing baptism of converts. By the end of the seventeenth century the conservative Flemish had maintained a strong group identity, and were moving into the eighteenth century with no indication of relinguishing that sensibility.