America's Communal Utopias

Edited by Donald E. Pitzer

560 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 51 halftones, 2 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4609-4
    Published: May 1997
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9897-0
    Published: January 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6666-0
    Published: January 2010

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From the Shakers to the Branch Davidians, America's communal utopians have captured the popular imagination. Seventeen original essays here demonstrate the relevance of such groups to the mainstream of American social, religious, and economic life. The contributors examine the beliefs and practices of the most prominent utopian communities founded before 1965, including the long-overlooked Catholic monastic communities and Jewish agricultural colonies. Also featured are the Ephrata Baptists, Moravians, Shakers, Harmonists, Hutterites, Inspirationists of Amana, Mormons, Owenites, Fourierists, Icarians, Janssonists, Theosophists, Cyrus Teed's Koreshans, and Father Divine's Peace Mission. Based on a new conceptual framework known as developmental communalism, the book examines these utopian movements throughout the course of their development--before, during, and after their communal period. Each chapter includes a brief chronology, giving basic information about the group discussed. An appendix presents the most complete list of American utopian communities ever published. The contributors are Jonathan G. Andelson, Karl J. R. Arndt, Pearl W. Bartelt, Priscilla J. Brewer, Donald F. Durnbaugh, Lawrence Foster, Carl J. Guarneri, Robert V. Hine, Gertrude E. Huntington, James E. Landing, Dean L. May, Lawrence J. McCrank, J. Gordon Melton, Donald E. Pitzer, Robert P. Sutton, Jon Wagner, and Robert S. Weisbrot.

About the Author

Donald E. Pitzer, professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana, is a founder and former executive director of the Communal Studies Association.
For more information about Donald E. Pitzer, visit the Author Page.


“No other book like it exists. . . . This work will be plagiarized extensively for lectures, consulted frequently for details and facts on various personages and movements, and dog-eared for specific references and points which will send readers off on their own research journeys.”--Journal of Religious History

“An outstanding collection of historical vignettes of communal utopias founded in America prior to 1965. The essays are very well written, readable, and colourful contributions to the story of American religion.”Journal of Contemporary Religion

"For readers who wish a searching exposition of the history of the most important communal experiments, incorporating the best recent scholarship, this is a valuable contribution."--People's Culture

"Pitzer's volume provides readers an excellent survey of the variety of communal societies in the American experience. . . . Both specialists and the uninitiated will profit from this collection."--Indiana Magazine of History

"A unique and most important contribution to modern literature about the American historical communes. . . . Indispensable to every library and to every student and researcher of the subject."--Bulletin of the International Communal Studies Association

"The publication of America's Communal Utopias is a milestone in the study of intentional communities in the United States. Communal living has been a part of the nation's social fabric for over 300 years, but only now do we have a comprehensive survey of the phenomenon written by those who know each community, or family of communities, best. Scholars and the larger public alike will be absorbed by this book for decades to come."--Timothy Miller, University of Kansas