The three-volume history “Holland, Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City” by Dr. Robert P. Swierenga of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute at Hope College has received a State History Award, the highest recognition presented by the Historical Society of Michigan.
The Historical Society of Michigan, which is the state’s official historical society and oldest cultural organization, 140 years old this year, presents the State History Awards every year to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation, collection, preservation and/or promotion of state and local history. The society awarded 15 of the top honors during the group’s annual State History Conference, held on Friday-Sunday, Sept. 26-28, in Big Rapids.
“Holland, Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City” was one of five books recognized in the category of University and Commercial Press. The three-volume set was published in January by the Van Raalte Press at Hope and the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. of Grand Rapids/Cambridge as part of the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America.
“Every community in Michigan should have the good fortune to have someone write its history in as comprehensive and readable fashion as this three-volume set,” the society notes in its online announcement of this year’s winners. “These books prove that the history of a single community can be entertaining, thought-provoking and just plain fun.”
“Holland Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City” chronicles the entire sweep of the city’s history since 1847, when the initial band of Dutch settlers founded the community. The three volumes total more than 2,600 pages with nearly 900 photographs. Swierenga, who has served as the Albertus C. Van Raalte Research Professor at the A.C. Van Raalte Institute since 1996, spent more than 10 years conducting research for and writing the history.
The narrative begins with the Native Americans and Old Wing Mission that preceded the Dutch settlers, and continues through 34 chapters focused on topics such as the founding of the community; religion; education; transportation; industry and retail businesses; national events including the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression; politics; public services; the arts; social services; the press; downtown renewal; and the community “After the Dutch.” Nearly 100 pages of appendices provide population statistics and lists of churches, schools, businesses, city and township officials, and police and fire chiefs from the beginning through 2012.
Swierenga has conducted research and written concerning Dutch immigration and related topics since the 1960s. In addition to the more than two dozen books he has written or edited, he has written nearly 150 journal articles and lectured widely on issues related to the Dutch in America. He joined the A.C. Van Raalte Institute after retiring from the history faculty at Kent State, where he had taught since 1968.
Established in 1994, the A.C. Van Raalte Institute is located in the Theil Research Center at 9 E. 10th St. and specializes in scholarly research and writing on immigration and the contributions of the Dutch and their descendants in the United States. The institute is also dedicated to the study of the history of all the people who have comprised the community of Holland throughout its history.