Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood

Europe - Russia - Canada, 1525 to 1980

James Urry (Author)

Mennonites and their forebears are usually thought to be a people with little interest or involvement in politics. Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood reveals that since their early history, Mennonites have, in fact, been active participants in worldly politics. From western to eastern Europe and through different migrations to North America, James Urry’s meticulous research traces Mennonite links with kingdoms, empires, republics, and democratic nations in the context of peace, war, and revolution. He stresses a degree of Mennonite involvement in politics not previously discussed in literature, including Mennonite participation in constitutional reform and party politics, and shows the polarization of their political views from conservatism to liberalism and even revolutionary activities.

Urry looks at the Mennonite reaction to politics and political events from the Reformation onwards and focusses particularly on those people who settled in Russia and their descendants who came to Manitoba. Using a wide variety of sources, Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood combines an inter-disciplinary approach to reveal that Mennonites, far from being the “Quiet in the Land,” have deep roots in politics.


“Through this comprehensive study, Urry synthesizes a wealth of secondary and primary material on Mennonites from three regions into a coherent narrative. By using a broad definition of politics, Urry identifies many under-explored topics on the political attitudes of minority groups in European and North American history.”

– Aileen Friesen, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Vol LI, No.1, March 2009

“For some years now, the anthropologist James Urry has been regarded, in Harry Loewen’s words in the foreword to this volume, as ‘one of the most knowledgeable historians of the Russian Mennonites today.’ Urry further cements his reputation here. In Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood, he has pieced together a thoughtful, well organized and immensely detailed survey of the political attitudes and practices of this important Mennonite group, from their origins in early Anabaptism to their rapidly acculturating communities in contemporary Canada.”

– The Mennonite Quarterly Review

“This is a very good book. …Not only is it academically sound, it is also well written, accessible to all.”

– Al Koop, Kings’ University College, Utopian Studies, 18.1 Winter 2007

“This work is a major contribution to the history of the Mennonites as well as of Canada.”

– Walter Klaassen, Canadian Journal of History, spring/summer 2007

“James Urry’s new book is historical social anthropology at its best.”

– Gerhard Remple, American Review of Canadian Studies, Winter 2006

“The research, scholarship, and writing is consistent with the high quality of Urry’s earlier work. He brings together in a coherent, persuasive and readable manner the evolving relationships of Dutch/Prussian/Russian/Manitoba Mennonites with secular governments. He demonstrates clearly that these Mennonites, who sometimes regarded themselves as the silent in the land, were never really quiet. He also shows that what they said, and how loud they said it, varied according to time and circumstance.”

– Journal of Mennonite Studies, vol 24, 2006

“Urry’s volume is historical social anthropology at its best. It is both comprehensive and narrowly focused in that he spans the centuries from the founding of the Mennonite church in the sixteenth century to the maturation of a segment of the worldwide community in the 1980s, while concentrating nearly exclusively on the process and character of its politicization in the practical and theoretical realms….Urry’s book is a brilliantly organized and executed analysis of a significant segment of the Mennonite community involved in the game of normal political discourse and practice.”

– Mennonite Life, vol. 61 no. 2, June 2006

“Demonstrates more clearly than any other work to date Mennonites’ extensive involvement in politics.”

– T.D. Regehr, author of Mennonites in Canada, 1939 to 1970

“In writing this book, Urry has provided a completely new synthesis of Mennonite history.”

– Royden Loewen, Winnipeg Free Press

About the Author

James Urry is a Reader in Anthropology at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington. He is the author of None but Saints: The Transformation of Mennonite Life in Russia.

Book Details

  • Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood: Europe - Russia - Canada, 1525 to 1980
  • James Urry (Author)
  • Published February 2006, 400 pages
  • Paper, ISBN: 9780887556883, 6 × 9, $27.95
  • Topic(s): Ethnic Studies, History, Mennonite Studies

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