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New Jersey

A History of the Garden State

Edited by: Maxine N. Lurie, Richard F. Veit,  and Maxine Lurie
With contributions of: Michael J. Birkner, Howard Gillette, G. Kurt Piehler, Brian Greenberg, Larry Greene, Graham Russell Gao Hodges, John Fea, Paul Israel, Marc Mappen, Maxine N. Lurie,  and Richard Veit

New Jersey: A History of the Garden State presents a fresh, comprehensive overview of New Jersey’s history from the prehistoric era to the present. The findings of archaeologists, political, social, and economic historians provide a new look at how the Garden State has evolved.

The state has a rich Native American heritage and complex colonial history. It played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, early industrialization, and technological developments in transportation, including turnpikes, canals, and railroads. The nineteenth century saw major debates over slavery. While no Civil War battles were fought in New Jersey, most residents supported it while questioning the policies of the federal government.

Next, the contributors turn to industry, urbanization, and the growth of shore communities. A destination for immigrants, New Jersey continued to be one of the most diverse states in the nation. Many of these changes created a host of social problems that reformers tried to minimize during the Progressive Era. Settlement houses were established, educational institutions grew, and utopian communities were founded. Most notably, women gained the right to vote in 1920. In the decades leading up to World War II, New Jersey benefited from back-to-work projects, but the rise of the local Ku Klux Klan and the German American Bund were sad episodes during this period.

The story then moves to the rise of suburbs, the concomitant decline of the state’s cities, growing population density, and changing patterns of wealth. Deep-seated racial inequities led to urban unrest as well as political change, including such landmark legislation as the Mount Laurel decision. Today, immigration continues to shape the state, as does the tension between the needs of the suburbs, cities, and modest amounts of remaining farmland.

Well-known personalities, such as Jonathan Edwards, George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, Dorothea Dix, Thomas Edison, Frank Hague, and Albert Einstein appear in the narrative. Contributors also mine new and existing sources to incorporate fully scholarship on women, minorities, and immigrants. All chapters are set in the context of the history of the United States as a whole, illustrating how New Jersey is often a bellwether for the nation..

Author Information

MAXINE N. LURIE is professor emerita of history at Seton Hall University. She coedited Encyclopedia of New Jersey and Mapping New Jersey and edited A New Jersey Anthology, now in its second edition(all Rutgers University Press).

RICHARD VEIT, a professor in the department of history and anthropology at Monmouth University, is the author of Digging New Jersey’s Past and and co-author of New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History in the Landscape (both Rutgers University Press).


"Maxine Lurie and Richard Veit do more than just connect the chronological dots of our sprawling history from the first Lenape inhabitants 12,000 years ago to today’s hectic lifestyles. They’ve culled the talents of 11 scholars and combined their insights and expertise into a resource intended for both students and a general audience. The editors introduce and contextualize a yeasty mix of characters—loyalists, revolutionaries, Federalists, Republicans (soon to be Democrats), Whigs, abolitionists, plutocrats, inventors, reformers, bosses (think Frank Hague) — into nicely organized chapters ranging from the pre-colonial up to suburbanization and cities in distress. This being New Jersey, though, the volume is not without inflections of whimsy."
— Star-Ledger

"These essays tell us about what was unique, significant, and not always well-known about New Jersey’s colorful, diverse past, and they relate its history to the contours of American history more generally."

— Paul G. E. Clemens, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

"There's so much history in this state, it's hard to pack it into one book. But that's just what Maxine N. Lurie and Richard Veit attempted in New Jersey:A History of the Garden State, the first overview of the state in 35 years."
— Asbury Park Press

"These ten essays, strung on a historical time line from precolonial times to the present, give most of the contributing historians a change to highlight their particular geographic and period expertise, with hints of a relationship with large, persistent themes like industrial innovation, political corruption, or racial or gender inequality. Recommended."
— Choice

Audience: General/trade;