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Format: Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Papers of William Penn. Free with collection.
Media: 14 reels of 35mm microfiIm

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While best known as the founder of Pennsylvania, this remarkable man also made his mark as a Quaker leader and social philosopher during his lifetime. A friend of England's kings, yet a firm believer in religious and political freedom in America, his often paradoxical life can now be viewed through the papers in this important historical collection.

Libraries and institutions supporting programs in Colonial American history, European history, religious studies, and Pennsylvania state and local history will be able to offer their students access to valuable resource materials for research. The approximately 3,000 documents are arranged chronologically, and include:


  • correspondence to and from Penn
  • theological papers
  • patents
  • commissions and constitutions
  • account books
  • land records
  • diaries

Penn exchanged letters with many influential people, such as Queen Anne, Cotton Mather, and Peter the Great, and the correspondence in the collection includes these important letters. The collection is also of particular value for exploring Penn's often-complex finances. His business and financial papers offer new insights into the problems facing a British landowner who was at the same time a colonial proprietor.

Students of political science and religion will discover a wealth of material pertaining to Penn's political and religious beliefs, and can relate these to the developing trends in Colonial America.

Other topics that can now be examined include:


  • English society's persecution of Penn and other Quaker leaders
  • the founding of Pennsylvania in 1681
  • Penn's friendship with King James II
  • his defense of colonial autonomy
  • his arrest for making false claims of debt and his attempt to sell Pennsylvania

The collection was filmed by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from documents assembled from more than 60 institutions and individuals.

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