I read that the Amish trace their roots back to the late 1600's.

It seems to me that their culture is vastly different than the mainstream, in part because of mostly (but not entirely) rejecting modern technology. Also modern fashion, music, etc.

However would I be correct to think that in the late 1600's and early 1700's such differences must've been much less pronounced? I mean, I imagine that the level of technology and the fashions, etc which modern Amish have are approximately the same as what most people in the colonial times had? It's not like they are always lagging their technology 200 or 300 years behind whatever is current, and were thus using 1300's tech in the 1600's, right?

When did they decide to freeze their lifestyle? Was that always a part of being Amish or did it come later?


2 Answers 2


Perhaps at the outset it should be noted that the Amish descended from one of the two main leaders within the Swiss Brethren Anabaptists (soon after called Mennonites) in the 1690s, named Jakob Ammann, who, along with his supporters, eventually split from that body. Most accounts have portrayed Ammann as an abrupt and unyielding leader who demanded a demonstrably pure lifestyle by church members to the point of insisting on applying the "ban" to them when they failed in that regard. This was also known as "social shunning" (based on a scriptural passage) and was viewed as too judgmental by the opposing group within the fellowship.

Consequently, the Amish group withdrew, even being called Amish-Mennonites since they still adhered to the general Mennonite doctrines and continued on their own course even after Ammann died, most of whom emigrated to Pennsylvania, USA, initially in the early 1700s, while yet others from the Alsace-Lorraine area in the mid-1800s emigrated to Southwestern Ontario, Canada, this latter group being my own ancestors. But as it was mentioned in the question above, to this point in time, the Amish would not have stood out nearly as much from the culture surrounding them as they do now because technology wasn't so much the vehicle of their expression of being faithful to their doctrines and to the mindset of their former leader. Surely, their social isolation would have been noted, but as my father told me, it wasn't until the turn of the 20th-century when the automobile and electricity emerged that they then began to make a conscious decision to reject those as being a corrupting influence leading them into unfaithfulness and "worldliness," as my late mother would refer to when informing me about how it was explained to her.

Now, I must say that my direct ancestors did not stay with the Amish who withdrew to an even greater extent in the early 1900s but instead joined with the larger Mennonite body who did not associate technological progress directly with unfaithfulness. And so, it appears that it was during that first decade of the 1900s when the Amish really became earnest about ostensibly "freezing" their lifestyle.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. Thanks for offering an answer here. Can you provide any references or links supporting or providing more information on the part of your answer that directly answers the question as to whether the Amish are now more out of step with the general society than they originally were? See: What makes a good supported answer? Meanwhile, I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers on this site. Dec 19, 2017 at 10:15

The important point for the Amish, I believe, is not maintaining a specific level of technological development, but that major decisions (such as whether to adopt new technology) should be addressed to and decided by the community.

For instance, some Amish will use modern tractors, but outfit them with steel wheels instead of rubber ones. The point is perhaps not that one form of technology (vulcanized rubber) is worse to another (internal combustion engines), but that such decisions should be decided by the community. (And indeed, different Amish communities have made different decisions about that.)

So hundreds of years ago, yes, there would have been less technological distinction. But there would have been the same social distinction, because it's still a community of people making decisions for themselves, independent of the majority society.

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