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Colonial New York: A History [Paperback]

by Michael Kammen
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 23, 1996 0195107799 978-0195107791
Today, New York stands as the capital of American culture, business, and cosmopolitanism. Its size, influence, and multicultural composition mark it as a corner-stone of our country. The rich and varied history of early New York would seem to present a fertile topic for investigation to those interested colonial America. Yet, there has never been a modern history of old New York--until this lively and detailed account by Michael Kammen.
Gracefully written and comprehensive in scope, Colonial New York includes all of the political, social, economic, cultural, and religious aspects of New York's formative centuries. Social and ethnic diversity have always been characteristic of New York, and this was never so evident as in its early years. This period provides the contemporary reader with a backward glance at what the United States would become in the twentieth-century. Colonial New York stood as a precursor of American society and culture as a whole: a broad model of the American experience we witness today.
Kammen's history is enlivened by a look at some of the larger-than-life personalities who had tremendous impact on the many social and political adjustments necessary to the colony's continued growth. Here we meet Peter Stuyvesant, director of New Netherland and an executive of the West India Company--a man facing the innumerable difficulties of governing a large, sprawling colony divided by Dutch, English, and Indian settlements. Ultimately, history would view him as a failure, but his strong, Calvinist approach left such an indelible stamp on the burgeoning colony that readers will be tempted to do a little revisionist thinking about his tenure. Looking at a later governor, Lord Cornbury, gives us the very opposite example of a man despised by his contemporaries as the most venal of all the colonial governors (he was an occasional public cross-dresser, wearing the clothes of his distant cousin, Queen Anne), but who forcefully guided the colony through a transition to Anglican rule. The book culminates in chapters that investigate New York's strategic role in the bloody French and Indian War, and the key part it played in the economic protests and political conflict that finally led to American independence.
The intricate and tangled web of alliances, loyalties, and shifting political ground that underlies much of colonial New York's past has clearly daunted many historians from taking on the task of writing an understandable account. Michael Kammen has accepted this challenge and gives us much more than a mere chronicle. Rather, he paints a compelling portrait of colonial life as it truly was. Although this important book is thorough and informed by primary sources, Colonial New York's clear and vivid prose offers a delightful narrative that will entertain both general readers and serious scholars alike. It pays special attention to localities and contains numerous illustrations that are attentive to the decorative arts and the material culture of early New York.
Surprising and enlightening, Colonial New York is a delight to read and provides new perspectives on our nation's beginnings.

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Editorial Reviews

Review


Praise for the first edition:*


"Strictly by the skill of his narrative , [Kammen] makes the experience of colonial New York anticipate the experience of the American nation."--The New Republic


"Colonial history at its very best...fill[s] a long-felt need."--The Washington Post


"An informed, eloquently written history of colonial New York--a book that far surpasses any one-volume treatment heretofore available on the subject....Colorful and lively. --New York Historical Society Quarterly


"In scope, depth, prose style, and organization, it is the best single-volume account of any colony."--The William and Mary Quarterly


About the Author


Michael Kammen is the Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture at Cornell University. He is the author of a number of books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization. He is the author of many author award-winning books and, from 1981 to 1994, was a trustee of the New York State Historical Association.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (May 23, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195107799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195107791
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,449,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Accessible November 11, 2003
Format:Paperback
Michael Kammen has put together an extraordinary amount of research into a fairly readable and swiftly paced book. Tracing New York City's history from the days of the Native Americans to its transformation to a Dutch trading post through its last days as England's colony, Professor Kammen's COLONIAL NEW YORK: A HISTORY is one of the more exhaustive studies on the subject ever written.
For me, the best parts of the book center on Peter Stuyvesant (whom Professor Kammen refers to as a "loser"--which he is, in ways). His study of the struggles between Dutch and English cultures in Section 7 is among the best I've ever read. While the book tends to sag during the sections about economic growth, it makes up for it in terms of valuable information. I shouldn't even mention that here: this isn't a novel, after all. In fact, it is a treasure trove of information which was all but lost to us until Professor Kammen wrote this book.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of THE FIVE POINTS CONCLUDED, A Novel
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history of New York February 9, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In doing geneaology research, I found that my ancestors came from upstate New York. This has been an invaluable help in understanding the geography and culture of those times. It's a keeper, for me!
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