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Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 Paperback – October 19, 2000
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"Here is a book sure to bring us up to speed on what took place in Manhattan before 1898, as far back as the ice age, when 'packs of glaciers crept down from Labrador....The authors...glide easily around town, peeking inside brothels for working men in Five Points, then pressing noses to the gilt-edged windows of the uptown rich....Burrows and Wallace offer a large-canvas portrait of a city they clearly love."--The New York Times Book Review
"Gotham is a masterwork--a great tapestry of a book that weaves a vast array of personalities, dramatic episodes and illuminating ancedotes into a rich and colorful whole. This is a work not just for lovers of New York, but for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of American history....Happily, Burrows and Wallace are first-rate writers, fluid in their handling of the barebones statistics, enthralling in their handling of moments of high drama. Their vivid account of the draft riots of 1863, for example, is as blood-curdling as anything in a Stephen King thriller."--Baltimore Sun
"A tome matching the size of its subject, this doorstopper more than justifies the 20 years Burrows and Wallace spent on it....Its massive size permits the inclusion of details, minor characters and anecdotes of everyday life that vibrantly communicate the city's genesis and evolution. The authors have synthesized histories from various perspectives--cultural, economic, political, etc.--into a novelistic narrative, providing the context for stories of the diverse denizens who shaped the city...[A] historical work that merits the term 'definitive' yet still manages to entertain....'Gotham' denotes a town of tricksters and fools, and this book is full of both....The rest will read with pleasure and await the companion volume's promised appearance."--Publishers Weekly
"Massive, detailed and magnificently written...it reads as easily as a smoothly crafted novel...a book that will surely stand for a long time as an exemplar of urban history--social, economic, political, religious, cultural--and woven them into a seamless tapestry that covers every aspect of the long and colorful history of the city they so lovingly chronicle. This is no dry history; it is populated with thousands of people, hundreds of anecdotes and lots and lots of delightfully informative and entertaining vignettes. It would be difficult to imagine a more comprehensive or better written history."--The Chattanooga Times
"A suitably vast, sprawling, and all-consuming history of the rapid evolution of New York City from primordial forest into the world's most fabulous city....Linking economic, cultural, demographic, and political history, the authors trace the city's development from a peripheral Dutch frontier post through its growth into a vital shipping point in the British mercantile system....Along the way the authors introduce a crazy quilt of characters from the political, industrial, cultural, and literary worlds, and from the underworld as well....Magisterial, colorful, meticulously researched, and richly detailed; destined to be the definitive history of early New York City."--Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Edwin G. Burrows is Professor of History at Brooklyn College.
Mike Wallace is Professor of History at John Jay College, City University of New York. Together they have collaborated for twenty years to produce this book, the first volume in the definitive history of New York City.
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Top customer reviews
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Unfortunately, the book must nevertheless get a four-star rating, as opposed to five stars, because of its format. The book is extremely heavy to hold, and is much too big and cumbersome for comfortable use. lt should have been divided into several volumes, to make things physically easier. Another drawback is that it is softcover - such a huge book should be hardcover - which causes the book to bend while on the reader's lap, making reading complicated, the book having to be moved repeatedly.
But given these gripes, which should be rectified in the next edition, the book is heartily recommended for anybody who has even a passing interest in the subject at hand. lt will never, ever, bore you!!!
The book itself is divided into five sections. Section I details New Amsterdam, the time when New York was firmly entwined in European history as a colony of the Dutch. This is probably my favorite part of the book because 17th century American and especially NYC history is a part of greater European history. And this part is the most fascinating because of the nature of the Dutch and how they shaped NYC to be a cosmopolitan port, concerned more with commerce and freedom of thought than with restrictions based on religion. This in turned helped shape American history. If this is something you're ever interested in, I cannot more highly recommend to you Russel Shorto's The Island at the Center of the World.
Section II is about British New York, roughly 1664 to 1783. I suppose I should describe this part, but it almost seems that this part is known to most Americans because of the events that led to the Revolution. Still, there are interesting cultural and social trends here, especially as concerns women. In New Amsterdam women could hold property and could enter into legal agreements and in general were more equal than they would be later. Again this part of the story reads like European history because of the connection of the colonies to Europe.
Sections III and IV detail the rise of NYC to leading economic city of the US. These sections encompass political, legal, social, economic, cultural, religious and social history. Of particular interest is the transformation of NYC from mostly English and Protestant to a city of English, German, and Irish and to a city of Protestants, Jews, and Catholics. This trend of transformation would continue in Section V, which added an influx of Russian-Jewish, Italian and Chinese to the city. Section V also details how Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx joined together into one very large city in 1898. Why then? Because New Yorkers were paranoid about Chicago supplanting them the way they once supplanted Philadelphia and Boston. In these sections there is something here for everyone. These are the heart of the book and show how NYC history is American history. How? What happens here was a microcosm for what was happening all around the burgeoning American Republic.
At 1398 pages, 1239 of which are normal non-end note, bibliography and index pages, Gotham is a long book that encompasses a very long stretch of New York City history. It shows the transformation of a far-flung, small Dutch colony to Capital of the World. It is magisterial and highly recommended. Now if only the author (Mike Wallace will be alone in writing it) would release the sequel.