- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (April 12, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400078679
- ISBN-13: 978-1400078677
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 484 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America Paperback – April 12, 2005
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"Astonishing . . . A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past." --The New York Times
“A tour de force. . . . The dramatic story of New York’s origins is splendidly told. . . . A masterpiece of storytelling and first-rate intellectual history.” --The Wall Street Journal
“As readable as a finely written novel. . . . social history in the Barbara Tuchman tradition.” --San Jose Mercury News
“Literary alchemy. . . . Shorto’s exhaustively researched and highly readable book is a stirring re-examination. . . . Brilliant and magisterial narrative history” —Chicago Tribune
“Masterly . . . A new foundation myth . . .Shorto writes at all times with passion, verve, nuance and considerable humor.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Rattlingly well told–a terrific popular history about a past that beautifully illuminates the present.” —The Sunday Times [London]
“A dramatic, kaleidoscopic and, on the whole, quite wonderful book. . . . This is one of those rare books in the picked-over field of colonial history, a whole new picture, a thrown-open window. . . . [A] full-blooded resurrection of an unfamiliar American patriot.” –The New York Observer
“Deserves to be a bestseller . . .narratively irresistible, intellectually provocative, historically invaluable” –The Guardian
“A spry, informative history. . . . Shorto supplies lucid, comprehensive contexts in which to see the colony’s promise and turmoil. . . . [D]elivers the goods with clarity, color and zest.” –The Seattle Times
“As Russell Shorto demonstrates in this mesmerizing volume, the story we don’t know is even more fascinating than the one we do . . .Historians must now seriously rethink what they previously understand about New York’s origins . . .” –The New York Post
“Russell Shorto fires a powerful salvo on the war of words over America’s origins . . . he mounts a convincing case [that], in Shorto’s words, ‘Manhattan is where America began.’ Readers . . find themselves absorbed in what can only be described as a plot, revolving around two strong men with conflicting visions of the future of Dutch North America.” –America: The National Catholic Weekly
“Fascinating. . . . A richly nuanced portrait set against events on the world stage.” --Time Out New York
“Shorto brings this . . . deeply influential chapter in the city’s history to vivid, breathtaking life [with] a talent for enlivening meticulous research and painting on a broad canvas. . . . In elegant, erudite prose, he manages to capture the lives of disparate historical characters, from kings to prostitutes.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Remarkable. . . . [C]ompulsively interesting. . . . . Shorto argues that during the brief decades of its Dutch colonial existence Manhattan had already found, once and for all, its tumultuously eclectic soul.” –New Statesman
“Shorto delineates the characters in this nonfiction drama convincingly and compellingly.” –Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“[An] absorbing, sensual, sometimes bawdy narrative featuring whores, pirates, explorers and scholars. With clarity and panache, Shorto briskly conveys the complex history of the age of exploration.” –Times Literary Supplement
“Shorto’s book makes a convincing case that the Dutch did not merely influence the relatively open, tolerant and multicultural society that became the United States; they made the first and most significant contribution.” –American History
“Shorto’s prose is deliciously rich and witty, and the story he tells–drawing heavily on sources that have only recently come to light–brings one surprise after another. His rediscovery of Adriaen van der Donck, Peter Stuyvesant’s nemesis, is fascinating.” –Edward G. Burrows, coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History
“A landmark work . . .Shorto paints the emotions and attitudes of his characters with a sure hand, and bestows on each a believable, living presence.” –The Times (London)
“A triumph of scholarship and a rollicking narrative . . . an exciting drama about the roots of America’s freedoms.” –Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
From the Inside Flap
When the British wrested New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, the truth about its thriving, polyglot society began to disappear into myths about an island purchased for 24 dollars and a cartoonish peg-legged governor. But the story of the Dutch colony of New Netherland was merely lost, not destroyed: 12,000 pages of its records-recently declared a national treasure-are now being translated. Drawing on this remarkable archive, Russell Shorto has created a gripping narrative-a story of global sweep centered on a wilderness called Manhattan-that transforms our understanding of early America.
The Dutch colony pre-dated the "original" thirteen colonies, yet it seems strikingly familiar. Its capital was cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic, and its citizens valued free trade, individual rights, and religious freedom. Their champion was a progressive, young lawyer named Adriaen van der Donck, who emerges in these pages as a forgotten American patriot and whose political vision brought him into conflict with Peter Stuyvesant, the autocratic director of the Dutch colony. The struggle between these two strong-willed men laid the foundation for New York City and helped shape American culture. The Island at the Center of the World uncovers a lost world and offers a surprising new perspective on our own.
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The book's main thesis argues for Dutch colony's importance in shaping the tolerant culture of America. This is reinforced with historical context that succeeds in empathetically portraying life in the 1600's, but also explains why New York City is the way it is. Detailing familiar, people, places, and customs, this is the dramatic origin story of a city that is—in many ways—still the same.
The Island at the Center of the World is the story of Dutch Manhattan and the Hudson north to Albany. It covers the time period from the first establishment of a trading colony by the Dutch until the colony was surrendered to the British, a period of some sixty years. Having lived near the Hudson, paddled its waters and spent time in New York City the book has special meaning because there is so much that is familiar in it, yet I knew nothing of its genesis or how it still impacts my life today. For instance, I find it fascinating that Broadway was an Indian trading route before the Dutch arrived. It continues today on much of its original path.
The Dutch were traders, not nation builders. They opened their doors to anyone and everyone who wanted to work and do business. This created a cosmopolitan mixture of races, religions, values and customs that generated a tolerance for and acceptance of differences that continues to this day in that great city. The fact that the Dutch were focused on business and trade rather than religion and nation building is one reason why New York became a world trading center and the state earned the title of "Empire State".
We who have grown up in the state and lived along the Hudson will recognize the familiar names of Schuyler and Van Rensselaer and be surprised at how Yonkers got its name. We all know the story of how Manhattan was purchased for $24.00 worth of trinkets, but will be surprised at the Dutch traders understanding of Indian ideas of property ownership. This allowed them to live and work peacefully side-by-side for many years. You will see how the caricature of the peg legged governor, Peter Stuyvesant, does such an injustice to the real man. You will learn how the tradesmen's struggles to establish self-government that incorporated ideals of free trade, individual rights, and religious freedom set the tone for what would become the Thirteen Colonies and the United States Constitution.
This book is extremely well researched and written. Shorto somehow makes a great yarn out of a scholarly work on this original Dutch colony. I can't recommend it highly enough.
The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America