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The Island at the Center of the World: The…
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The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan…

by Russell Shorto

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (41)  Dutch (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Shorto composes a brief, popular history of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, specifically focusing on the settlement on Manhattan island. He contends that the Dutch colony is often overlooked in American history and what is known about it is generally based on English sources that downplay the significance of the Dutch. A decades-long project to translate and publish Dutch records in the state archives at Albany has opened a new understanding of the times when "old New York was once New Amsterdam."

The narrative examines the history of the Dutch settlements between English New England and Swedish Delaware starting with the exploration by Henry Hudson of the river once named for him. Relationships within the colonies, to the Netherlands, with other European colonists, and with the indigenous peoples are explored. Some familiar names such as Peter Minuit and Peter Stuyvesant pop up, but the key figure is the less well-known Adriaen van der Donck, whom Shorto considers a candidate for the founding father of New York. He's remembered indirectly by way of his honorific Jonkheer, became the name of the city built on his former estate, Yonkers.

Shorto argues that what the Dutch created in New Amsterdam ended up having lasting influence on the future United States. Coleslaw and Santa Claus are just a couple of things that the Dutch colony introduced to the Americas. More specifically, Shorto illustrates how Manhattan became an early center of religious tolerance, cultural plurality, and free trade, all things embraced by Americans, albeit awkwardly in balance with the Puritan traditions handed down from our New England forebears. ( )
1 vote Othemts | Jun 20, 2018 |
In this breathless page-turner describing life in New York City from 1609 to 1664, based on impeccable archival research, you’ll find a cinematic panorama of high adventure, low comedy, melodrama, tragedy, enlightenment, complete with conspiracies, shipwrecks, mislaid letters, incendiary pamphlets, battle scenes, betrayals, massacres of innocents, and a commander surrounded by enemies, pacing the ramparts of his fort, muttering. Two protagonists push the action to its climax: Peter Stuyvesant, the shrewd one-legged soldier with steel nerves and a penchant for parakeets; and Adriaen van der Donck, an idealistic young lawyer who waxes poetic on the American pastorale, and embarks on an unrelenting campaign for representative government that lands him in prison and carries him across the Atlantic to The Hague. Juicy parts are also available for the bit players: pirates, prostitutes, smugglers, soldiers, business sharks, government officials, slaves, spies, secretaries—AND Norwegians, Germans, Italians, Jews, English, Africans, Walloons, Montauks, Mohawks, and Mahicans. ( )
  deckla | May 23, 2018 |
I didn't know much about the Dutch settler's in Manhattan. I was interested because of my Dutch American ancestors. So much of what we consider "American" ideals came from the Dutch. Yes the Puritans fled England seeking religious freedom. But those who stopped in the Netherlands didn't stay because there was too much religious freedom. In America the Puritans built societies where you were free to worship as long as you did it their way. It was the Dutch who had the idea's we think of as "American".

It is from them that we get boss, Santa Claus, coleslaw, cookies instead of the English biscuit. ( )
  nx74defiant | Feb 26, 2017 |
A bit boring at the start but once it got going it became epic with more intrigue than a Mexican tele-novella. 4.5 stars ( )
  Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
Like the vast majority of the world, it seems, I had but a meagre knowledge of Dutch Manhattan. "The Island at the Center of the World" certainly brought me up to speed on it somewhat but as a non-American I think some of Shorto's information was lost on me. Indeed, you would get a lot more out of "The Island at the Center of the World" if you have ever visited the place (the closest I've been is Georgia).

The book "The Island at the Center of the World" was only possible thanks to the discovery of a large collection of first-hand documents relating to New Netherlands Shorto starts with a lengthy introduction on how the collection was found, how they found some one with exactly the right experience and knowledge to translate, how the salary to pay him was organised and then how he's been translating over the last 40 years. After a while you're thinking "just get to the damn history of New Netherlands." You'll be pleased to hear that Shorto does eventually start writing about the book's actual topic.

We then read of Manhattan's rise under the Dutch to what could almost be called a city before the English invasion. We get to hear a lot about the main figures in Manhattan's Dutch history, from the managers to the farmers, the brewers, the prostitutes and even the chap who used a stick to perform some eye watering damage to an Indian's groin. And then there is the reference to the amazing powers of beaver testicles.

A well-researched tome that I would have enjoyed more had I been a New Yorker but still worth the read. ( )
  MiaCulpa | May 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
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Russell Shortoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ganser, L. J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If you were to step inside an elevator in the lobby of the New York State Library in Albany, you would discover that, although the building has eleven floors, there is no button marked eight.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385503490, Hardcover)

In a landmark work of history, Russell Shorto presents astonishing information on the founding of our nation and reveals in riveting detail the crucial role of the Dutch in making America what it is today.

In the late 1960s, an archivist in the New York State Library made an astounding discovery: 12,000 pages of centuries-old correspondence, court cases, legal contracts, and reports from a forgotten society: the Dutch colony centered on Manhattan, which predated the thirteen “original” American colonies.  For the past thirty years scholar Charles Gehring has been translating this trove, which was recently declared a national treasure.  Now, Russell Shorto has made use of this vital material to construct a sweeping narrative of Manhattan’s founding that gives a startling, fresh perspective on how America began. 
 
In an account that blends a novelist’s grasp of storytelling with cutting-edge scholarship, The Island at the Center of the World strips Manhattan of its asphalt, bringing us back to a wilderness island—a hunting ground for Indians, populated by wolves and bears—that became a prize in the global power struggle between the English and the Dutch.  Indeed, Russell Shorto shows that America’s founding was not the work of English settlers alone but a result of the clashing of these two seventeenth century powers.  In fact, it was Amsterdam—Europe’s most liberal city, with an unusual policy of tolerance and a polyglot society dedicated to free trade—that became the model for the city of New Amsterdam on Manhattan.  While the Puritans of New England were founding a society based on intolerance, on Manhattan the Dutch created a free-trade, upwardly-mobile melting pot that would help shape not only New York, but America.
 
The story moves from the halls of power in London and The Hague to bloody naval encounters on the high seas.  The characters in the saga—the men and women who played a part in Manhattan’s founding—range from the philosopher Rene Descartes to James, the Duke of York, to prostitutes and smugglers.  At the heart of the story is a bitter power struggle between two men: Peter Stuyvesant, the autocratic director of the Dutch colony, and a forgotten American hero named Adriaen van der Donck, a maverick, liberal-minded lawyer whose brilliant political gamesmanship, commitment to individual freedom, and exuberant love of his new country would have a lasting impact on the history of this nation. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:18 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In a landmark work of history, Russell Shorto presents astonishing information on the founding of our nation and reveals in riveting detail the crucial role of the Dutch in making America what it is today. In the late 1960s, an archivist in the New York State Library made an astounding discovery: 12,000 pages of centuries-old correspondence, court cases, legal contracts, and reports from a forgotten society: the Dutch colony centered on Manhattan, which predated the thirteen "original" American colonies. For the past thirty years scholar Charles Gehring has been translating this trove, which was recently declared a national treasure. Now, Russell Shorto has made use of this vital material to construct a sweeping narrative of Manhattan's founding that gives a startling, fresh perspective on how America began. In an account that blends a novelist's grasp of storytelling with cutting-edge scholarship, The Island at the Center of the World strips Manhattan of its asphalt, bringing us back to a wilderness island, a hunting ground for Indians, populated by wolves and bears, that became a prize in the global power struggle between the English and the Dutch. Indeed, Russell Shorto shows that America's founding was not the work of English settlers alone but a result of the clashing of these two seventeenth century powers. In fact, it was Amsterdam, Europe's most liberal city, with an unusual policy of tolerance and a polyglot society dedicated to free trade, that became the model for the city of New Amsterdam on Manhattan. While the Puritans of New England were founding a society based on intolerance, on Manhattan the Dutch created a free-trade, upwardly-mobile melting pot that would help shape not only New York, but America. The story moves from the halls of power in London and The Hague to bloody naval encounters on the high seas. The characters in the saga-the men and women who played a part in Manhattan's founding, range from the philosopher Rene Descartes to James, the Duke of York, to prostitutes and smugglers. At the heart of the story is a bitter power struggle between two men: Peter Stuyvesant, the autocratic director of the Dutch colony, and a forgotten American hero named Adriaen van der Donck, a maverick, liberal-minded lawyer whose brilliant political gamesmanship, commitment to individual freedom, and exuberant love of his new country would have a lasting impact on the history of this nation.… (more)

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