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

af Russell Shorto

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1,852476,691 (4.1)118
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.… (mere)
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Engelsk (46)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (47)
Viser 1-5 af 47 (næste | vis alle)
Excellent, fascinating history of the New World Dutch colony, New Netherland, with emphasis on Manhattan and the rest of New Amsterdam. The book covered from exploration of the area by Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Dutch, to the final bloodless surrender to the British. We learn more about Peter Minuit than his buying Manhattan from the Indians for $24, which we have probably learned in grade school. The Europeans and the Indians had different concepts of such transactions. He was also important in the history of New Sweden [later Delaware]. Peter Stuyvesant emerges as more than the stereotype of a peg legged tyrant. We also learn of a man forgotten by history and who should be much better known, Adriaen Van der Donck, the lawyer and visionary, who even travelled to the Hague to seek redress for the common people. After the British took over, they kept some of the Dutch institutions. The most important was something they didn't have in their own legal system and saw the advantage of: the office of schout, which we still have today in the person of the district attorney. Lastly, the book delineates the traces of Dutch influence even today, although the English downplayed the importance of the colony. New Netherland encompassed all or some of five states: New York [from the Atlantic Coast to /Fort Orange/Albany], New Jersey, Connecticut [today's Tri-State area], and parts of Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Oct 8, 2020 |
Pilgrim-Puritan New England was inward looking, tribal, and embraced something very like Sharia law. The early Virginians were little more than slave dependent parasites. It was in Dutch Manhattan that America began. But because that narrative did not favor British mythology, and because the records of the Dutch colony disappeared for 300 years, the great contributions to the founding of America by the Dutch were, and for the most part are still, ignored.
This is an important book based on those long lost records. ( )
  Notmel | Sep 22, 2020 |
At first the rapidly changing cast of characters is bewildering. However, gradually the important characters become clear and remain through the book.

The author frequently emphasizes that there are few clear cut heroes or villains, and that New Netherlands was very multicultural, with never resolved conflicts between the people and their ruler.

A surprise for a non-fiction was that there is an exciting climax in the penultimate chapter of the book. Not that we don't know how it will end. We do know. But the rapid fire political and military machinations would make an amazing study for someone willing to try to understand all the duplicity involved - especially in that chapter. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
A marvelous book about the founding and growth of Dutch New York. History is told by the winners so we see New York as an English story. But this book pulls us back and situates New York as a far-flung tentacle of the Dutch Golden Age and tells us how that influence has continued not only in place names but in the tolerance and diversity that makes New York unique. ( )
  gbelik | Aug 4, 2019 |
Author Russell Shorto regrets that the Dutch presence in North American is usually seen as a sort of comic preface to the main event – Peter Stuyvesant and his wooden leg stump around a little bit but Nieuw Amsterdam quickly becomes New York and it’s the Big Apple rather than the Big Tulip. In The Island at the Center of the World, Shorto makes a fairly strong case that many of the political and social customs center to the founding of the United States – particularly tolerance for others – were inherited from the Dutch, rather than England, pointing out that the Pilgrims in Massachusetts – usually taught in school as the “founders” – were running a dictatorial theocracy at the same time as the Dutch had an open and multicultural society to the south. Shorto’s helped by the 1973 recognition that bundles of moldering documents in the New York State Library were the records of the Dutch West India Company, and their translation by scholar Charles Gehring.

It wasn’t all a tulip garden on Manhattan Island, of course. The Pilgrims more or less had self-government – religio-fascist government, but at least they picked it themselves – while the Dutch had a company town run by a board of directors in Amsterdam and a local boss (from the Dutch baas with dictatorial powers. And “tolerance” was grudging; Jews could live in Manhattan – if they had permission from Amsterdam – but they couldn’t build a synagogue; and recognition of Native American rights fluctuated, seemingly because neither side really understood the other. Still better than a lot of other places, though. (Interestingly, the first use of “American” to describe a people refers to the natives and turns up in letters to Amsterdam).

The key was when the English took over in 1664 they agreed to “liberty of conscience”, free trade, and local political representatives – the citizens of New York actually ended up with more rights after the English conquest than they had before – and more rights than the entirely English citizens of Boston. had.

I do have a question; Shorto notes that the New Netherlands came under increasing pressure from New England, which quickly outnumbered it in population; I wonder why. I’m not familiar with how New England got populated; after the initial Mayflower passengers, were there subsequent waves of arrivals? Did the New Englanders breed faster? Did nobody want to emigrate from the Netherlands because things were so good there? The Dutch West India company did encourage emigration, but through the patroon system rather than individual farmers.

An easy read, but well footnoted and referenced. Appropriate illustrations. As a final illustration of the “melting pot”, Peter Stuyvesant’s homesite is now occupied by an Arab newsstand, a Yemenite restaurant, a pizza place, and a Jewish deli. Interesting and recommended. ( )
2 stem setnahkt | Apr 1, 2019 |
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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.

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