The Island at the Centre of the World
Based on new documents just translated from C17th Dutch, this book tells the story of how a wilderness island populated by wolves, wild strawberries and native Indians, situated on a perfect natural harbour at the mouth of a great river leading into the centre of a new continent, became the crucial prize in a conflict between the Dutch and the English about who would control the recently discovered American continent. This is the page-turning story of the early years of Manhattan under Dutch rule, with at its heart a battle between men who would be its leader, the autocratic despot Stuyvesant, and the liberal-minded lawyer Van den Donck. It is Russell Shorto's thesis that the overlooked history of the original Dutch colony, and the attitudes of the Dutch settlers, were the principal inspiration for the free-trade, multi-cultural, upwardly-mobile 'melting pot' spirit of New York, and hence America.
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