Island at the Center of the World Book Review

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¶ … Island at the Center of the World

The purpose of this paper is to introduce and analyze the book "The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America" by Russell Shorto. Specifically it will contain a critique of the book. Shorto's book is a deep look into the early history of New York and New England, focusing on the New Netherlands Dutch colony and its influence on the city and state of New York. Shorto's main thesis of the book is the early history of New York, and he states it in the Prologue when he writes, "It is a distinctly European tale, but also a vital piece of America's beginning. It is the story of one of the original European colonies on America's shores, a colony that was eventually swallowed up by the others" (Shorto 1). Many people forget that the Dutch initially settled New York, and this book brings that early history and culture into light.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Book Review on Island at the Center of the World Assignment

This books contribution to the issue of United States history is great. In fact, it looks at an area of American history that is often forgotten or overlooked, and helps show how the Dutch influence in New York has permeated many things we take for granted today in society, such as using Santa Claus as a Christmas symbol, and how Dutch politics helped influence the Revolutionary War and revolutionary ideals (Shorto 314-315). This book shows how American settlement in New York began as a scheme of the Dutch West India Company to gain control over more land and riches they could export to Europe, and how pervasive these companies were in settling (and subjugating) nations and peoples around the world. We often think that most people came to America to gain religious freedom (and many did), but they also came hoping to find prosperity and even great wealth by discovering new items to export to Europe. New Amsterdam was a settlement created out of commerce, rather than religious survival, and that is an important distinction to remember in American culture and history. As far as weaknesses, if there are any weaknesses in this book, it may be the way the author attempts to "tell a story" in a nonfiction text, such as the beginning when he speculates about Henry Hudson's travels in London. Historians might not approve of this approach, because it cannot really be historically verified, but I think it made the book more interesting and appealing to the lay reader. You do not have to be a student of history to appreciate this book, and that means that it is appealing to more readers and more people may read it and learn more about American history.

Since so many people do not know about this time in American history, making it more appealing may be just the way to get the word out there, and gain a new audience of history buffs who did not realize they enjoyed history so much. As far as strengths go, the book is written in a vivid style that is especially good at characterization and painting pictures of the characters and their motivations. He shows Stuyvesant as a pompous and ruthless leader, but good for the colony, and he shows other historical figures in the same way, powerfully and vividly, making the book more interesting and easy to read.

The author continually proves his thesis throughout the work. He shows the origins of the New Amsterdam project, its highlights, and its eventual disappearance as more English settlers took over North America. It is interesting that the colony actually encouraged many religions to settle there, and then began religious persecution in 1654, when Stuyvesant barred twenty-four Jews from buying land or settling in New Amsterdam (Shorto 275). At a time when the English were actively settling the New World to enjoy religious freedom, Manhattan was banning it, and this may be one of the many things that led to the eventual downfall of the settlement.

I do not feel the author had any outstanding biases or messages he was attempting to convey in the book. He clearly has a passion for history and historic details,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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