Title: The Island at the Center of the World
Author: Russell Shorto
Publisher: Doubleday 2004
Genre: U.S. History
Rating: 5/5 stars
Reading Challenges: Perpetual .(Nonfiction Adventure); Mount TBR; Popsugar - Bought on a Trip
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.
I do love my history books and this one was amazing! Being a former history teacher, I have a basic understanding of the Dutch colony in the New World, but that understanding had a lot of holes and questions. This book gave me so much more knowledge. I was amazed at the complexity of the Dutch situation stuck between multiple English colonies, various native groups, and even the Swedish. I loved hearing the narratives of prominent players of the time. Adriaen van der Donck was my favorite. I had never heard of the man prior to reading this book, but he was so incredibly important to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Shorto does an amazing job of brining the people and places to life. He excels at tracing the settling of the region through growth and turmoil to the surrendering of the colony to the English. His argument that the culture of New York City owes itself to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam is compelling. Due to crazy home life, this book took me two weeks to read but it wasn't for lack of interest. If I could, I would have read it in one day.
Next up on the TBR pile: