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The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan | [Russell Shorto]

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

Nearly 40 years ago, a New York State Library archivist discovered 12,000 pages of extraordinary records from the original Dutch colony on Manhattan. After decades of painstaking translation, the documents became the primary source for this breathtaking history of early New York.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: I always trust the expert ears of our audio engineers, and they highly recommend The Island at the Center of the Earth because of L. J. Ganser's performance. In this riveting account of the birth of Dutch Manhattan, Ganser is at the top of his game, presenting fascinating details with a voice that remains compelling for all 15 hours. —Diana Dapito

Publisher's Summary

Nearly 40 years ago, a New York State Library archivist discovered 12,000 pages of extraordinary records from the original Dutch colony on Manhattan. After decades of painstaking translation, the documents became the primary source for this breathtaking history of early New York.

Before there were 13 colonies, there was New Netherland. Founded by the Dutch, this tiny community on the edge of the wilderness supported a staggering array of peoples: Norwegians, Germans, Italians, free and slave Africans, Jews, Bohemians, Mohawk Indians, and more. Surrounded by intolerant Puritans, New Netherland took its cues from Amsterdam, Europe's most liberal city. Inevitably the Dutch and the English clashed, and a new nation was born.

With an extraordinary cast of real-life characters, including Rene Descartes and James, the Duke of York, The Island at the Center of the World is a riveting narrative and a landmark in the chronicles of American history.

©2004 Russell Shorto; (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Winner, Non-Fiction (Unabridged), 2005

"An important work." (Booklist)
"New York history buffs will be captivated by Shorto's descriptions of Manhattan in its primordial state, of bays full of salmon and oysters, and blue plums and fields of wild strawberries in what is now Midtown." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Shorto reconstructs, in fascinating detail, the little-told story behind the Dutch settlement and its capital, Manhattan....It's hard to imagine any narrator's voice remaining fresh and compelling through 15 hours of sweeping historical narrative, but Ganser comes close." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (757 )
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4.1 (294 )
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Story
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Performance
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  •  
    Pen Name 11-20-08
    Pen Name 11-20-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Loved it!"

    I am a history buff and I loved this book and the history of New York City that it clarified. It was truly fascinating. I wish I had known this stuff while I was growing up in Manhattan. Still it was enlightening to learn about the early Dutch settlement and I would highly recommend this book to any fellow history buff. The author tells the story of NYC's early beginnings in such a way that you are sucked into it before you know it. Definitely worth a second listen.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Geeding Arkansas 01-21-06
    Sandra Geeding Arkansas 01-21-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Early American History"

    It is true, history is written by the winners. I learned hardly anything about the Dutch Settlement of New Amsterdam in high school. (I attended private school, the vast majority of the students were Calvinist Dutch decendents.) I don't remember hearing anything about that Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam covered nearly 5 of the oringal 13 colonies. It is also interesting that the English had to hire Dutch speakers to trade with the Native Americans because that was the only other language with which the Natives were familiar. I thank the author for bringing this research to light.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Oakland, CA, USA 05-31-05
    Steven Oakland, CA, USA 05-31-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wealth of Information, but Continual Repitition"

    This book by Russel Shorto holds a wealth of information related to the pre-English colonies in North American. At many times during this audiobook, I was fascinated by the information about the people of the New Amsterdam colony, and by the interesting relations to Dutch politics during the 17th Century. For this, the book is worth the listen.
    However, what for me was very, very annoying was the continual repitition of multiple re-phrasing of statements like this: "And now we can see why New Amsterdam, and its multi-cultural state and ideals, truly formed the identity of what we now call the United States of America, and specifically the melting pot known as New York," etc etc. I believe that it is a shortcoming of the author to constantly remind his readers of the importance of the content of the book without allowing the content to stand on its own. If you can overlook the fact that at the end of nearly every chapter you are reminded of the importance of the New Amsterdam colony to the founding of the values of New York city, and therfore American itself, then you probably will enjoy this book very much.
    Keep in mind that the book is dramatized, historical non-fiction and that the author has filled in the gaps between actual historical documents to present to the reader a "compelling tale," based of a historical anthropological research done by other individuals (duly credited in the book).

    27 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie-Elizabeth Scottsdale, AZ, United States 10-17-09
    Marie-Elizabeth Scottsdale, AZ, United States 10-17-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "worth the time"

    primarily a publication of primary source historical documents, the first 1/3 or so of the book seemed a bit repetitious and dry. i actually dropped it for a while and listened to some trashy and exciting fiction.
    however, as an avid history buff who grew up in NY, i gave it a second try, and i'm very glad i did~ the flow of information, while still based on a relatively unknown cache of primary historical documents, eventually took on more of the flow of a story, and the characters fascinating players in a grand historical drama. i had no idea that the Dutch were the radical progressives of their day, and it was they that were the Europeans who brought the ideas of self-determined democratic government and pluralistic diverse society to our shores! i know the NY Native tribes, some of them, also had this type of government in their own style, and most of the Dutch honored their treaties w/Native Nations. And more! as i said, worth the time~

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen Austin Texas 06-10-08
    Helen Austin Texas 06-10-08 Member Since 2007

    Reading Raven

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very Cool History Lesson!"

    This was an excellent book that was thoroughly researched, which I applaud. The history was fascinating, rich in new content and truly helped the reader understand the roots of American culture. It made me appreciate the origin of the "melting pot" of cultures and acceptance that thrive in NYC today and make our country so unique. It is true the "winners write the history books", so I am thankful for the clarification. I recommend this book to anyone from NY, New England, with a Dutch heritage and/or anyone who appreciates understanding the social roots of this great country.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Avondale, PA, USA 08-11-08
    William Avondale, PA, USA 08-11-08 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Knickerbockers' and Mets' uniforms - think Dutch"

    Who knew the Knicks' and Mets' blue and orange colors originated with the flag of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands? A very well-reached and entertaining telling of the history of the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam. Bottom line, the Dutch were a lot more fun than the Puritans, and have a lot more in common with modern Americans too.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    goddess_of_pipework Roswell, GA United States 05-16-07
    goddess_of_pipework Roswell, GA United States 05-16-07 Member Since 2002

    goddess_of_plumbing

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "interesting"

    an engrossing look at an overlooked chapter of American history -- as long as the listener can overlook the author's too-frequent, preachy asides on what we owe our Dutch forebears, and the narrator's nasal voice and occasionally strident tones.

    The characters of Adriaen Von Der Donck and Peter Stuyvesant particularly stand out. Rather than being somewhat cardboard, they come through as 3-dimensional human beings. Maybe someday, Von Der Donck's book on America, of which we were fed a few tantalizing tidbits, will be given a good, modern translation and published for our children to read and marvel at.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    fm 03-21-08
    fm 03-21-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "liked it."

    History buff stuff. I can never get enough of ood or interesting trivia, especially historically curious or contradictory. this book tells a sotry of global dimensions, one and two people at a time. I liked it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip GRANT, AL, United States 12-06-08
    Phillip GRANT, AL, United States 12-06-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Island at the Center of the World"

    So far my favorite book, very well research and written and great narration. This is a keeper.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edward Houston, TX, USA 12-03-04
    Edward Houston, TX, USA 12-03-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting Dutch History of NYC"

    The book really gives you insight into the Dutch development of NYC during the 17th century. Very interesting character development and reads quickly.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
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