Regular price: $35.00

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

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 13 "original" American colonies. For the past 30 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 17th-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.

©2005 Russell Shorto (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Astonishing.... A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past." ( The New York Times)
"A tour de force.... The dramatic story of New York's origins is splendidly told.... A masterpiece of storytelling and first-rate intellectual history." ( The Wall Street Journal)
"As readable as a finely written novel...social history in the Barbara Tuchman tradition." ( San Jose Mercury News)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    108
  • 4 Stars
    23
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    90
  • 4 Stars
    27
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    3

Story

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    100
  • 4 Stars
    23
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing history!

so many interesting historical facts we've never heard before. Please keep digging. Very much worth reading again

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting but dull delivery

The information contained in this book is very interesting for history buffs. It contained much that has never been included in any American History. The author read however, while read with care and determined delivery, lacked any kind of character. I appreciate how the author read steadily as some books are read Way too fast, but reminded me of college lectures by professors who were very knowledgeable and loved the subject but just didn't know how to deliver the lecture with any kind of character. This is a good book for Reading.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Unforgettable

This is one of my favorite books in the genre of layperson history. It is an unforgettable story of 17th century new Amsterdam ( New York). The stories themselves are interesting and you won’t be able to put it down. The connection to the revolutionary era into the modern era is interesting, to say the least.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Incredibly scholarly yet literary and entertaining in the first degree

I was swept away from the first with Shortin’s revolutionary yet impeccably researches thesis that New Amsterdam spawned the American chapter and base social assumptions. That would have sufficed for five stars. But his continual excursions from dry, scholarly discourse into frank, folksy characterizations harmed my pants off. On top of this dual triumph of facts and engagement add his courageous and triumphant reading of his own book that reveals both his rhetorical prowess and the further support of his sincerity audible in his evident struggle to balance credibility and passion which manifests throughout in his tone of voice. I can only tell the author that it was very cruel of him to bring his shattering tale to an end, and I shall eagerly await more of the same.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Epic indeed!

The author/narrator brings to life the remarkable tale of Dutch New Amsterdam and its indisputable influence on the making America. Must reading for New Yorkers and lovers of liberty everywhere!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Detailed account of early nyc history

This is a very detailed history of the years covering Hudson, Stuyvesant and the early colonization of America. Only for student and lovers of history. The personalities become alive, but the intricate detail makes this far from a "summer read".

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Loved learning about the Dutch roots

Shorto is passionate about the history of Manhattan. I appreciate the research he did as well as those who have spent years translating Dutch documents. Shorto weaves a bit too much detail to hold my total attention but overall I am enjoyed getting to know that the roots of Manhattan are in the diverse heart of the Dutch.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Dutch influence in NY/New World

History is written by victors... too bad we weren't taught how much influence the Dutch really had in the forming of our City, State and nation's way of thinking about freedom, appreciation for diversity, tolerance of religions, and especially their demand for basic human and civil rights. All qualities not practiced by England in the 17th century. Their influence may have inspired our founding fathers in ways they may not have known towards the Declaration of Independence and ultimately revolution for freedom from the yoke of monarchy.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

great account of nyc history

great account of nyc history glad . didn’t realize that the dutch where thd true nyc colonizers

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Glad that I finally read it.

This had been recommended by a friend several years ago who is quite proud of his Dutch heritage. I wish I had taken his advice sooner. This was a fascinating story, with plenty of little tidbits for those of us who've wondered how they ever came up with a name like "Yonkers." The reader didn't sound as experienced as others- his delivery was a bit flat- but the story made up for that.