Island at the center of the world

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America [Paperback]

I’m in the middle of reading this book, The Island at the Center of the World, which is a detailed look at the Dutch colonization of New Amsterdam (essentially present day NYC, and up the Hudson river valley). I must say I’m really amazed at how much of the “American spirit,” was evident even in those first waves of Dutch explorers. They were very tolerant of a mixing of cultures, religion, and had a strong belief in an upwardly mobile society. But As a history nerd who thoroughly enjoys reading accounts of the true paradise that was Manhattan, I already love this book. There detailed accounts of the bounty of the forests, the abundance of nut trees, schools of salmon and tuna welcoming Hudson, and the fields and fields of wild strawberries scattered around what is now Time square. As I sit and look out on to the “concrete jungle,” it’s truly hard to imagine what this place would have been like, but it does sound wonderful.

This morning as I walked I had a thought: It would be really cool to have those first waves of Dutch settlers here now to see what has become of the once wild island. My first assumption was that they would be in awe, and also very excited. But then I had to wonder..maybe not? Maybe they would have been horrified about the dense forests being replaced by streets. (don’t get me wrong, I’m very lucky to have been born when I was born, and to live in the city I live in).

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