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Gotham
A History of New York City to 1898
By: 
Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace
Oxford University Press

 

Gotham

In Gotham, Edwin 0. Burrows and Mike Wallace have written an epic as vast and varied as the city it chronicles. Drawing on the work of hundreds of scholars who have reexamined New York's past, the authors weave together diverse histories--of sex and sewer systems, finance and architecture, immigration and politics, poetry and crime--into a single narrative tapestry that reads like a fast-paced novel. Readers will relive the tumultuous early years of New Amsterdam under the Dutch, the Indian wars and Peter Stuyvesant's autocratic regime, the English conquest, the rise of slave trading and slave revolts, the invasion and garrisoning of the city during the Revolution. They will watch New York blossom over the nineteenth century into the country's greatest port, leading manufacturing center, preeminent financial hub, corporate headquarters, and incubator of mass cultural Innovations from vaudeville and baseball to Coney Island and the department store.

Gotham, is no mere local history. The story of New York is the saga of the nation. By 1898, New York had become America's unofficial capital. Wall Street supplied it With capital, Ellis Island channeled it labor, Fifth Avenue set its social trends, Madison Avenue advertised its products, Broadway and Times Square entertained it, and City Hall, as befit an unofficial capitol, Welcomed heroes and heroines with parades and flotillas.

But the real heroes and heroines of Cot/ian, are New Yorkers themselves, and the authors provide mini-biographies of hundreds of individuals, ranging from the world famous to the virtually unknown. We meet she-merchant Margaret Hardenhroeck, rebel Jacob Leisler, and reformer Joanna Bethune; Clement Clarke Moore, who helped invent Christmas and save Greenwich Village; Herman Melville, who painted disillusioned portraits of the city, and Walt Whitman, who exuberantly celebrated it. We encounter Boss Tweed and P. E Barnum; Emma Goldman and Jacob Riis; Horace Greeley and Nellie Bly Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr; Mayor De Win Clinton and Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt; inventors Robert Fulton and Thomas Edison; and millionaires John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and August Belmont; along with ministers, novelists, feminists, labor unionists, architects, gangsters, politicians, publishers, developers, and others who left their mark on this great city.

The interplay among New York's fiercely heterogeneous citizens was often abrasive, and Gotluzm recounts the way clashes between immigrants and old-timers, rich and poor, blacks and whites flamed into fierce street battles like the Civil War draft riots. But New Yorkers also forged connections and coalitions-creating multi-national picket lines, interracial reform movements, and multi-ethnic political tickets. Their fusions and collisions generated tremendous kinetic energy, cultural inventiveness, and a vision of unity-in-diversity that would become a distinctive contribution to World civilization.

The people and events that animate these pages will mesmerize everyone interested in the greatest dry on earth. Gotham is a dazzling read, an absorbing narrative that carries the reader along as it threads its multitude of stories into one great blockbuster of a book.

Edwin G. Burrows is Professor of History at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. Mike Wallace is Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Together they have collaborated for twenty years to produce this book, the first volume in the definitive history of New York City.

(From the book jacket)