The Island at the Center of the World

This book was recommended to me by a friend on a project while working in Amsterdam. He was right – this is a book you’ll really enjoy I think; I certainly did!

Its about the founding of New Netherlands and especially New Amsterdam, which became New York City after the English took it over. American history typically downplays the importance of the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, but recently efforts started to translate documents that remain from the original colony. The resulting picture is fascinating.

Where the New England colonies were typically Puritan and intolerant, New Netherlands was very tolerant of differences; that toleration was continued under the English. Its possible that the melting pot mentality of the United States indeed came from that early tolerance, as did some of our legal structures (for example the public prosecutor). We also inherited a number of words from the colony (cookie and cole slaw, for example).

I now look forward to our next trip to the Big Apple to try to find the remains of the colony and perhaps walk some of the walks that would have been common back then.


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