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Download The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America Audiobook

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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (2,535 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Russell Shorto Narrator: Russell Shorto Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2016 ISBN: 9781524733742
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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 thirteen “original” American colonies.  For the past thirty 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 seventeenth 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.  Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • A dramatic, kaleidoscopic and, on the whole, quite wonderful book. . . . This is one of those rare books in the picked-over field of colonial history, a whole new picture, a thrown-open window. . . . [A] full-blooded resurrection of an unfamiliar American patriot. The New York Observer
  • “Deserves to be a bestseller . . .narratively irresistible, intellectually provocative, historically invaluable The Guardian
  • “A spry, informative history. . . . Shorto supplies lucid, comprehensive contexts in which to see the colony’s promise and turmoil. . . . [D]elivers the goods with clarity, color and zest. The Seattle Times
  • As Russell Shorto demonstrates in this mesmerizing volume, the story we don’t know is even more fascinating than the one we do . . .Historians must now seriously rethink what they previously understand about New York’s origins . . . The New York Post
  • Russell Shorto fires a powerful salvo on the war of words over America’s origins . . . he mounts a convincing case [that], in Shorto’s words, ‘Manhattan is where America began.’ Readers . . find themselves absorbed in what can only be described as a plot, revolving around two strong men with conflicting visions of the future of Dutch North America. America: The National Catholic Weekly
  • “Fascinating. . . . A richly nuanced portrait set against events on the world stage. Time Out New York
  • “Shorto brings this . . . deeply influential chapter in the city’s history to vivid, breathtaking life [with] a talent for enlivening meticulous research and painting on a broad canvas. . . . In elegant, erudite prose, he manages to capture the lives of disparate historical characters, from kings to prostitutes. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Remarkable. . . . [C]ompulsively interesting. . . . . Shorto argues that during the brief decades of its Dutch colonial existence Manhattan had already found, once and for all, its tumultuously eclectic soul. New Statesman
  • Shorto delineates the characters in this nonfiction drama convincingly and compellingly. Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • [An] absorbing, sensual, sometimes bawdy narrative featuring whores, pirates, explorers and scholars. With clarity and panache, Shorto briskly conveys the complex history of the age of exploration. Times Literary Supplement 
  • “Shorto’s book makes a convincing case that the Dutch did not merely influence the relatively open, tolerant and multicultural society that became the United States; they made the first and most significant contribution. American History
  • Shorto’s prose is deliciously rich and witty, and the story he tells–drawing heavily on sources that have only recently come to light–brings one surprise after another. His rediscovery of Adriaen van der Donck, Peter Stuyvesant’s nemesis, is fascinating. Edward G. Burrows, coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History
  • A landmark work . . .Shorto paints the emotions and attitudes of his characters with a sure hand, and bestows on each a believable, living presence. The Times (London)
  • A triumph of scholarship and a rollicking narrative . . . an exciting drama about the roots of America’s freedoms. Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
  • Astonishing . . . A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past. The New York Times
  • Literary alchemy. . . . Shorto’s exhaustively researched and highly readable book is a stirring re-examination. . . . Brilliant and magisterial narrative history Chicago Tribune
  • Masterly . . . A new foundation myth . . .Shorto writes at all times with passion, verve, nuance and considerable humor. The New York Times Book Review
  • “Rattlingly well told–a terrific popular history about a past that beautifully illuminates the present. The Sunday Times [London]
  • “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

Listener Opinions

  • 0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 James | 2/20/2017

    " This audiobook surpassed my expectations. I didn't know what to expect but the narrator helps to make it interesting. The details provided are precise and colorful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Juenbug | 2/18/2014

    " Excellent history of Manhattan (and parts of New Jersey) before the English arrived. It would certainly seem we have the Dutch to thank for the wonderful wild and wooly freewheeling multiculti place that is New York City. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nell Nicholas | 2/17/2014

    " I am really enjoying this account of the Dutch colonization of Manhattan. I have learned a tremendous amount of Dutch influence to today's New York and New England. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Astrida | 2/16/2014

    " Although a little heavy to get through, I learned a lot about Manhattan and its Dutch settlement. Then, I dragged my husband to the New York public library to look at maps from that era. I'm a nerd. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom vC | 2/8/2014

    " I listened to the audiobook version at the gym, so it didn't get all the attention it deserved. A pretty interesting account of New York when it was New Amsterdam. Good writing, some good historical perspectives about the 1600s. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sara | 1/24/2014

    " surprisingly hard to get through. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Becky | 1/15/2014

    " I wanted to like this book because the topic sounded interesting, but I have read textbooks that were more exciting. I couldn't finish it. Maybe I just started reading it at a bad time for me personally and if I picked it up again I would be able to get into it, but honestly I just haven't been motivated to give it another shot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ma'lis Wendt | 1/5/2014

    " Fascinating account of the Dutch settlement in New Netherlands and why New York is the true foundation of the United States. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Glory | 1/1/2014

    " If all you know about Manhattan is that Peter Stuyvesant swindled the natives by buying Manhattan for a few beads, you must read this. The Dutch settlement of Manhattan before the British took over is an amazingly rich story left out of American history books. I read this twice. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kaye | 1/1/2014

    " Popular history, I suppose. A good read, interesting subject. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 12/27/2013

    " If you want to know about the history of the Dutch in New York this is a great book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 12/25/2013

    " Fascinating book, changes my understanding of how (and from where) the US began. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Zephrene | 12/16/2013

    " Really amazing stories of Dutch Manhattan, and the foundation of the unique society that grew there. Awesome stuff that American Colonial History has forgotten, or never knew, until recently. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pam Johnson | 9/8/2013

    " This is another book that changed how I view American history. I had no idea that the Dutch had contributed so much to New York's culture. It has shaped how I now read other books about American history. It is clearly written and manages to tie threads together right up to the present day. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jen Potter | 9/3/2013

    " A friend recommended this book when I mentioned that my Dutch ancestors came to New Amsterdam as early as 1630. Little did I know that those ancestors would make an appearance in this text. A good read and a great launching point for more research on family history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rick Hautala | 8/12/2012

    " A history of Dutch New York (New Amsterdam) ... that is fascinating as well as beautifully written ... with information and humor ... A great book about a little-known aspect of history ... I cannot recommend this book highly enough. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MSW | 7/28/2012

    " Good fun, with some nice new bits that you learn about 16/17 century history and the origins of the US, while being entertained in the process. Being Dutch I am not fully impartial though.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom | 9/1/2011

    " Recommended by George Moller, a friend in Rotterdam. About the influence the Dutch had on New York and the broader U.S. (government structure, work ethic, etc.) through their exploratory and colonization efforts here in the 17th century. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Patty | 8/6/2011

    " I wanted to like this one more. Probably could give it 2.5 stars. The topic was interesting and 1/2 the book is really great, showing the Dutch antecedents to modern day New York and the United States, but it bogs down under the weight of its research and academia. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom | 5/29/2011

    " I listened to the audiobook version at the gym, so it didn't get all the attention it deserved. A pretty interesting account of New York when it was New Amsterdam. Good writing, some good historical perspectives about the 1600s. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sue | 4/25/2011

    " wonderful history... and so important because the Dutch part of this history had not been revealed ... years of recent translation - the New Netherland Project... once discovered in Albany.. loved this book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rea | 4/7/2011

    " Spectacular account of the Dutch origins of Manhattan. Not to be missed by lovers of American history and/or New York City. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robin | 3/17/2011

    " I loved this book: The description of a native Manhattan island is rich and lush and the author relates the stories behind some of the boroughs and historic places in a familiar and comfortable way...it is as enjoyable and imagination-stirring as any historical fiction. Highly recommended! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 3/3/2011

    " The Dutch colony started many American things: the nation of immigrants, world-wide trading, a written Bill of Rights, New York City, cookies, bosses and Santa Claus. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rick | 2/12/2011

    " A history of Dutch New York (New Amsterdam) ... that is fascinating as well as beautifully written ... with information and humor ... A great book about a little-known aspect of history ... I cannot recommend this book highly enough. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Margaret | 11/1/2010

    " The history of Manhattan is really interesting, but getting through this book was slow going. If you're into colonial history or the history of NY, this is a book for you, otherwise, just get the NY documentary from netflix. "

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About the Author
Author Russell Shorto

Russell Shorto is the bestselling author of The Island at the Center of the WorldGospel Truth, and Saints and Madmen. He is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and the director of the John Adams Institute in Amsterdam, where he lives.