Tag Archive for 'dutch'

The Island at the Center of the World

The Iowa Cau­cus results last night got me think­ing about the many com­pet­ing polit­i­cal cul­tures present through­out Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Indi­vid­u­al­ist vs. com­mu­ni­tar­i­an, rich vs. poor, urban vs. rur­al… but, at the core of our nation­al psy­che is this ten­sion between the lofty ideals set forth by the Founders, and our attempts and fail­ings to live up to them. For every shin­ing exam­ple of Lin­coln, FDR, and Mar­tin Luther King Jr., there are gen­er­a­tions of back-slid­ers who prey upon fear in order to gain polit­i­cal advan­tage. Sure, to every­thing there is a sea­son, but I’m glad to see that the vot­ers in Iowa embraced hope and reject­ed cyn­i­cism, on both sides of the polit­i­cal spec­trum.

The Island at the Center of the WorldHis­to­ry is writ­ten by the win­ners, which is why Amer­i­cans tend to think of our colo­nial past and demo­c­ra­t­ic begin­nings as built upon and in reac­tion to Eng­lish insti­tu­tions alone – but the sto­ry is a lit­tle more com­pli­cat­ed. It’s not often that I do book reviews, but I just fin­ished re-read­ing The Island at the Cen­ter of the World, The Epic Sto­ry of Dutch Man­hat­tan and the For­got­ten Colony that Shaped Amer­i­ca [excerpt] by jour­nal­ist his­to­ri­an Rus­sell Shorto, and want­ed to rec­om­mend it to any­one look­ing for some inter­est­ing read­ing on the ori­gins of this coun­try.

The tra­di­tion­al telling of colo­nial Amer­i­ca focus­es almost exclu­sive­ly on the Eng­lish colonies in Vir­ginia and New Eng­land. But, Shorto reminds us that the Dutch were the first Euro­peans to set­tle the island of Man­hat­tan, and built some of the most last­ing ideals and insti­tu­tions into the fab­ric of Amer­i­can polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al life.

Con­tin­ue read­ing ‘The Island at the Cen­ter of the World’