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Saturday December 20th 2014

History of New York City

View of Joe Louis Plaza at 7th Avenue and 31st Street in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Standard Travel Photos click for larger image

New York City. The City of New York. The Big Apple. Consisting of five boroughs, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, New York City is the most populous city in the United States with 8.175 million in 2010. Home to Wall Street, it’s the financial center of the world. Home to the United Nations, it’s a center for international relations. New York harbor is also one of the largest ports and natural harbors in the world.

How did this world-class city come about? What’s its history? This new documentary film, New York, provides some answers.

Early Inhabitants
Humans inhabited the area that is now New York City since the end of the last ice age, which was about 10,000 years ago. The Lanape people, also known as the Delaware Indians, spoke the Algonquin language and lived on Manhattan Island. Canarsee tribes lived in Brooklyn and in Hackensack, New Jersey. Population estimates are 15,000 Lenape in 80 settlements, in and around Manhattan.

Early Dutch Settlement
In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer employed by the Dutch East India Company to find a passage to China, sails his ship, the Half Moon, into New York Harbor and discovers one of the largest natural harbors in the world. The friendly native population paddles out to meet his ship.

Around 1613 or 1614, there was a Dutch fur trading settlement in lower Manhattan that traded with natives who hunted beaver. Beaver pelts were sent back to Europe to make hats.

Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam
In 1624, the first colonists from the Netherlands began to arrive, under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company. New Amsterdam was the capital of the Dutch colony New Netherlands, but most of the new colonists were actually French-speaking Huguenots from Belgium.

In 1625, Fort Amsterdam was built, primarily to defend against other European colonial powers, notably the British. In 1626 Peter Minuit was appointed the company director-general of New Amsterdam. Minuit negotiated the purchase of Manhattan Island from the Lenape people in 1626 for the price of 60 guilders, which is roughly 1,000 dollars today. At this time, the population of New Amsterdam was 270 souls.

English Rule: New York
On August 27, 1664, four English Warships sailed into New York harbor. The merchants petitioned director-general Peter Stuyvesant to turn over the city to the British. He surrendered New Amsterdam to the British without a fight.

In 1625, the city was renamed New York, after the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. The Dutch briefly controlled New York again in 1673, but in 1674 it permanently became a part of the English Colonies. The Dutch got Suriname as a consolation prize.

Episode 1: The Country and the City
The first episode begins in 1609 with Henry Hudson, covers the Dutch colonial period, the English colonial period, slavery, and the American Revolution.

PBS, New York - 1 Country And The City (1/8)

New York: A Documentary Film

See also History of New York City

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