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A History of New York City to 1898

Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace

Publication Date - 19 October 2000

ISBN: 9780195140491

1408 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock

A monumental history of New York City, from the earliest Indian tribes to consolidation of the five boroughs into Greater New York in 1898


To European explorers, it was Eden, a paradise of waist-high grasses, towering stands of walnut, maple, chestnut, and oak, and forests that teemed with bears, wolves, raccoons, beavers, otters, and foxes. Today, it is the site of Broadway and Wall Street, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, and the home of millions of people, who have come from every corner of the nation and the globe.

In Gotham, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace have produced a monumental work of history, one that ranges from the Indian tribes that settled in and around the island of Manna-hata, to the consolidation of the five boroughs into Greater New York in 1898. It is an epic narrative, a story as vast and as varied as the city it chronicles, and it underscores that the history of New York is the story of our nation. Readers will relive the tumultuous early years of New Amsterdam under the Dutch West India Company, Peter Stuyvesant's despotic regime, Indian wars, slave resistance and revolt, the Revolutionary War and the defeat of Washington's army on Brooklyn Heights, the destructive seven years of British occupation, New York as the nation's first capital, the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the Erie Canal and the coming of the railroads, the growth of the city as a port and financial center, the infamous draft riots of the Civil War, the great flood of immigrants, the rise of mass entertainment such as vaudeville and Coney Island, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the birth of the skyscraper. Here too is a cast of thousands--the rebel Jacob Leisler and the reformer Joanna Bethune; Clement Moore, who saved Greenwich Village from the city's street-grid plan; Herman Melville, who painted disillusioned portraits of city life; and Walt Whitman, who happily celebrated that same life. We meet the rebel Jacob Leisler and the reformer Joanna Bethune; Boss Tweed and his nemesis, cartoonist Thomas Nast; Emma Goldman and Nellie Bly; Jacob Riis and Horace Greeley; police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt; Colonel Waring and his "white angels" (who revolutionized the sanitation department); millionaires John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, August Belmont, and William Randolph Hearst; and hundreds more who left their mark on this great city.

The events and people who crowd these pages guarantee that this is no mere local history. It is in fact a portrait of the heart and soul of America, and a book that will mesmerize everyone interested in the peaks and valleys of American life as found in the greatest city on earth. Gotham is a dazzling read, a fast-paced, brilliant narrative that carries the reader along as it threads hundreds of stories into one great blockbuster of a book.


  • Provides an epic narrative, a story as vast and as varied as the city it chronicles
  • Underscores that the history of New York is the story of our nation

About the Author(s)

Edwin G. Burrows is Professor of History at Brooklyn College.

Mike Wallace is Professor of History at John Jay College, 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.


"Here is a book sure to bring us up to speed on what took place in Manhattan before 1898, as far back as the ice age, when 'packs of glaciers crept down from Labrador....The authors...glide easily around town, peeking inside brothels for working men in Five Points, then pressing noses to the gilt-edged windows of the uptown rich....Burrows and Wallace offer a large-canvas portrait of a city they clearly love."--The New York Times Book Review

"Gotham is a masterwork--a great tapestry of a book that weaves a vast array of personalities, dramatic episodes and illuminating ancedotes into a rich and colorful whole. This is a work not just for lovers of New York, but for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of American history....Happily, Burrows and Wallace are first-rate writers, fluid in their handling of the barebones statistics, enthralling in their handling of moments of high drama. Their vivid account of the draft riots of 1863, for example, is as blood-curdling as anything in a Stephen King thriller."--Baltimore Sun

"A tome matching the size of its subject, this doorstopper more than justifies the 20 years Burrows and Wallace spent on it....Its massive size permits the inclusion of details, minor characters and anecdotes of everyday life that vibrantly communicate the city's genesis and evolution. The authors have synthesized histories from various perspectives--cultural, economic, political, etc.--into a novelistic narrative, providing the context for stories of the diverse denizens who shaped the city...[A] historical work that merits the term 'definitive' yet still manages to entertain....'Gotham' denotes a town of tricksters and fools, and this book is full of both....The rest will read with pleasure and await the companion volume's promised appearance."--Publishers Weekly

"Massive, detailed and magnificently written...it reads as easily as a smoothly crafted novel...a book that will surely stand for a long time as an exemplar of urban history--social, economic, political, religious, cultural--and woven them into a seamless tapestry that covers every aspect of the long and colorful history of the city they so lovingly chronicle. This is no dry history; it is populated with thousands of people, hundreds of anecdotes and lots and lots of delightfully informative and entertaining vignettes. It would be difficult to imagine a more comprehensive or better written history."--The Chattanooga Times

"A suitably vast, sprawling, and all-consuming history of the rapid evolution of New York City from primordial forest into the world's most fabulous city....Linking economic, cultural, demographic, and political history, the authors trace the city's development from a peripheral Dutch frontier post through its growth into a vital shipping point in the British mercantile system....Along the way the authors introduce a crazy quilt of characters from the political, industrial, cultural, and literary worlds, and from the underworld as well....Magisterial, colorful, meticulously researched, and richly detailed; destined to be the definitive history of early New York City."--Kirkus Reviews