COLONIAL NEW YORK: A History by Michael Kammen


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Ranging over all stages and aspects of New York colonial life, this study by the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning People of Paradox (1972) finds a new array of dualities. The New York Dutch were ""delicate and blunt, cosmopolitan yet parochial""; British rule showed ""authoritarian permissiveness""; the French and Indian War was waged with ""savagery and gentility."" Kammen identifies special characteristics of New York: bilingualism and materialism unqualified by spiritual aspirations or patrician glosses--thus ""the relative boorishness of New York's society and the vapidity of its cultural life."" Land was also scarce, being in the hands of speculators, and political life was unstable and faction-ridden, too much so for Kammen's taste--he laments that ""urbanization and expansion had made it difficult indeed to achieve any semblance of community."" However under the grey rubric of ""economic growth and problems of intergroup relations,"" the book presents a new view of trade: English exports were largely European goods, and ""the notorious navigation system did not protect British manufactures so much as it sheltered an extensive re-export trade."" Kammen's penchant for paradoxes is well-suited to the coming of the Revolution to New York, whose inhabitants protested British policy even as they backed off from independence. There is no lack of period flavor, what with wild turkeys and rebellions and one royal governor who used to dress up like his cousin, Queen Anne. Kammen's excellent material is accompanied by an extensive bibliography. An entry in the History of the American Colonies series.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
ISBN: 0195107799
Publisher: Scribners