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Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

(Gotham #1)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,146 ratings  ·  155 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 1424 pages
Published October 19th 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published November 19th 1998)
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Martha Washington Irving gave NY that nickname in his literary magazine Salmagundi in 1807. It means goat town and was the name of a perhaps fictional town…moreWashington Irving gave NY that nickname in his literary magazine Salmagundi in 1807. It means goat town and was the name of a perhaps fictional town in old English legend whose inhabitants pretended to be stupid in order to trick rulers out of cheating or oppressing them. (less)

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Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am loving this book. This is the way I always wanted to read history. Not just the battles or the politics but what were the people doing? Why did they think what they did? What were they reacting to? First hand perpectives give a real view of what it was like. How the power shifted back and forth over the course of history. How "the greatest city in the world" fit into the history of the world, from its very beginning. I can't even imagine the research that went into this 1400 page volume. ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My son, Shannon, a resident of Chelsea gave me this book two years ago. As a Southern Californian, I was not in a hurry to read a "New York" book. I also put it off because of it's bulk(1236 pages!!). When I finally got around to it, I found it absolutely riveting. It is far more than merely a history of New York. It is a history of America from the perspective of New York, written with great humor. Unfortunately it only takes us up to 1898, and it took the authors Edwin G Burrows and Mike ...more
Roy Lotz
Time is not a carousel on which we might, next time round, snatch the brass ring by being better prepared.

When I began this book, I thought that I would speed through it in a summer month of dedicated reading, while there was little else to distract me. Yet after four weeks of slogging I had not even gotten a third of the way through. Worse still, I never felt fully engaged; every time I returned to the book it required an act of will; the pace never picked up, the writing never become
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Gotham" by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace earns its name, not just because of its subject but because of its heft at more than 1200 pages. The coverage is exhausting, the reading of sources nuanced; this is no straight trajectory to the top for America's best-loved and most-vilified city. In a modification of the adage originally attributed to Balzac, perhaps beneath every astonishing city is a crime, and New York was no stranger to its country's original sin. The useful myth that Peter ...more
Czarny Pies
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
This book is above all a great testament to the overall high level of current American historical writing and academic research. While Burrows and Wallace have unquestionably written a great work of synthesis history, they obviously could not have achieved such an excellence if that there had not been an extraordinary collection of monographs to synthesize. Hats off to Burrows, Wallace and the academics producing excellent studies on narrow topics.

I devoted roughly one quarter of my
Lawrence A
A truly monumental romp through the first 275 years of the world's most monumental city, although I'm probably biased, since I was born in Brooklyn and now live in Manhattan. I began reading this book several years ago, put it down for a while, and picked it up again a few months ago. The narrative thread is enlightening, although the book can also be used as a reference volume with respect to certain events, epochs, and personalities. And, oh, what personalities! Outsized, egomaniacal, ...more
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monica by: Alex
This is THE definitive history of New York. As with a few other rare books I put this in a category all it's own. An enriching masterpiece for everyone who reads it.
Antonio Nunez
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Summarizing this book is a bit like summarizing the Bible: the outline of both is easy to make out but what makes them memorable are the details. Gotham is monumental history, in the sense of Mount Rushmore or the Holy Family Cathedral in Barcelona: the work of decades, an emblem of an age. Here we begin with Indian Manahatta, an earthly paradise for the Lenape Indians, a nomadic tribe that visited the Island to hunt and fish. Then come the Dutch who found New Amsterdam. Then the English ...more
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
The better part of six months later... I feel a little like I've survived a siege, and a little less like having finished a book. A 1236-page siege. This was the first book I read primarily on my Kindle. It was a significant reason for buying the Kindle. If I had to haul the book around on airplanes I wouldn't have gotten done nearly as fast as I did. Definitely a good investment.

The history itself was comprehensive, repetitive, and altogether corrupt. One political party to another. Prosperity
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just flat out an outstanding history book. Reading this book has been a labor of love that has taken a few years because there is so much information and analysis packed into it. It may seem to cover a limited topic, New York City to 1898, but the authors cover a lot of topics in great depth and there are connections to broader trends in the US and the world.
I appreciated how much I learned about New York City - the loco-focos, the b'hoys and so on. I think what was most interesting was how
Michael Hattem
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
No other history of NYC even comes close to this. And I don't just mean in thoroughness. The writing is so easy and smooth while at the same detailing complicated events and casts of characters. Those who write often know that to be able to write this way is extremely hard. If it weren't written this way, no one could slog through it. Also, the structure of the book could not have been better. To write something this huge it is necessary to compartmentalize, but keeping the compartmentalization ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that you find on everyones shelf but which few have actually read. I'll tell you a secret, the way to get through this is to get the audiobook. It's 67 hours and fifteen minutes long but only one credit on the audible subscription or $16. So, for $0.50/hr you can hire a scribe to follow you around all day and read this book to you in your spare time. It will still take you weeks, but you'll be much much richer for it.

If you live in or are interested in New York City
Jason Bergman
Okay, so let's get this out of the way up front: this book is very, very large and intimidating. It took me over twelve years to muster the courage to read it. I picked it up in 2003, wanting to read a really good history of New York City, and for all that time it sat on my shelf, taunting me.

So I finally read it. And it is indeed great.

Here's the thing about Gotham - while there are almost certainly more comprehensive histories of the founding of New Amsterdam, the Revolutionary War, the New
Oct 08, 2013 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Note for own reference: Roughly 62% onwards (Kindle edition) is the index.
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, new-york
It took me quite a while to read this book - several years, in fact. I was determined to read it through to the end, primarily because it was co-written by my second cousin. I am proud of my association with this Pulitzer Prize winning historian, and I am proud to have read the length of this book, a panoramic overview of the history of New York City from its earliest times up until the 20th century, and the creation of the metropolis out of what were formerly independent communities.

I am at a
William Buniak
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"Whew!", I have finally finished it.
I have been wrestling in my mind between whether giving this book 4 stars or 5 stars when I neared the end of this book (when I was around page 500 or so, I picked up steam in completing it during the last few days). The 4 star rating appeared appropriate at a time when I felt that I was never going to near the end of this book, that I have taken up a task of Sysiphian proportions. But then I realized I was rating a book not on it's merits, but on the attitude
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
To the people who only gave this book two stars: I wish you would write a review and let us know why!

I read this book over a lazy summer, and have never been more fascinated by a work of non-fiction. Burrows and Wallace profile the city from its "discovery" by white men to the bustle of the 1890s. They discuss almost every conceivable aspect of the city with humour and insightful research, providing us with astonishing statistics, fascinating quotes from the time, and a comprehensive scope that
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, lefty, nyc
A sprawling subject needs an angle. Wallace & Burrows', I was surprised to find, is ideological: Their history of New York City is the history of its class struggle. Almost every chapter takes on the POV of a class formation (capital, labor, or the middling classes), then follows it through a change in some facet of political, social, or economic life. I'm on board with this method, but franker cover copy would be a favor to the reader.

The result is a very full-fiber, whole-grain sort of
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The Parade magazine review kind of nails it (in addition to being a wonderful passive-aggressive bit of urbophobia): "If NYC is a great city, then it deserves a great book". This book actually is crucial reading even if your own personal jury is up in the air about whether NY is Bablyon/Sodom/Cloud City/pick a master urban metaphor. This ish jumpstarted my love affair with america. DOWNTOWN PRINT IT. Fun fact: this book has taken me most of four months to finish (as a bedtime reading book, but ...more
North Landesman
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An epic book. At 1,250 pages, this book takes a LONG time to read. It is worth it. It provides a full and comprehensive history of New York City from 1624-1898. Well written and informative, any lover of New York City should read it. Most importantly, reading this behemoth feels like an achievement.
Jon Boorstin
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new-york
This remarkable re-discovery of the ins and outs of New York in its infancy and early teens. If you love modern New York, you owe it to yourself to buy this book and leave it by your bedside. Leafing through it will make every encounter with today's New York feel like a shadow of the real New York, New York before it was captured by the skyscrapers.
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Am I crazy for reading a 1300+ page on the history of NYC only up till 1898? Maybe, but this is so going on my resume.

Update: I finally finished this book. One word: Mindblowing!!
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's a long read, but is a excellent look at the history of New York City up to 1898.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this exhaustive and comprehensive history of New York City from the period of Lenape habitation to its founding as New Amsterdam all the way to 1898, when the five boroughs were incorporated into a greater New York, Burrows and Wallace argued that NYC has nearly always been the center of American urban life. The book is divided into five sections.
Part one looks at its history prior to European settlers, opening with the Founding City Myth of Manhattan being sold for $24, when the truth is a
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
"Everything old is new again"

Wallace & Burrows' GOTHAM is an outstanding work of history! More than explaining how or why NYC became America's leading city, GOTHAM also tells us much about who inhabited the metropolis (from the lowliest low to the highest high-bred) and what these people did to succeed or fail. GOTHAM also brings on the when - remembering to show the pattern of New York's long arc as a constant struggle between republicanism (small r) and expanding democracy (small d)
Joseph Tremblay
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I began reading this book (on Vanetine's Day), I thought it would take about a month to read (it's 1,236 pages long - not including the references & index). I didn't think it would take more than twice that long.

It was worth the effort, though.

If you want to read a thorough history of New York City, from before the Europeans arrived through the nineteenth century (this volume stops at 1898 - the year when Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island merged to form the
Robert Sparrenberger
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very thorough look at the history of New York City up to 1898. There's probably too much here in one volume for a person to digest. AT over 1,400 pages it can be used as a door stop. Some topics were less interesting to me than others.

There is plenty of talk about labor and the conditions of labor in the city throughout the book. Some topics on the other hand are hardly mentioned. They include scant reference or information about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Granted there is an
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took nearly two full months, but I did make my way through the entirety of this massive, massive book. If nothing else, I'm glad for my work bag to be significantly lighter for the near future. All kidding aside, I really enjoyed this and it never felt like a chore. Mike Wallace and Edwin G. Burrows put together an incredible volume, one that manages to capture the subtleties and influences that formed New York city. It starts well before the first Dutch settlers arrived and ends right at the ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is a wonderful, encyclopedic history of my hometown, and by extension, of early American history. I waited a long time for it to be released on Audible. I loved most of the narrative. I give it 5 Stars.

My only reservation is that it is way long... 1400 pages... 67 hours of listening... a real marathon! But it was worth making my way through to the end, especially when I could close my eyes and reminisce about familiar places from my childhood.

J. Walker
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Incredible. Very detailed and very in depth.
Started reading it when the trade paperback came out in 2000; 1,280 pages and 20 years after its initial publication, I finished it during northern California's PG&E's enforced blackout.
I lost track of it during my two moves in the past 2 years, but when unpacking it, I realized I last out it down 30 pages from the end.
Turns out it was incorporating the 5 boroughs into a single metropolis that brought about the end of Tammany Hall; too large a
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Edwin G. "Ted" Burrows was a Distinguished Professor of History at Brooklyn College. He received his B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1964, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1973, where he studied under Eric McKitrick. He started teaching at Brooklyn College in 1973. He and historian Mike Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1999 for Gotham: A History of New York City to ...more

Other books in the series

Gotham (2 books)
  • Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919

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