The Empire State: A History of New York

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New York now has a new, comprehensive history book that chronicles the state through centuries of change. An illustrated volume, The Empire State begins in the early seventeenth century (when the region was still populated solely by Native Americans) and concludes at the year 2000, by which time people from all over the world had made the state their home. Throughout the book, politics, economics, culture, and social history all are emphasized, as are contributions made by ethnic groups and women.

The Empire State serves as a successor to A History of New York State, for many years the standard one-volume account of the region but today outdated and long out of print. Now students, scholars, and history enthusiasts will find thorough and fascinating coverage in The Empire State.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This work concisely chronicles the sweep of events and the many achievements of the diverse people who make up both city and state. . . . An excellent introduction to the politics and panorama of one of the nation's most influential states."—College and Research Library News, February 2002

"It feels like everything has changed in this state since September 11. Although I have great hope for our future, there are moments when I wonder how we will ever recover. . . . I found some answers and much comfort in an unexpected place—The Empire State: A History of New York,". . . It does the seemingly impossible, covering a time period that spans almost 400 years. . . I never thought I would say this about an 800-page history book, but it was difficult to put down. The stories are astounding, the language accessible, at times even lyrical."—Patti Croop, Saratoga Business Journal, March 2002, Vol. 7, No. 1

"Distinguished scholar Klein was asked to edit this new one-volume history, a significant scholarly work written by an impressive group of specialists. . . . The resulting up-to-date and balanced study surveys urban, rural, and suburban life. Readable, well informed, and well illustrated, . . . this is the best one-volume history of the Empire State. For all collections with an interest in the history of New York."—Choice, Vol. 39, No.10, June 2002

"Klein masterfully connects the contributions of his six writers with two techniques: first, all seven parts of the book connect local and state developments with larger national and international trends while noting cause and effect; second, all writers integrate political, economic, and social history and likewise pay close attention to the diversity of viewpoints attendant in each. The result is a staggering compendium of the major debates and narratives in New York State history to date. . . . Milton Klein's accomplishments in editing such a well-synthesized, comprehensive, rich narrative of New York State's history are indeed something to be applauded. Undoubtedly this compilation will become a standard reference for many scholars and teachers."—Nancy Kwak, New York History Net

"This is a handsomely illustrated general history of New York State from the early 17th century through the mid-1990's."—Virginia Quarterly Review, vol. 78, no. 3

"A rich resource and a reliable guide. Milton Klein and six knowledgeable authors turn the confusions and complexities of New York history into a clear political narrative —from the Native American culture that was dislodged but never erased by European intruders to Hillary Rodham Clinton's election to the U.S. Senate in our own time."—Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship

"This book is an absolutely stunning achievement in terms of research, coverage, depth of analysis, and the clarity of its writing. It replaces all the other single volume studies of the Empire State. I congratulate Milton Klein on this notable feat."—Robert V. Remini, Professor Emeritus of History at the University at Illinois at Chicago

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801438660
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1901
  • Series: 2/21/2006
  • Pages: 837
  • Product dimensions: 7.06 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 1.83 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Native Americans before the Invasion

WHEN EUROPEANS ARRIVED IN THE REGION EVENTUALLY to be called New York, a complex and elaborate native economy that included hunting, gathering, manufacturing, and farming already existed there. The diversity of cultures that confronted the Europeans was in many ways a product of the diversity of the land. Thick woodlands traversed by rivers and streams, rolling hills and formidable mountains, alluvial valleys and narrow canyons, and a rich plant and animal population forced upon Native Americans a series of cultural adaptations that made of the area a complex and, at least to the minds of Europeans, daunting mosaic of Native American tribes, nations, languages, and political associations.

    The region that fell under the political jurisdiction of the Dutch West India Company after 1621 comprised all or part of five present states—New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Ethnographers refer to it as the Northeastern Cultural Area, which is usually divided into three subareas based on language and material culture: the Coastal Algonquian, Central-Northern Algonquian, and the Iroquoian.

    Archaeologists and ethnographers, employing a variety of sophisticated scientific dating methods, have identified a Paleolithic culture in the region as late as 5000 B.C., followed by an early Archaic culture, itself replaced by at least two more Archaic cultures that existed as late as 1000 B.C. About the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in Europe, the first "Woodland Culture" appeared in the area, followedby a "Second Woodland" or "Owasco" culture that lasted to about 1100 A.D. or the time of the first Crusades. In the twelfth century, there emerged the distinct Iroquoian and Algonquian cultures that greeted the arrival of Europeans.

    The Iroquois of the lower Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Valley spoke a number of distinct and mutually unintelligible languages classified as Iroquoian. They were more formally structured, socially and politically, than the Algonquians. Skilled traders and ferocious warriors, they played a dominant role in the political history of New York throughout the colonial period.

    The origins of the Iroquois go back before 2000 B.C., but it was during the mild climatic period about 1000 A.D. that the Iroquois colonized the Saint Lawrence Valley and cultivated maize. In these latitudes, maize had reached the extreme northern limit of its range, and probably the new food crop was initially only a supplement to hunting and gathering. By about 1300 A.D. some Iroquois villages had grown far beyond the limits of hunting and gathering settlements and may have already developed into dense habitations with the familiar "longhouses" surrounded by wooden palisades.

    By the beginning of the fifteenth century, some of these villages may have numbered more than fifteen hundred inhabitants. Such dense populations placed great demands on resources, especially on the surrounding woods that were harvested for firewood and construction material. Villages had to be moved frequently so as not to deplete these resources.

    During the fourteenth century, perhaps because of deteriorating climatic conditions resulting in cooler temperatures and a receding of the latitudinal limits of maize production, warfare among the Iroquois increased. Greater competition for good farmland and other strategic resources, such as game animals and firewood, may have played a decisive role in transforming the Iroquois into a warrior culture. War may have also provided a means for men to achieve status and power.

    Population densities achieved by agriculture required a number of social adaptations. In the crowded living conditions of agricultural villages, political institutions were required for dealing with quarrels. Arguments left unchecked quickly raged out of control and threatened the security of the whole village. It was necessary to develop formal councils made up of representatives from each clan to adjudicate grievances and resolve differences.

    Authority rested on reputation and personal relations rather than on jurisdictional units, such as townships, counties, and states, as in European society. Those who shared a common language felt a special affinity and generally regarded themselves as a single people, or tribe, but local political units tended to develop around the village or band council. The council was the governing body of the village, and its sachems constituted the political leadership. Below the level of politics the principal unit of social organization was the clan. Among the Iroquois, clans were generally exogamous; that is, marriages between men and women of the same clan were treated as incest and prohibited. Clans were generally matrilineal among the woodland cultures of New York; thus each individual belonged to the clan of his or her mother. Moreover, clan affiliation did not change with marriage. Exogamous marriage customs ensured that each village or band contained several clans. Hence, the key to political leadership on the village level was the ability to achieve consensus among the clans.

    Clans drew their identity from the natural environment, taking the names of animals, or sometimes plants or natural phenomena. Members of a clan were part of an extended family and called one another brother and sister. In Iroquoia certain clans provided sachems, others were esteemed as shamans and healers, still others were noted for their religious leaders. Clans were expected to provide food and shelter for visiting members from other villages. Thus was created a web of kinship that bound several villages or bands together. Feuds between clans were discouraged, and customs arose to prevent individual incidents from escalating into open war. For example, when a clan member murdered someone from another clan, the clan of the murderer was expected to compensate the family of the victim at a rate determined by arbitrators or council sachems.

    By the end of the sixteenth century, Iroquois tribes in what is now New York established confederacies to reduce internecine warfare. The confederacies were loosely knit associations more akin to a league of nations than a sovereign nation-state. A council composed of chiefs met regularly to resolve problems before they became blood feuds. The most famous of the confederacies was the Five Nations, or League of the Iroquois, which included the five great tribes or nations of New York and western Ontario: the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. Later, during the European colonial period, the Tuscaroras were added.

    According to Iroquois legend, the league was founded by Deganawidah, a mythic and sacred figure of mixed Huron-Mohawk blood. Hiawatha, a prophet, served as Deganawidah's earthly representative and traveled untiringly through the territory of the original Five Nations until he persuaded them to give up their intertribal warfare and blood feuds. Hiawatha conceived of an alliance to achieve permanent peace among old enemies and to provide mutual defense against outsiders.

    The league was probably modeled after existing clan and community organizations. The Grand Council consisted of fifty life-appointed male sachems, or peace chiefs, each of whom was nominated by the headwoman of certain sachem-producing lineages in each clan. The Onondaga had fourteen sachems, the Cayuga ten, the Oneida and Mohawk nine each, and the Seneca eight. Consensus was required for most league actions, and tribal autonomy was usually left untouched. Council members possessed great prestige and were responsible for keeping the internal peace as well as representing the league and coordinating united warfare. An incompetent sachem could be removed, but the impeachment procedure required the approval of the headwoman in the sachem's own lineage.

    Although the confederacy made the Iroquois the most formidable threat to European colonization, it also bred a strong sense of cultural superiority. The Iroquoian tribes to the west and south, especially the nonallied Huron, Erie, and Susquehannock eventually became the targets of the Five Nations' ambitions. Because the Iroquois considered themselves Ongwi Honwi (superior people), they never offered league membership to the non-Iroquoian-speaking peoples who came under their control. Instead, they provided membership in the "Covenant Chain," a term first suggested by the Dutch at a treaty signed with the Mohawk in 1618. The Covenant Chain, primarily a trade and military alliance, gave the Iroquois the authority to represent its members in negotiations with Europeans. However, Covenant Chain members were not allowed to vote or to have representation in the League council.

    Their control of the fur trade and their initial distance from Europeans allowed the Iroquois to respond to the European invasion by political organization and shrewd negotiation. Moreover, their long history of resistance to other tribes and their fierce reputation as warriors ensured their cultural autonomy and survival throughout the period of European colonialism. The Algonquians, who inhabited the coastal plain and shallow river valleys, were not as lucky. They were the first to experience the biological and cultural consequences of contact with Europeans and, in time, they faced the choice of destruction at European hands or assimilation and conquest by the confederacy.

    The origin of the various Algonquian tribes of coastal North America is clouded in mystery. Some forms of the language have been traced to the Muskogean family of languages found in the Southeast. It is probable that the root language, which was shared by the prehistoric cultures of the eastern seaboard, dates to the years 4000-3000 B.C. The tribes of the coast spoke various dialects of Algonquian, and communication among tribes was fairly easy.

    The tribes went by various names depending on those who designated them. Europeans, including the Dutch of New Netherland, assigned tribal names on the basis of the principal geographic feature of the surrounding area. Hence, the Raritan Indians were named after the Raritan River, the Delawares after the Delaware River, and so on. Occasionally Europeans would attempt to render the native tongue into phonetic Dutch or English, as in the case of the name for the Mohawks: to the Dutch the Iroquoian name for the tribe sounded like Maquasen; to the English it sounded more like Mohowawogs.

    The woodland Algonquian tribes of New York had many common cultural practices. Most clans lived near rivers and streams or along the seacoast, where fish and mollusks could be easily harvested. Foraging for plant foods was also an important part of the seasonal cycle of food gathering shared by most of the woodland tribes of the region, including the Iroquois. The rivers and streams served as the best transportation links between widely scattered tribes, and the Native Americans of New York evolved a technology to exploit this feature of their geography.

    Virtually all New York's Native Americans built and used canoes to trade and communicate across long distances. The design seems to have originated among the Algonquian tribes of the northeast seacoast, but the technology spread throughout Iroquoia as well. Thin sheets of birch or elm bark were stretched over a framework of saplings tied with ligatures made of root fibers. The exterior was sealed with pitch or tar, creating a nearly watertight hull. The canoes were elegant and swift vessels that could be paddled and maneuvered when heavily loaded because of the capacious design. At the same time, the boats were light for portage around waterfalls and rapids. Regional conditions were reflected in design modifications. For example, the Algonquian birchbark canoe of the Great Lakes had a deeper prow and more freeboard to handle the stormy lake waters. The combination of easily acquired materials for repair and light weight made these canoes the preferred means of river transportation throughout the colonial era.

    Communication was also maintained by several well-worn trails that connected summer and winter lodgings and carried a trade in furs, pottery, baskets, and food among widely scattered villages. The trails were kept open by use and marked with symbols to assist the confused traveler. Moccasins, an invention of the woodland Indians, cushioned the feet in supple leather tied above the ankle and provided protection against the broken branches and thorns of the trail. Generations of European fur traders testified to their comfort and practicality by forsaking their poorly fitting European leather boots when trekking through the wilderness.

    Native American weapons technology at the time of contact with Europeans consisted of bows and arrows, stone hatchets or tomahawks, and large war clubs generally hung from the arm with a leather strap. Warriors usually went into battle behind square shields made of cured leather stretched over a birch sapling frame. The shield covered the body from foot to shoulder but could be pierced by an arrow at close range. The arrival of Europeans with their metal technology and firearms transformed warfare among Native Americans. Within a generation after the arrival of the Dutch in the upper Hudson Valley, many Indians owned firearms and had learned to use them dexterously.

    Native American languages in North America lacked an alphabet and thus a written form. Orality thus shaped political and social institutions and determined the direction of technological change. Religion and intellectual life evolved in an oral tradition, without scriptures or holy text. In oral cultures a myth not repeated or given expression in ritual quickly disappears. Much of what is known of Native American religious practices in the pre-contact period comes from European observers who often failed to see the diversity before their eyes. Nonetheless, it is possible to describe in general terms some of the common practices and beliefs of the indigenous peoples of New York.

    Whether Algonquian or Iroquois, Native Americans employed the landscape as a mythopoeic ("myth-making") easel on which they painted word pictures that taught lessons about morality and the history of the clan. The stories were repeated by each generation until they become part of the clan's cultural heritage. Many of the stories were object lessons that revealed taboos and demonstrated the consequences of bad behavior. The landscape also served as the history text of the clan and community; its natural features were used as mnemonic symbols to recall the mythic migration routes used by ancestors, or as physical reminders of wars and great individual achievements.

    For Native Americans, history was a tale constantly retold from the landscape. The mystical connection with the landscape produced a different conception of land ownership than that held by Europeans. Native Americans conceived of the land as a living entity, a network of spirits and souls to which they belonged. When a tribe or clan claimed a territory, they usually did so by reference to an oral history tradition that somehow connected them with a particular piece of geography. Ownership was tied to the use of resources in some tangible way. Thus, claim to a hunting ground, a piece of farmland, or a stretch of riverbank did not mean the same thing that it did to Europeans. As the Five Nations would prove during the colonial period, claims could also be staked by warfare and intimidation.

    Although each clan or community maintained a particular mythological relationship with its immediate environment, the woodland economy of mixed farming and hunting produced a number of similar beliefs. One of these involved the reciprocal relationship between hunter and prey. Hunting involved a religious connection between people and animals that took form in spatial terms. Hunting cultures believed in a mythic protector of animals, whose permission was required for a successful hunt. Hunters prepared for the hunt by spiritual communion with the game or the game's protector. Only when both hunter and prey had been made worthy through ritual could the hunt proceed. The hunt was, therefore, a mythic journey into a "hunting ground," where the hunter acted out a part in a cosmic play. The good hunter always remembered to give thanks to the animal master for the nourishment the sacrifice had provided. The coming of the European fur trade and the consequent expansion of the hunt to respond to market forces destroyed the delicate ecological relationship between Indian hunters and the game of the forest.

    Agriculture also left its imprint on Native American culture. Most agricultural work was performed by women, who learned the skills from their mothers. The principal crop was maize, although Indian women were adept at raising a wide variety of beans, a few vegetable crops such as pumpkins and squash, and tobacco for personal use. Gathering was also a female task but not as exclusively as agriculture. Wild grapes, berries, and nuts were gathered by young girls and boys. With farming came a series of rituals that coincided with the agricultural calendar and celebrated the seasonal cycle of dearth and fecundity. The life rhythms of crops and wild plants were added to the mythic properties of the landscape.

    Native American healing and curing techniques were based upon a conception of illness poorly understood by contemporary Europeans. The Indians of New York subscribed to two theories of disease. The first involved the theft of one's soul or life's vitality. The cure was fairly straightforward: determine the cause of the loss and the location where it occurred—someplace in the landscape; then, rescue the soul and return it to its owner. The techniques to effect the cure included trances, magical flight, and ritually dramatized rescue missions performed by a shaman. The second cause of illness involved some evil spirit penetrating the sufferer's body. The spirit was seen as the source of the pain, and the cure required its removal. Shamans employed several techniques. There was exorcism pure and simple, usually requiring chanting and ritualized behavior. More invasive techniques were also tried, including minor surgery.


Excerpted from THE EMPIRE STATE by Milton M. Klein. Copyright © 2001 by New York State Historical Association. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


By Antonio Lobo Antunes

Grove Press

Copyright © 1985 Antonio Lobo Antunes. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Before the English (1609-1664)
Ch. 1 Native Americans before the Invasion 3
Ch. 2 The Dutch Stake Their Claim 12
Ch. 3 Establishing a Colony 30
Ch. 4 Peter Stuyvesant and the New Immigrants 45
Ch. 5 Life in New Netherland 61
Ch. 6 New Netherland's Last Years 87
Pt. II The English Province (1664-1776)
Ch. 7 From Proprietary Colony to Royal Province 113
Ch. 8 Advancing English Culture 130
Ch. 9 A Mixed and Enterprising People 145
Ch. 10 Colonial Culture: The Sacred and The Secular 165
Ch. 11 Provincial and Imperial Politics 182
Ch. 12 The Coming of the Revolution 202
Pt. III From Revolution to Statehood (1776-1825)
Ch. 13 "Never a More Total Revolution" 229
Ch. 14 "The Rights of Mankind" 241
Ch. 15 A New Empire 257
Ch. 16 "A Large and Valuable Canal" 269
Ch. 17 New York City, New York's Cities 284
Ch. 18 The Empire State and the Albany Regency 295
Pt. IV Antebellum Society and Politics (1825-1860)
Ch. 19 New York Modernizes: Economic Growth and Transformation 307
Ch. 20 Society, Religion, and Reform 323
Ch. 21 New York at the Crossroads of Culture 346
Ch. 22 From Factions to Parties: The Emergence of the Second Party System 369
Ch. 23 Politics and Policy 383
Ch. 24 Politics Transformed: Slavery, Nativism, and the Rise of the Republican Party 397
Pt. V The Gilded Age (1860-1914)
Ch. 25 New York during the Civil War and Reconstruction 419
Ch. 26 Making Sense of Mass Society 452
Ch. 27 "Progress" and Politics 479
Pt. VI The Triumph of Liberalism (1914-1945)
Ch. 28 Progress under Siege 519
Ch. 29 The Electric Age 549
Ch. 30 Public Work in the Great Depression 575
Ch. 31 War Brings a New Day 600
Pt. VII The Empire State in a Changing World (1945-2000)
Ch. 32 Top of the World 623
Ch. 33 Things Fall Apart 656
Ch. 34 The Long Slide 682
Ch. 35 Uneven Recovery 706
Ch. 36 New York State at the End of the Century 723
Selected Readings 735
Before the English (1609-1664) 737
The English Province (1664-1776) 745
From Revolution to Statehood (1776-1825) 764
Antebellum Society and Politics (1825-1860) 772
The Gilded Age (1860-1914) 785
The Triumph of Liberalism (1914-1945) 795
The Empire State in the Changing World (1945-2000) 806
Contributors 817
Index 819
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