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History of New York
 
 
 

Early History

Prehistory in the area began with the geological formation of the peculiar territory of what is today New York City. The area was long inhabited by the Lenape; a sedentary people who occupied campsites seasonally, resulting in relatively easy access to the small game that inhabited the region: fish, birds, shellfish and deer. They developed sophisticated techniques of hunting and managing their resources. By the arrival of Europeans, the Lenape were cultivating fields of vegetation through the slash and burn technique, which extended the productive life of planted fields. They also harvested vast quantities of fish and shellfish from the bay. The success of these methods allowed the tribe to maintain a larger population than nomadic hunter-gatherers were able to support. It has been estimated that at the time of European settlement there might have been about 15,000 Lenape total in approximately 80 settlement sites around the region. Lenape in canoes met Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European explorer to enter New York Harbour, in 1524. Giovanni da Verrazzano named this place New Angoulême in the honour of the French king Francis I. Although Verrazano sailed into the New York City Harbour, he is not thought to have travelled further than the present site of the bridge that bears his name, and instead sailed back into the Atlantic. It was not until the voyage of Henry Hudson, an Englishman who worked for the Dutch East India Company, that the area was mapped. He discovered Manhattan Island on September 12, 1609, and continued up the river that bears his name, the Hudson River, until he arrived at the site where New York State's capital city, Albany, now stands.

European Settlement

European settlement began with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement in Lower Manhattan in 1613 later called New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam) in the southern tip of Manhattan in 1625. Soon thereafter, most likely in 1626, construction of Fort Amsterdam began. Later in 1626, Peter Minuit established a long tradition of shrewd real estate investing when he purchased Manhattan Island and Staten Island from native people in exchange for trade goods. Minuit's settlement was also a haven for Huguenots seeking religious liberty. Willem Kieft became director general in 1638, but five years later was embroiled in Kieft's War against the Native Americans. The Pavonia Massacre, across the Hudson River in present day Jersey City resulted in the death of eighty natives in February 1643. Following the massacre, eleven Algonquian tribes joined forces and nearly defeated the Dutch. Holland sent additional forces to the aid of Kieft, leading to the overwhelming defeat of the Native Americans, and a peace treaty on August 29, 1645. On May 27, 1647, Peter Stuyvesant was inaugurated as director general upon his arrival, and ruled as a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. He curtailed the city's religious freedoms and closed all of the city's taverns. The colony was granted self-government in 1652 and New Amsterdam was formally incorporated as a city February 2, 1653. In 1664, the English conquered the area and renamed it New York, after the Duke of York and Albany. The Dutch briefly regained it in 1673, renaming the city New Orange, before permanently ceding the colony of New Netherland to the British for what is now Suriname in November 1674.

The British & American Revolution: 1665-1783

This period began with the establishment of English rule over formerly Dutch New Amsterdam and New Netherland. As the newly renamed City of New York and surrounding areas developed there was growing sentiment for greater independence. Leisler's Rebellion, an uprising in which militia captain Jacob Leisler seized control of lower New York from 1689 to 1691, occurred in the midst of Britain's 'Glorious Revolution' and reflected colonial resentment against the policies of King James II, who in the 1680s decreed the formation of New York, New Jersey and the Dominion of New England as royal colonies, with New York City designated as the capital. This unilateral union was highly unpopular among the colonists. Royal authority was restored in 1691 by British troops sent by James' successor, William III. The event introduced the principle that the people could replace a ruler they deemed unsuitable; uprisings against royal governors sprouted throughout the colonies. The 1735 libel trial of John Peter Zenger in the city was a seminal influence on freedom of the press in North America. In 1754, Columbia University was founded as King's College in Lower Manhattan under charter by George II of Great Britain. The Stamp Act and other British measures fomented dissent among local residents, particularly among Sons of Liberty who maintained a long-running skirmish with locally stationed British troops over Liberty Poles from 1766 to 1776. The site of modern Greater New York City was the theatre of the New York Campaign, a series of major battles in the early American Revolutionary War. After early success in that campaign the city became the British political and military center of operations in North America for the remainder of the war. New York was greatly damaged twice by fires of suspicious origin during the British military rule that followed. Continental Army officer Nathan Hale was hanged in Manhattan for espionage after the Battle of Long Island (also known as the Battle of Brooklyn), the largest battle of the entire war. In addition, the British began to hold the majority of captured American prisoners of war aboard prison ships in Wallabout Bay, across the East River in Brooklyn. More Americans lost their lives from neglect aboard the prison ships than died in every battle of the war, combined. British occupation lasted until November 25, 1783. George Washington triumphantly returned to the city that same November 25th, as the last British forces left the city. The Congress met in New York City under the Articles of Confederation, making it the first national capital of the United States, and the Constitution of the United States created the current Congress of the United States, first sitting at Federal Hall on Wall Street. The Supreme Court first deliberated, the United States Bill of Rights drafted, and the new United States first expanded (via the passage of the Northwest Ordinance) in the city.

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