Course Meeting Times

1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

Hitherto it had gone by the original Indian name Manna-hatta, or as some still have it, ‘The Manhattoes’; but this was now decried as savage and heathenish… At length, when the council was almost in despair, a burgher, remarkable for the size and squareness of his head, proposed that they should call it New-Amsterdam. The proposition took every body by surprise; it was so striking, so apposite, so ingenious. The name was adopted by acclamation, and New-Amsterdam the metropolis was thenceforth called.

—Washington Irving, 1808

In less tongue-in-cheek style, this course examines the evolution of New York City from 1607 to the present. The readings focus on the city’s social and physical histories, and the class discussions compare New York’s development to patterns in other cities.


Your grade is composed of two essays, two possible quizzes, a final exam, and class participation. Further details about the essays are given under Assignments. The specific guidelines will be discussed in class.


A detailed schedule of readings by class session is given on the Readings page.

Shorto, Russell. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. New York, NY: Vintage, 2005. ISBN: 9781400078677.

Richter, Daniel K. The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780807843949.

Kuo Wei Tchen, John. New York Before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780801867941.

Wilentz, Sean. Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780195174496.

Gilfoyle, Timothy. City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 1994. ISBN: 9780393311082.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN: 9780195049831.

Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995. ISBN: 9780465026210.

Freeman, Joshua. Working Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II. New York, NY: The New Press, 2001. ISBN: 9781565847125.

Beckert, Sven. The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780521524100.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Written Assignments