Metropolis: History of New York City

Black and white photo of two girls and two boys, standing in front of a shoeshine stand.

Four children on a street in Chinatown, New York City, c. 1903. (Image from Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division: LC-USZ62-132908)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2009



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Course Description

Course Features

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.

Related Content

Craig Wilder. 21H.235 Metropolis: History of New York City. Fall 2009. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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