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  • NYS Writers Institute

Online Book Club with guest author Russell Shorto

In recognition of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Manhattan and Fort Orange (the present-day city of Albany), the NYS Writers Institute has partnered with the Historic Albany Foundation for an online book club event with Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America (2005).


Shorto, a two-time visitor to the NYS Writers Institute, will join us for a Zoom event to take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4.

The discussion will be moderated by Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl.

From the publisher:

In this riveting, groundbreaking narrative, Russell Shorto tells the story of New Netherland, the Dutch colony which pre-dated the Pilgrims and established ideals of tolerance and individual rights that shaped American history.


When the British wrested New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, the truth about its thriving, polyglot society began to disappear into myths about an island purchased for 24 dollars and a cartoonish peg-legged governor. But the story of the Dutch colony of New Netherland was merely lost, not destroyed: 12,000 pages of its records–recently declared a national treasure–are now being translated. Russell Shorto draws on this remarkable archive in The Island at the Center of the World, which has been hailed by The New York Times as “a book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past.”


The Dutch colony pre-dated the “original” thirteen colonies, yet it seems strikingly familiar. Its capital was cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic, and its citizens valued free trade, individual rights, and religious freedom. Their champion was a progressive, young lawyer named Adriaen van der Donck, who emerges in these pages as a forgotten American patriot and whose political vision brought him into conflict with Peter Stuyvesant, the autocratic director of the Dutch colony. The struggle between these two strong-willed men laid the foundation for New York City and helped shape American culture. The Island at the Center of the World uncovers a lost world and offers a surprising new perspective on our own.


Praise for The Island at the Center of the World:

“A tour de force. . . . The dramatic story of New York’s origins is splendidly told. . . . A masterpiece of storytelling and first-rate intellectual history.” -- The Wall Street Journal


"Astonishing . . . A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past." -- The New York Times


“As readable as a finely written novel. . . . social history in the Barbara Tuchman tradition.” -- San Jose Mercury News


“Literary alchemy. . . . Shorto’s exhaustively researched and highly readable book is a stirring re-examination. . . . Brilliant and magisterial narrative history” — Chicago Tribune


“Masterly . . . A new foundation myth . . .Shorto writes at all times with passion, verve, nuance and considerable humor.” — The New York Times Book Review


“Rattlingly well told–a terrific popular history about a past that beautifully illuminates the present.” — The Sunday Times [London]


“A triumph of scholarship and a rollicking narrative . . . an exciting drama about the roots of America’s freedoms.” – Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life


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