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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 258

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In this book, Shorto reveals the rich and intriguing history of the island of Manhattan, New York, as he highlights the various ethnic, racial, and religious groups that engaged in trade and colonization of the area. Shorto chose to specifically focus on the Dutch influence upon the island but also highlighted the historical importance of Native Americans, the first English explorers, and British soldiers.

The historical narrative centers on the two main characters, Peter Stuyvesant and Adriaen van der Donck, and their perspectives on the future of Manhattan.

Adriaen van der Donck was a lawyer steeped in ideas of representation. He fought for free trade in the area and a form of democracy. His detailed geographic descriptions of New Netherland (and Native Americans living there) influenced many intrigued colonists to sail from Holland to the New World.

Peter Stuyvesant was a strong, controlling Dutch director general of the colony of Manhattan who clashed with Van der Donck in regard to the political vision for the island.

Shorto conducted incredible research to share new perspectives on historical characters and their marks upon Manhattan. One well-known explorer Shorto discusses is Henry Hudson; Shorto describes his ventures and discoveries in North America. Two others mentioned are Harmens van den Bogaert and Tobias, his servant.

Additionally, the author discusses a representative from the West India Company, Willem Kieft, who sought to exterminate Native Americans in the Manhattan area but was resisted by colonists. Shorto also includes Peter Minuit, specifically in regards to his transaction with Native Americans for the sale of Manhattan.