New Amsterdam Becomes New York

The British seize Manhattan from the Dutch—and alter the trajectory of North American history

On September 5, 1664, two men faced one another across a small stretch of water. Onshore, just outside the fort at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, stood Peter Stuyvesant, director-general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, his 52-year-old frame balanced on the wooden stump where he had lost a leg in battle a quarter century earlier. Approaching him aboard a small rowboat flying a flag of truce was John Winthrop, governor of the Connecticut colony, until very recently a man Stuyvesant had called his friend. Read more »

Champlain Among The Mohawk, 1609

A Soldier-Humanist Fights a War for Peace in North America

A few generations ago, American colonial history centered on a single narrative that flowed from Jamestown in 1607 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Today early American history has blossomed into a braided narrative with many story lines.

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The Rebels Of Merry Mount

Thomas Morton liked the lush country, the Indians liked Thomas—and the stern Puritans cared little for either

No early English settler was more delighted with New England than was Thomas Morton, lawyer of Clifford’s Inn, London. He had none of the dour misgivings of William Bradford and the other Mayflower Pilgrims who had landed at Plymouth less than two years before. From the moment he stepped ashore at Massachusetts Bay, in June, 1622, he fell in love with this American earth: its Indians, its wild life and plants, and its beauty. Only Captain John Smith left a more complete record of its resources.

 
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Christopher Columbus, Mariner

The discoverer of the New World was first and foremost a sailor

”I reached the conclusion,” writes Samuel Eliot Morison, “that what Columbus wanted was a sailor biographer, one who knew ships and sailing and who had visited, under sail, the islands and mainland that he discovered.” Accordingly Professor Morison organized the Harvard Columbus Expedition, which in 1939–40 retraced the great navigator’s voyages.

Shipwrecked History: Spanish Ships Found In Pensacola Harbor

A hurricane sank a fleet in Pensacola Bay 450 years ago, dooming the first major European attempt to colonize North America, a story that archaeologists are just now fleshing out

On August 15, 1559, the bay now known as Pensacola slowly filled with a curious fleet of 11 Spanish vessels, their decks crammed with an odd mix of colonists and holds filled to bursting with supplies and ceramic jars of olive oil and wine from Cadiz. Aboard the 570-ton flagship Jesus stood the wealthy and ambitious Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano, with direct orders from the king of Spain to establish a permanent colony in La Florida. The rest of the fleet included two galleons, beamy cargo ships known as naos , small barques, and a caravel. North America had never before seen anything like it on this scale.Read more »

The Spirit Of ’54

More than two decades before the Revolution broke out, a group of Americans voted on a scheme to unite the colonies. For the rest of his life, Benjamin Franklin thought it could have prevented the war. It didn’t—but it did give us our Constitution.

 

 

Improbable it may seem, but an industrious, aquatic, fur-bearing rodent deserves a share of the credit for the first real effort at unifying Britain’s American colonies. Just as we tend to forget that the Americas were discovered as a byproduct of the search for pepper, the reason the beaver’s contribution has gone unsung all these years is, in the words of the journalist Henry Hobhouse, “Men have always liked to believe in their own influence.” Read more »

How British Are You?

Very. The legacy of British traits in America is deeper and more significant than we knew.

As one of the most imaginative historians in contemporary America, David Hackett Fischer has produced a work that may put his fellow scholars’ teeth on edge. Historians, rather conservative in temperament, are reluctant converts when their choice ideas are thrown into question. Yet Fischer’s latest book, Albion‘s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford University Press) will fascinate them as well as the general reading public.Read more »

Forts Of The Americas

On their weathered stone battlements can
be read the whole history of the three-century
struggle for supremacy in the New World

On the northwest shoulder of South America, looking out over the blue waters of the Caribbean, an ancient citadel stands guard above a Spanish city. Three thousand miles to the north, where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the gray rollers of the North Atlantic, the guns of another once-menacing fortress stare sullenly across a bleak, empty sea. The tropical city is Cartagena, Colombia. The northern bastion is Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, once called the “Gibraltar of the West.” Read more »

The Hunt For The Regicides

They had sent King Charles to the scaffold without remorse. Now they were fugitives in New England with a big price on their heads

 

The death warrant was signed on Monday, and the business was then pushed with all haste. At ten o’clock on Tuesday morning—it was January 30, 1649 —Captain Hacker brought King Charles out of St. James Palace. The air was still and very cold—ice was piled up under the Thames bridges. Charles walked briskly, urging his guard to be quick: “March apace!” To the solemn muted roll of drums he crossed the park between lines of soldiers and entered Whitehall.