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The History of Manhattan

The well-known story is that the Dutch purchased Manhattan from the Lenape Native American tribe for $24. Since land in Manhattan goes for well over $1,000 per square foot these days, and since the island is now worth over $60 billion altogether, this is often depicted as another instance of Native Americans being swindled by European settlers. However, it is also known among historians that the Native Americans intended for the Dutch to be their military allies. This means that along with the low price (about $950 in today's dollars), there were certain political intangibles included in the deal.

Old New York Was Once New Amsterdam
The First European settlement on the Island was named New Amsterdam. It was located at the island's southern tip and had a population of 270 settlers. The official seal of the city commemorates the founding of New Amsterdam in 1625.

The British Take Manhattan
A British fleet took New Amsterdam in 1664 and shortly thereafter, the settlement would be renamed to New York. The Treaty of Breda followed three years later and enabled both countries to make peace with each other. It was at this point that the Dutch formally relinquished the island. Dutch colonists would continue to live with British colonists peacefully and in 1686, New York would become the first city in the colonies to be given a royal charter.

The British Take Manhattan During the Revolutionary War
The British Army would capture Fort Washington during its New York Campaign. Fort Washington was located on the Manhattan’s northern end and was the last remaining stronghold of the Continental Army. Manhattan would serve as the headquarters of the British Army for the rest of the American Revolutionary War. It was during this period of British control that the Great Fire of New York occurred and Manhattan would suffer severe damage in that disaster.

The 18th Century
The 18th century would see the rise of New York as an economic and political center with the opening of the Erie Canal and Tammany Hall becoming a political force. The American Civil War resulted in the New York Draft Riots, which came about because of widespread disapproval of both the war (due to the city’s economic ties to the South) and President Abraham Lincoln's war policies.

The 20th Century
Notable early 20th century events such as the Harlem Renaissance and the New York Subway's construction would help to cement New York and Manhattan's place in American life and Culture. The mass migration of black Americans from the South and the prohibition era would all play a role in the formation of Manhattan and the rest of New York.

The latter part of the 20th century saw an exodus from Manhattan as city-dwellers fled due the increase in crime. The exodus was followed by a mass return in the 1990s as people once again became interested in city living. The trend of returning to the city continued even after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. It was thought that the 9/11 attacks could cause another mass flight from the city, but this never happened.


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