Category Archives: Books

A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park


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a-history-of-brooklyn-bridge-parkNancy Webster and David Shirley’s new book, A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park (Columbia University Press, 2016), recounts the grassroots, multi-voiced, and contentious effort, beginning in the 1980s, to transform Brooklyn’s defunct piers into a beautiful, urban oasis.

By the 1970s, the Brooklyn piers had become a wasteland on the New York City waterfront. Today, they have been transformed into a park that is enjoyed by countless Brooklynites and visitors from across New York City and around the world. The movement to resist commercial development on the piers reveals how concerned citizens came together to shape the future of their community. Continue reading

The Borscht Belt: Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland


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the-borscht-belt-bookThe Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland (Cornell University Press, 2016) by Marisa Schenfeld, which features essays by Stefan Kanfer and Jenna Weissman Joselit, presents Scheinfeld’s photographs of abandoned sites where resorts, hotels, and bungalow colonies once boomed in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York. Today the Borscht Belt is recalled through the nostalgic lens of summer swims, Saturday night dances, and comedy performances. But its current state, like that of many other formerly glorious regions, is nothing like its earlier status. Forgotten about and exhausted, much of its structural environment has been left to decay.  Continue reading

India and the Making of Britain & America


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ben_franklins_worldNeither colonial North America nor the United States developed apart from the rest of the world. Since their founding, both the colonies and the United States have participated in the politics, economics, and cultures of the Atlantic World.

And every so often, the politics, economics, and cultures of lands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans intersected with and influenced those of the Atlantic World. That’s why in this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we’re going to explore the origins of the English trade with India and how that trade connected and intersected with the English North American colonies.

Our guide for this investigation is Jonathan Eacott, an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside and author of Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1700-1830 (UNCPress, 2016). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/111

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A History of Housing in New York City Revised


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a-history-of-housing-in-new-york-cityA standard in the field since its publication in 1992, A History of Housing in New York City traces New York’s housing development from 1850 to the present in text and profuse illustrations.

Richard Plunz explores the housing of all classes, with comparative discussion of the development of types ranging from the single-family house to the high-rise apartment tower. His analysis is placed within the context of the broader political and cultural development of New York City. Continue reading

The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club


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the-muckers-bookIn 1899, William Osborne Dapping was a Harvard-bound nineteen-year-old when he began writing down exploits from his rough childhood in the immigrant slums of New York City.

Now published for the first time, The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club (Syracuse University Press, 2016) recovers a long-lost fictionalized account of Dapping’s life in a gang of rowdy boys. Simultaneously a polished work of social reform literature and a rejoinder to the era’s alarming exposés of the “dangerous classes,” The Muckers stands as an important reform era primary document. Continue reading

New York Exposed: The Lexow Committee


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new-york-exposed-book-coverDaniel Czitrom’s new book New York Exposed: The Gilded Age Police Scandal that Launched the Progressive Era (Oxford University Press, 2016) offers a narrative history of the Lexow Committee, which the author considers the first major crusade to clean up Gotham.

Czitrom tells this story within the larger contexts of national politics, poverty, patronage, vote fraud and vote suppression, and police violence. The effort to root out corrupt cops and crooked politicians morphed into something much more profound: a public reckoning over what New York had become since the Civil War. Continue reading

New York’s Historic Inns, Restaurants, and Taverns


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nys-historic-restaurants-inns-and-tavernsNew York’s Historic Inns, Restaurants, and Taverns (Globe Pequot Press, 2016) explores the history of over forty institutions throughout New York City and the Hudson Valley that are still in existence today. Travel to the tavern where George Washington hosted a farewell dinner for his officers at the close of the American Revolution. Eat steak at one of the city’s oldest steakhouses. Rest your head in one of the original houses built by Dutch colonists in the Hudson Valley. Part historical record and part travelogue, the book tells tales about the region’s most historical and storied establishments. Continue reading

The American Enlightenment & Cadwallader Colden


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ben_franklins_worldWe’ve heard that the American Revolution took place during a period called “the Enlightenment.” But what was the Enlightenment?

Was it an intellectual movement? A social movement? A scientific movement?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, John Dixon, an Assistant Professor of History at CUNY-College of Staten Island, leads us on an exploration of the Enlightenment by taking us through the life of Cadwallader Colden, the subject of his book The Enlightenment of Cadwallader Colden: Empire, Science, and Intellectual Culture in British New York (Cornell University Press, 2016). You can listen to this episode here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/109

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‘City On Fire’ Novelist Garth Risk Hallberg Reading Tuesday


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city-on-fireGarth Risk Hallberg will discuss and read from his international bestseller City on Fire (2015) at 8 pm on Tuesday, November 29 in University of Albany’s Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue in Albany.

His debut novel was named one of the best books of 2015 by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Vogue.

City on Fire is set in New York City and spans a seven month period between New Year’s Eve 1976 through the city’s blackouts in July of 1977. The story revolves around a varied web of characters — two estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; two suburban teenagers involved in Manhattan’s punk scene; a magazine reporter; and a detective — whose lives interconnect around a shooting in Central Park. Continue reading

New Book: Northern Men with Southern Loyalties


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northern-men-with-southern-loyaltiesIn the decade before the Civil War, Northern Democrats, although they represented antislavery and free-state constituencies, made possible the passage of such pro-slavery legislation as the Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Law of the same year, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the Lecompton Constitution of 1858.

In Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis (Cornell University Press, 2016) author Michael Todd Landis contends that a full understanding of the Civil War and its causes is impossible without a careful examination of Northern Democrats and their proslavery sentiments and activities. Continue reading