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History

History (1)

There is still no known data of the precise century in which the first settlers arrived in New York from Asia across the Bering Strait. What is known is that in around the year 1000, the Vikings, led by Leif Erikson, had already reached what is now North America, and that in the 16th century the archipelago was occupied by Algonquin tribes who basically lived off hunting, fishing and growing corn, squash and beans. In fact, the island is currently named after them. The Indians called it Mannahatta, which means little island. Nowadays we call it Manhattan.

The Algonquins inhabited much of the Canadian and US coast and were divided into family groups identified by the area where they lived. Thus, the Canarsies lived in what is now Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens and Munsee in Manhattan, for example.

The bay was not discovered until the 16th century. As is well known, Christopher Columbus discovered America on 12 October 1492 and, after this, several European countries progressively set out to conquer the new world. Thus, the Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazano, under the command of Francis I of France, former Duke of Angouleme, had to find a way to Asia through North America. It was in 1524 when he explored the coast of North Carolina and discovered the bay of New York, which he named New Angouleme. Unfortunately for France, the discovery had no major consequences.

In 1609, the veteran English navigator Henry Hudson, under the command of the Dutch East India Company, tried once again to find the famous passage to Asia. He reached the bay in his huge 80-tone ship, the Halve Maen, and explored the river that now bears his name. Soon after this, the Dutch begin colonisation.

The first to settle here in 1613 were the navigator Adriaen Block and his crew. They remained here for just a few months while fixing some major damage to their ship, partly thanks to the indigenous people of the area who were, however, later described as hostile. The colony of New Amsterdam was founded a year later, in 1614, and the first settler families consisting of just over 100 people arrived in 1623. A few years later, more and more families arrived, including the engineer Cryn Fredericks who designed a fortress on Manhattan island: Fort Amsterdam, where the National Museum of the American Indian now stands.

Soon after, what is known by many historians as the first pillaging of the Indians in the history of the United States, when Peter Minuit, the first governor of the colony, bought Manhattan Island from Native Indians in exchange for trinkets equivalent about 60 guilders, just over 24 dollars.

In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant was appointed governor and commissioned the construction of several civil engineering projects to rearrange and refocus the population: a fort, schools, docks, bridges, etc. By 1660, Manhattan had almost 1,500 inhabitants living mainly from the export of otter, beaver and mink furs and the growing of tobacco in the area where Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side now stand.

In 1664, New Amsterdam was surrendered to the British without any resistance and was soon renamed New York in honour of the Duke of York. After the British had beaten the Dutch, the king of England Charles II gave his brother the Duke of York a large territory that included this Dutch colony.

The city then increased in terms of its speed of development and by the early 18th century it had around 5,000 inhabitants who began selling flour to Europe, one of the most important export products. So much so that even today barrels of flour are present on the city's coat of arms.

1765 saw the famous "Stamp Act", a British law imposing a tax on official documents and other publications that soon led active protest by 9 of the 13 American colonies against England. Although the law was abolished one year later, it would be the straw that broke the camel's back. New York traders organised a major boycott of British products in 1768 and the Sons of Liberty movement arose, which would eventually expel the British governor in 1775. But it was not until 16 November 1783 when George Washington definitely expelled the British, which is known as Evacuation Day. 

For a short time, New York was the capital city of the United States. George Washington even swore on the Bible in the Federal Hall in 1789, which is located on Wall Street. After five years as the capital city, New York began its great economic development.

In 1800, the city had 60,000 inhabitants and the port was growing at a staggering speed. For example, Robert Fulton launched his first steamboat in 1807 and 1818 saw the first regular service between New York and Liverpool.

Just 30 years later, New York already had 200,000 inhabitants and the first horse-driven public buses and the first railway line between New York and Harlem were created. By 1860 the population had quadrupled and, although the Civil War took place from 1861 to 1865, the Union victory brought great benefits to the city, as well as the desired abolition of slavery.

The first cast iron buildings and elevators, the ideal combination for the development of vertical architecture in the city, appeared in around 1870. Central Park was completed in 1880, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened in 1883, the Statue of Liberty was inaugurated in 1886 and the first skyscrapers were built in the early 20th century, while the Communists took power in Russia. As can be seen, the city was growing at a frantic pace.

The Wall Street crash took place in 1929, which was especially hard on the city of New York. Countless projects remained unfinished and things did not pick up for several years. In the mid-30s, thanks to the New Deal proclaimed by Franklin Roosevelt, the economy took off again and was catapulted as a result of World War II and its aftermath.

It was then that countless intellectuals and artists took refuge in the United States, especially in New York. Marc Chagall, Albert Einstein, Piet Mondrian and hundreds of thousands of immigrants seeking a better future.

New York began to fill with people and industries and the port activity had to move to New Jersey and elsewhere. Unfortunately in the 60s and 70s, several racial clashes occurred and New York became a place with a very high crime rate. 

As of the 80s, Wall Street was reborn and New York established itself as a global financial centre. In the 90s, largely thanks to the beloved mayor Rudi Giuliani, the city began to enjoy a new golden age. Crime decreases dramatically. Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn were refurbished, new museums attracting tourism were opened and a desire to learn was rekindled. The population started to grow once again and cosmopolitanism was multiplied. In 2001, the sad events of 11S stopped this growth for a while before starting again stronger than ever after a few years.

Nowadays, New York is the most populated city in the United States. It includes Manhattan island, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, although most tourists head to Manhattan as if it were the city of New York.

Manhattan is just over 21 kilometres in length by just under 4 kilometres in width and has an endless number of museums, an overwhelming range of plays and musicals, countless famous film locations, breath-taking skyscrapers, beautiful squares and huge parks, as well as many of the best shops and restaurants in the world. It is no surprise that New York is known worldwide as "the city that never sleeps".

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