03 December 2010

New York's Prominence

Years ago, some time in the 1990s, I began a ms on American history, aimed at the high school level, in the hope of selling it to a textbook publisher.

I fished about a bit for publishers, without any luck, then settled into some other project and forgot this one.

I mention this because I've just now rediscovered the long-forgotten partial ms. Leafing through it, my eyes fell upon my brief attempt to acknowledge, and to give some but not too much credence to, geographical explanations of NYC's rise to world prominence.

I observed that the Hudson River gave the holders of its southern extremity, from the era of Dutch dominance to the present, easy access to fertile lands along the long valley. Also, in English colonial times, this was "a highway to the lucrative fur trade and it could carry an intrepid traveller most of the distance to 'New France,' or Quebec. What is more: Hudson's tributary, the Mohawk, offered access to the western frontier."

I also noted, at a remove: "Also customary at this point is the observation that New York was positioned, in colonial times especially, to serve as the intermediary between Massachusetts and Virginia. As a geographical explanation for New York's rise to prominence this is unhelpful. First, it is also true of Baltimore and Philadelphia (which, likewise, possess fine natural harbors.) Second, it is true of virtually any point anywhere that it serves as an 'intermediary' between someone to its north and someone else to its south, so no site derives any especial benefit from that fact."

Okay, not a great piece of writing. But I have retained the ambivalent attitude toward geo-historical explanations that you can hear in my voice there.


EJD said...

You might be interested in my book, which has a lot about the fur trade in NY -- FUR, FORTUNE, AND EMPIRE: THE EPIC HISTORY OF THE FUR TRADE IN AMERICA (www.ericjaydolin.com)

Christopher said...

I may indeed. Thanks for the suggestion.

How have the reviewers treated you?

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.