Join us for a Curiosity Forum event: an author talk with Vernon Benjamin on his new book, The History of the Hudson Rivery Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War.
From The New York Times online:
Mr. Benjamin’s “History of the Hudson River Valley From Wilderness to the Civil War” (Overlook Press) is a model for how to enliven geography, anthropology and biography and weave them into a microcosmic account of America, from the “Paleo Prelude” to “Custer’s First Stand.”
He amplifies the profiles of familiar characters like Benedict Arnold and introduces new ones (“Sebal Luddington, a mere girl who surpassed Paul Revere in her perilous midnight ride”), illuminates the dependency of New York’s economy on African-American workers, and reveals the secessionist tilt of tiny Pine Bush in Orange County and its possible link to John Wilkes Booth, whose penultimate performance was in Albany.
Coupled with the Erie Canal, the Hudson was the avenue of commerce that exported the material harvest of the industrial revolution and helped bind the nation by spreading the culture and politics of America’s pre-eminent city.
-Sam Roberts, www.nytimes.com, August 8, 2014
Sailing down the river that would later bear his captain's name, explorer Robert Juet described the Hudson River Valley in 1609 as a "drowned land" submerged by a "great lake of water." Over the next two centuries, this drowned landscape would be the site of a truly historic flowering of art, literature, architecture, innovation, and revolutionary fervor--drawing comparisons to another fertile cultural haven built around a might mighty river in Western Europe.
As historian Vernon Benjamin chronicles, the Hudson River Valley has been a place of contradictions since its first settlement by Europeans. Discovered by an Englishman who claimed it for the Dutch, the region soon became home to the most vibrant trading outpost for the New World colonies--the Island of Manhattan--even as the rest of the valley retained the native beauty that would inspire artists from James Fenimore Cooper to Thomas Cole. Because of its unique geography and proximity to Canada, the Hudson Valley became the major theater for the battle between empires in the French and Indian War. When the colonists united in rebellion against the British several decades later, conflict came to the region once again, with decisive military engagements from Saratoga to West Point to the occupied New York Harbor. In the aftermath, New York emerged as the capital of a new nation, and wealth from the city flowed north to the burgeoning Valley, leading to a renaissance of culture and commerce that is still evident today.
Richly illustrated and scrupulously researched, Vernon Benjamin's magisterial new history will be the definitive text for years to come.
Vernon Benjamin has lectured on the history of the Hudson Valley at Marist College and Bard College since 2003. He holds a Masters in Literature from Long Island University and a Bachelors in Sociology from Siena College. A former editor of the New Saugerties Times, he has written extensively on the Hudson Valley for various publications and has appeared on C-SPAN. He lives in Saugerties, New York.
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