New York City History
Prehistory in the area began with the geological formation of the peculiar territory that is today New York City. The area was long inhabited by the Lenape; after initial European exploration, the Dutch established New Amsterdam and New Netherland in 1613. In 1640, Peter Stuyvesant was appointed governor and the colony was granted self-government in 1652. In 1664, the British conquered the area and renamed it New York. The Dutch regained it in August 1673, renaming the city "New Orange", then ceded New Netherland permanently to the English in November 1674.
Under British rule the newly renamed City of New York and surrounding areas continued to develop. There was a growing sentiment for greater political independence among some, but the area was decidedly split in its loyalties. The site of modern New York City was the theatre of the New York Campaign, a series of major battles in the early American Revolutionary War. After that, the city was under British occupation until the end of the war, and was the last port British ships evacuated in 1783.
New York City became the temporary capital of the newly formed United States on September 13, 1788 under the U.S. Constitutional Convention. New York City remained the capital of the U.S. until 1790. The city grew as an economic center with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and Tammany Hall began to grow in influence with the support of many of the immigrant Irish, a trend culminating with the election of the first Tammany mayor, Fernando Wood, in 1854.
There was chaos during the American Civil War, with major rioting in the New York Draft Riots. Later years saw the rise of the Gilded Age which saw prosperity for the city's upper classes amid the further growth of a poor immigrant working class, and an increasing consolidation, both economic and municipal, of what would become the five boroughs in 1898.
A series of new transportation links, most notably the New York City Subway, first opened in 1904, helped bind the newly consolidated city together. The height of European immigration brought social upheaval, and the anticapitalist labor union IWW was fiercely repressed. Later, in the 1920s, the city saw the influx of African-Americans as part of the Great Migration from the American South, and the Harlem Renaissance, part of a larger boom time in the Prohibition era that saw dueling skyscrapers in the skyline. The city suffered during the Great Depression, which saw the election of Republican reformer Fiorello LaGuardia and the fall of Tammany Hall after eighty years of political dominance. The city also played a significant part in World War II.
After World War II New York emerged as the unquestioned leading city of the world. However, after peaking in population in 1950, the city slowly declined with changes in industry and commerce, suburban flight outside the city, and rising crime rates reaching something of a crisis period in the 1970s.
The 1980s was a period of modest boom and bust, followed by a major boom in the 1990s. Racial tensions calmed in latter years; a dramatic fall in crime rates, improvements in quality of life and a major reinvigoration of immigration and growth pushed the city's population past the eight million mark for the first time in its history. In the late 1990s, the city benefited disproportionately from the success of the financial services industry during the dot com boom, one of the factors in a decade of booming residential and commercial real estate values.
The city was the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history on September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people were killed in the destruction of the World Trade Center. Among those who died were workers in the buildings, passengers and crew on two commercial jetliners, and hundreds of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers who responded to the disaster. The families of some rescue and cleanup workers who died later claim the acrid smoke that rose for months from Ground Zero, the site of the Twin Towers' fiery collapse, was also a cause of death. The city's economy was substantially hurt but has since recovered and the physical cleanup of the disaster site was completed ahead of schedule. The Freedom Tower, intended to be exactly 1,776 feet tall (a number symbolic of the year the Declaration of Independence was written), is to be built on the site and is slated for construction between 2006 and 2010.