Review: City of Dreams


The Institute of Historical Research has published my review of Tyler Anbinder's City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York.

As I note in the review, I'm not persuaded that "immigrant" is the best term for New York colonial settlers of the seventeenth or even eighteenth centuries, at least when the term is applied across eras this way. The first five chapters of City of Dreams almost seem to belong to a different book. Nevertheless, it is useful to have a sweeping history like this.

One of the reasons this book is useful in the present moment, as I note, is that it "slowly builds a case against a central idea of contemporary American nativist rhetoric: that earlier immigrants were different from today's, assimilating more easily, working harder, respecting the law more, sharing more values with the native population, or being less assertive. Anbinder decisively refutes this notion, at least with respect to New York."