History of New York

The French were the first Europeans who explored the New York state region. In 1524, Giovanni di Verrazano, an Italian in the service of the French king, entered the bay that today occupies the port of New York. This expedition did not, however, result in the colonization of these lands as the territory remained practically unexplored until the beginning of the 17th century, when Samuel of Champlain entered the continent via the Saint Lawrence River. After this expedition, France claimed the rights to the northern area which included the northern part of present-day New York state. The Dutch, for their part, began their explorations of the territory by hiring Henry Hudson, an Englishman who sailed, on the river that today bears his name, up to the city of Albany. The Dutch claimed after this expedition the territories that include the states of New York, Delaware, New Jersey and part of Connecticut. The state of New York had the name of New Holland during the Dutch occupation. Colonization began around 1624. Thus, in 1626, after settling near Albany, the Dutch founded New Amsterdam, later renamed New York.  This was possible with the purchase from the Indians of the island of Manhattan.

The British presence in New York coincided with the decision of the English king, Charles II, who in 1664 granted his brother Jaime, Duke of York and Albany, the lands between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers, that is, the current states of New York and New Jersey, as uncolonized lands of the Delaware River. The campaign against the Dutch began around 1664, and shortly thereafter Colonel Richard Nicolls succeeded in driving the Dutch out of the region. In 1664, the governor of New Holland, Peter Stuyvesant, handed over the city of New Amsterdam to the English troops.

The British, starting from 1664, completely controlled the coast of the northern part of New York, and entered into continuous conflicts with the French. The French, who then occupied part of Canada in 1731, went south to build a fort on Lake Champlain, (a lake now shared by Vermont, New York and Canada). The friction between the two nations began to be critical from 1689, culminating in a series of confrontations known as the Indian Wars, which lasted until 1763. In that year, the Treaty of Paris, (which ended the Seven Years’ War), established the cession to Great Britain of the disputed territories in this area, and the division of Louisiana between Spain and Great Britain.

The prosperity of the New York colony grew during the 17th and 18th centuries due, among other factors, to the intense trade with the other colonies, basically Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and the Caribbean colonies. The wars between England and France, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, forced the English authorities to require the settlers to pay fixed contributions and other taxes, to deal with the economic deficit in which the British treasury was. Thus, England passed the Stamp Act, which extended to its colonies. Faced with this, the settlers rebelled by refusing to pay if they were not allowed to be represented in the English Parliament. In 1770, popular protests increased for the approval of the Townshend Act which set an import tax. In the colony of Massachusetts, this law led to a confrontation that resulted in five deaths. This event, called the “Boston Massacre”, was used during the following years to inflame the souls of the settlers of the American territories. in 1773, the passage of a tea tax, the Tea Act, led a group of Boston colonists to throw the East India Company cargo overboard. This action was declared an ‘Intolerable Act’ by the British government which decided to close Boston Harbor in 1774.

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During the American Revolution that began in 1775, immediately after the aforementioned events, the colony of New York actively participated in favor of independence with men and resources. Many of the settlers, however, were not entirely in favor of independence, which is why it is estimated that around 30,000 people fled the region during the war. Once the war was over, New York accepted the United States Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia. George Washington was sworn in in 1789 in New York City, the provisional capital of the United States, as the first president of the United States.

After the Revolution, the effective occupation of the territory of the state began, once the Iroquois Indians (who had signed treaties with the British during the 18th century and had helped during the War of Independence and the War of 1812), were driven out of their lands. The arrival of new settlers in the early nineteenth century was so intense, that from the first decade of the century, New York became the most populous state in the United States, a position it held until 1970. For the development of the interior of the state it was of vital importance the construction of the Erie canal, which was completed in 1825. This engineering work made it possible to connect the coast of the Atlantic with large lakes across Lake Ontario and the San Lorenzo River for the transit of large ships. This fabulous communication route gave the impetus to improve the economy of the cities of Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Utica, while the city of New York managed to consolidate itself as the economic center of the United States. This fact explains why the port of this city became, starting from 1840, the gateway to the great European immigration.

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The state of New York, which had declared itself non-slave since 1827, was a state that strongly supported the Union during the Civil War (1860-1865). However, despite being openly unionist, many of its citizens refused to participate in the war. As a result of this, riots and violent protests against the mobilization of men and abolitionist properties occurred in New York City starting in 1863. These riots caused more than a thousand deaths and huge economic losses. In the territory of the state of New York, given its economic and strategic importance, numerous battles took place during the Civil War.

After the Civil War, New York experienced great growth thanks to the capacity of its industry, linked to the development of the railroad. Among the industrialists of the time Cornelius Vanderbilt who extended his economic interests not only to the United States but also to Central America, obsessed with being able to create a communication route that would allow the union of the markets of the two coasts of the country. The project was completed in 1867 with the construction of the first transcontinental railway line and was completed with the construction, in the 20th century, of the Panama Canal. These engineering works were important factors in the development of the state of New York, as they greatly expanded its markets.

As in other states, the war of 1914 allowed a considerable growth of the local industry, but with its conclusion there was a series of economic and financial crises. The critical moment came in October 1929, with the collapse of the New York City Stock Exchange. This fact demonstrated the extent to which the world economy depended on the American financial system controlled by the city of New York. The serious crisis was not overcome until the Second World War (1939-1945), when New York oriented its mighty industry, agricultural resources and the financial system to meet the needs and allies, to which the United States joined to enter at war in 1941.

Despite significant changes in the United States and the world economy, (the greater importance of the West Coast states and the trend towards globalization of the economy), the city of New York remains the true axis of the state’s economy and remains indisputable center of the planet’s economy. Indeed, New York continues to lead not only in the banking, financial, insurance and communications sectors, but also in other areas such as fashion, electronics and publishing. Tourism is one of the most established sectors in this state, (and supports much of the service sector) thanks to New York being the most visited city on the continent for both business and pleasure.

New York State Flag

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