Reading Room

This year’s Quadricentennial hoopla has spawned a load of books on the Valley’s history and culture. Here’s a peek at some of them.

Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture edited by Roger Panetta (Hudson River Museum/Fordham University Press, $59.95/$29.95) Thirteen original essays explore the vast influence the Dutch have had on Valley commerce, religion, culture, and language. Available in hardcover and paperback, the book is a companion to the Hudson River Museum’s ongoing exhibit of the same name.

Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters: A Window on New Netherland

Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters: A Window on New Netherland compiled by the New Netherland Institute (SUNY Press, $29.95) Historians offer perspectives on wide-ranging aspects of day-to-day life in the Dutch colonies. The writers touch upon everything from bread-baking to medical care — and yes, even courtship — in these 12 essays.

Mohawk Frontier: The Dutch Community of Schenectady, New York 1661-1710

Mohawk Frontier: The Dutch Community of Schenectady, New York 1661-1710 by Thomas E. Burke, Jr. (SUNY Press, $21.95) Burke draws on original documents in his history of our upstate neighbor. Unlike other Dutch colonies, Schenectady residents depended on farming, not trading, for their livelihood; the town’s outlying location made it a prime target for hostilities between rival French and English settlers.

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Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch

Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch by Peter G. Rose (The History Press, $19.99) A sometime contributor to these pages, food historian Rose has been researching Dutch culinary traditions for a quarter century. Some of the treats we now enjoy, courtesy of the Dutch: doughnuts, waffles, pretzels, cole slaw, and cookies (which the settlers traded to Native Americans for beaver skins).

White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America

White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America by Fintan O’Toole (SUNY Press, $19.95) An Irish immigrant, Johnson served as the British government’s chief intermediary with the Iroquois, and commanded the forces that defeated the French in the 1775 battle of Lake George. A colorful character, he also kept two wives — one European, one Native American; became fluent in the Mohawk language; and was instrumental in recruiting the natives to join forces with the colonists during the American Revolution.

The Hudson Valley: A Cultural Guide

The Hudson Valley: A Cultural Guide by the Alliance for the Arts/text and photographs by Benjamin Swett (Quantuck Lane Press, $29.95) Arranged by counties — and stretching from Manhattan and northern New Jersey to Saratoga and beyond — this glove compartment-sized compendium includes more than 500 arts centers, museums, gardens, parks, historic houses, fairs, and other must-visit sites. Swett’s concise listings and evocative photos make this a useful guide to the region.

 

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