The Hudson: A History by Tom LewisThe Hudson: A History by Tom Lewis

The Hudson: A History

byTom Lewis

Paperback | May 29, 2007

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Flowing through a valley of sublime scenery, the Hudson River uniquely connects America’s past with its present and future. This book traces the course of the river through four centuries, recounting the stories of explorers and traders, artists and writers, entrepreneurs and industrialists, ecologists and preservationists—those who have been shaped by the river as well as those who have helped shape it. Their compelling narratives attest to the Hudson River’s distinctive place in American history and the American imagination.

Among those who have figured in the history of the Hudson are Benedict Arnold, Alexander Hamilton, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Astors and the Vanderbilts, and Thomas Cole of the Hudson River school. Their stories appear here, alongside those of such less famous individuals as the surveyor who found the source of the Hudson and the engineer who tried to build a hydroelectric plant at Storm King Mountain. Inviting us to view the river from a wider perspective than ever before, this entertaining and enlightening book is worthy of its grand subject.


Tom Lewis is professor of English at Skidmore College. Among his previous books are Divided Highways: The Interstate Highway System and the Transformation of American Life and Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, both of which became award-winning documentaries.
Title:The Hudson: A HistoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:May 29, 2007Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300119909

ISBN - 13:9780300119909

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From the Author

Q: In your book, you describe the Hudson as a “river of firsts.” What do you mean by that?A: The Hudson holds a unique place in American history. Our first explorers and settlers regarded it as the avenue into our continent’s vast uncharted interior; in the Revolution, George Washington considered it the first line of defense. The Hudson Valley was the setting for America’s first great writers and painters. Millions of immigrants encountered the Hudson when they first landed in America; the Hudson’s deepwater port helped New York City become the nation’s foremost financial center. And more recently, at Storm King Mountain the river became the first battleground of environmentalists. These are just a few of the firsts that I’ve tried to bring to life in this history.Q: Why has the Hudson River loomed so large in the American imagination?A: Like all rivers, it has a utilitarian function for travel and commerce, but the Hudson has never been just a river. For four centuries the Hudson Valley has been a vast stage on which we have acted out our desires and dreams—be they noble like Thomas Cole’s landscapes of the Catskills or ignoble like Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of the American cause at West Point. On the Hudson we have displayed all of our virtues and not a few of our vices.Q: In the past, you’ve written about the history of American radio and the national highway system. How did you decide to write the history of a river?A: I’ve always been inspired by the physical place and its past, and for the last four decades I’ve been fortunate enough to live in the Hudson River valley, first in New York City where I walked daily on the riverbank and now in Saratoga Springs close to the pivotal battle of the American Revolution and the river’s source. I had to write this book.

Editorial Reviews

"Avenue of the explorers, battlefield for empires, easel for artists, and dump for industry—the [Hudson River] has been a stage for epics since its namesake dropped anchor in 1609. . . . Spanning armies and aesthetics, the versatile, fluid Lewis writes with affection for the river and its history."—Booklist"No book I know so beautifully interweaves history, art, writing and commerce."—Robert Richman, New York Post"It is especially good to have Tom Lewis’s new history, which tells the river’s story in full without scanting the folk tales and legends. . . . [A] first-rate book."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post"The Hudson . . . is depicted in this first-rate history as the great national theater: avenue of explorers, military battleground, artists' inspiration and industrial dump."-New York Times Book Review (Paperback Row)"The stories told here cut across the territorial, military, industrial, social, and cultural history of the United States. . . . A readable book."-Library Journal "A pleasant read."-Publishers Weekly"A concise account of the Valley. . . . The entire book is filled with fascinating tidbits of Valley lore. How Lewis packed so many facts into 280 pages is a testament to both his writing and research skills."-Hudson Valley Monthly"[A] highly entertaining and informative new history of the Hudson. . . . By the time Mr. Lewis finishes his tale, the reader shares his enthusiasm and is persuaded that the Hudson, as he insists, is 'the center of the nation's cultural geography'. . . . Mr. Lewis's narrative is full of charming nuggets. . . . The book is packed with information and free of pedantry, a perfect introduction to the region between New York Harbor and the Adirondacks."-Brooke Allen, New York Sun"The book is packed with information and free of pedantry, a perfect introduction to the region."-Brooke Allen, New York Sun"Lewis's engaging overview of the Valley during the past five centuries, and the region's national prominence during that time, fills an important gap. . . . Lewis is a fine wordsmith who targets literate readers in general rather then specialists. He's obviously done his professional homework. . . . The Hudson could also be the basis for a smashingly good script on the history of America's great fjord, and a occasion to devote more attention to our Valley's great transformation since since World War II."—Philip Ehrensaft, Chronogram Magazine"Water, per se, is not that interesting but rivers highlight and emphasize the land and lives and ideas that cram their banks. What Tom Lewis has so wonderfully done here is willed to life one of the great rivers in our history, insisting that it offer up its deep secrets and best stories."—Ken Burns"Few places in America can match the beauty, the majesty, and the historic significance of the Hudson River. Thanks to Tom Lewis's elegant style, penetrating observations, and marvelous illustrations, we at last have a book worthy of such a grand topic."-Kenneth T. Jackson, Editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City