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Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences, Columbia University

Karen Markoe, Chair of Humanities Department, Maritime College, State University of New York


American cities are in crisis. Since the end of World War II, they have lost jobs, population, and energy to the burgeoning suburbs. In contrast, cities in Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia are generally thriving. Historically, Americans have not valued cities and city life, and so the current predicament of the great American metropolis is less the result of poor policy than the consequence of a culture with anti-urban traditions. In the nineteenth century, however, American cities were among the fastest growing in the world, and they boasted mass transportation, sewer and sanitation facilities, museums, universities, and open spaces equal to those anywhere in the world. This seminar will focus on the intersection of history and place in one tiny spot on the map with a major role in the history of our nation. In 1624, the Dutch West India Company set up a small trading post in a huge, sheltered harbor where three rivers met and several islands offered protection against potential enemies. Three hundred years later, this small settlement at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan has grown into the center of capitalism and the largest metropolis on earth.

Participants will be engaged and challenged intellectually, with myriad opportunities for exploring New York City history. Examining what has been for generations the business, financial, publishing, fashion, and cultural capital of the country will energize participants to reflect on American history and carry their knowledge and reflections into their classrooms.


Readings are sent by the Institute to participants of the seminar. Readings may include:

  • Freeman, Joshua B. Working Class New York: Life and Labor since World War II. New York: The New York Press, 2011.
  • Jackson, Kenneth T., and David S. Dunbar, eds. Empire City: New York through the Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
  • Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. New York: Penguin Books, 1920.

Travel & Accommodations

There are several options for traveling to and from Columbia University. LaGuardia Airport is the closest to the campus; a taxicab ride is about $30.00 (plus a 15% tip), and the M60 city bus goes directly from LaGuardia to the campus every half hour for $2.50 (change only). For visitors arriving at any area airport (including Newark International Airport), shuttle bus service is available to the Port Authority Bus Terminal or to Grand Central Station. The Columbia University website also provides detailed driving directions. As parking is not available on campus, participants who drive will need to park in public parking lots.

Workshop participants will be housed in an on-campus dormitory. Participants will be placed in private rooms, but will share bathroom facilities. The university provides bedding and towels only. Every floor has a lounge and a full kitchen. Please note that participants should plan to bring fans, alarm clocks, shampoo, hangers, irons, hair dryers, etc. There are telephones in each room, but they require a calling card to make outside calls. Every room is equipped with an Internet connection, but ethernet cables are not provided. Participants should plan to bring laptops, as computer access on campus will be limited.


Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Travel Reimbursement

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.

Graduate Credit

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit in American history to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.

Course Reviews from Summer 2013 Participants

“I learned a great deal from this seminar. I am an English teacher and now I have tools for teaching my students about the context of literature related to New York City, including important works like Invisible Man. Also, I can see the potential for working with my school’s history department in developing a collaborative course about the history and culture of New York.”

“The scholars were exceptional. I loved studying New York as we walked through the streets. The content of the seminar was superb.”


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

July 20th, 2014 5:00 PM   through   July 26th, 2014 5:00 PM
Columbia University
New York, NY 10025
United States

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Seminar Fee
Attending $50.00
Not Attending $0.00

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