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New York City: Economic History

New York’s history reveals that it has played an important economic role to the United States for many centuries. Following the successful settlement of Dutch settlers in the 1600s, New York’s economy thrived since many people were engaged in lumber trading and fur trapping. In the article “The Emptying of Darby’s Patch”, Alexiou describes how this city became “the destination for many tradesmen involved in the slave business”. The introduction of new agricultural practices from the Old World became a new opportunity for improving the economy of New York. Corn was a major source of food for animals and people.

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With the entry of the colonialists and the successful capture of New York, a new economic trend emerged whereby the British introduced advanced manufacturing ideas and commercial practices. The achievements triggered a new form of autonomy whereby the city became reliable. Consequently, the demand for various materials or imports declined significantly. However, the strategic location of New York created a new opportunity for supporting the growth of the shipping industry. Additional sectors remerged to meet the demands of the local residents, including iron works, fishing, and shipbuilding. Such activities were essential since they sustained the growing regional economy. The British managed to improve agricultural practices by introducing additional crops, such as rice, cattle, wheat, and grain. Alexiou indicates that some individuals focused on new approaches to “acquire iron ore and engage in mining activities”. The established government went further to introduce taxation policies as a source of revenues. These developments throughout the city’s history managed to transform its economic positions.

The changes and successes of New York’s economy could be attributable to the availability of free or cheap labor. Slaves were the primary source while some natives could provide paid services. However, Griffin indicates that “the movement for the abolition of slavery” would change this practice in New York. The capitalists in the region went further to educate and train more people to engage in various activities, including mining, agriculture, and shipbuilding. The availability of these labor types was instrumental towards supporting the economic development and performance of this city.

Several events took place that accelerated economic performance in New York. For instance, the replacement of traditional ways of life resulted in superior agricultural practices. The same development was noticed after the successful occupation by the British. According to Carroll, the “city was the center for the ongoing war effort” during the Civil War. Consequently, new practices emerged whereby many people considered additional ways of winning the war, including supporting shipbuilding, expanding manufacturing industries, and introducing mills for different cereals.

Another important aspect about New York City was that it was strategically positioned in the country. Immigrants and colonialists found it easier to access the region from the Atlantic Ocean. The city sustained shipbuilding, an initiative that made it possible for the entire industry to thrive. During the time of the above conflicts, individuals relied on this city’s strategic position to trade and acquire numerous materials from the major Atlantic economies. Similarly, the Crown in England utilized New York City to control America due to the ease of communication and trade. According to Carroll, it would continue to play the same critical role after the successful end of the American Civil War. These explain why this city plays a significant role by supporting the economic development and performance of this country today. It has also become the center for shipping and exportation of a wide range of goods. Experts, therefore, believe that New York has always been an important city for the economic development of the United States.


  1. Alexiou, Joseph. “The Emptying of Darby’s Patch.” The Gotham Center for New York City History, 2019. Web.
  2. Carroll, Dillon J. “New York City after the Civil War.” The Gotham Center for New York City History, 2017. Web.
  3. Griffin, Sean D. “Lewis Masquerier and the Urban Origins of an 1845 Plan for “Rural Republican Townships”.” The Gotham Center for New York City History, 2015. Web.

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