A gripping history of New York

2 months ago

Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919. By Mike Wallace. Oxford University Press; 1,196 pages; $45 and £35.

NEW YORK has never been a city to do things by halves. And so it is perhaps not surprising that on New Year’s Eve, 1897, the metropolis became—overnight—twice as large as any other city in America, and the second-largest city in the world. “Consolidation”, as it was called, united New York and Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island under the new blue-and-white flag of Greater New York. “Greater Gotham” traces, at both epic and intimate scale, the ramifications of that consolidation until just after the end of the first world war.

If nearly 1,200 pages seems excessive for a book that covers a mere 22 years, perhaps a little history of the book itself is in order. In 1999 “Gotham: A History of New York City” was awarded the Pulitzer prize, and rightly so; in it Mike Wallace and his…