Russell Shorto

What people are saying about “Amsterdam”

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“The story of a great city that has shaped the soul of the world. Masterful reporting, vivid history—the past and present are equally alive in this book.”

James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

“Amsterdam is a small place that casts a big shadow. As Russell Shorto shows in this smart, elegant book, culture and geography have conspired to thrust the city into the midst of our day’s most important debates. How much individual freedom can we live with? What are the limits of acceptance? How can people from different parts of the world — people with different beliefs, backgrounds and values — coexist in our increasingly globalized cities? Not only is this a wonderfully readable account of the city that Shorto has come to call home, it is also a history of how the Dutch invented — and sometimes failed to live up to — today’s concepts of liberty and tolerance.”

Charles C. Mann, author of 1491 and 1493

“Most urban histories focus on bricks and mortar; not this one. Russell Shorto writes engagingly about how a city can engender ideas—order, tolerance, comfort, egalitarianism, entrepreneurship—and in turn be shaped by them. Amsterdam argues convincingly that Western liberalism has been greatly influenced by this small, modest, crazy-yet-conventional place.”

—Witold Rybczynski, author of How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit

“An often brilliant, and always enjoyable, investigation of liberalism’s Dutch roots.  Shorto is once again revealed as a passionate and persuasive historian of culture and ideas.”

–Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland

“Russell Shorto’s luminous book is a riveting history of one of the world’s most remarkable cities. It is also an entertaining history full of deftly drawn characters and intoxicating ideas which have made Amsterdam the birthplace of liberalism in its many and shifting incarnations.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor & Publisher, The Nation

 “This is a wonderful history of a great and fascinating city. Shorto is a gifted writer, and the rich and multi-layered story he tells of Amsterdam — its rise as a mercantile power, its politics and culture, its famously tolerant ways, and the tensions generated by these over the centuries — reveals much about contemporary American society as well, since many of our values and aspirations are an inheritance from this most liberal center of the Dutch Golden Age.”

—Steven Nadler, William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy and award-winning author of Rembrandt’s Jews and Spinoza: A Life

“Russell Shorto loves Amsterdam, I love this book.”

Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam

About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar