Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City

Russell Shorto. Doubleday, $28.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-53457-4
Shorto conjures the anything-goes spirit of contemporary Amsterdam, with its pot-smoking and red-light districts, from the city’s fascinating past as a major port city. Amsterdam, to Shorto, was not only the first city in Europe to develop the cultural and political foundations of what we now call liberalism—“a society focused on the concerns and comforts of individuals,... run by individuals acting together,” and tolerant of “religion, ethnicity, or other differences”—but also an exporter of these beliefs to the rest of Europe and the New World. Shorto composes biographical sketches of these originators (Rembrandt, Spinoza) and exporters (John Locke, the Dutch East India Company) as he guides readers on a narrative tour of Amsterdam’s intellectual history, its rise from a sleepy site of religious pilgrimage to the center of a trading empire into the present. Shorto’s examination of Dutch tolerance also focuses on its failures, including an examination of collaboration with Nazi occupiers during WWII, and its current struggle to integrate its “immigrant underclass” into a more egalitarian multicultural life. Shorto’s brilliant follow-up to his previous book on Dutch Manhattan (The Island at the Center of the World) is an expertly told history of a city of new, shocking freedoms and the tough-minded people that developed them. Agent: Anne Edelstein, Anne Edelstein Literary Agency LLC. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/12/2013
Release date: 10/22/2013
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FORMATS
Compact Disc - 978-0-8041-4932-7
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-385-53458-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-307-74375-6
Hardcover - 357 pages - 978-1-4087-0347-2
Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-0-7481-2863-1
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-349-00002-2
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