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Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City [Hardcover]

Russell Shorto
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Oct 2013

Amsterdam is not just any city. Despite its relative size it has stood alongside its larger cousins - Paris, London, Berlin - and has influenced the modern world to a degree that few other cities have.

Sweeping across the city's colourful thousand year history, Amsterdam brings the place to life: its sights and smells; its politics and people. Concentrating on two significant periods - the late 1500s to the mid 1600s and then from the Second World War to the present, Russell Shorto's masterful biography looks at Amsterdam's central preoccupations. Just as fin-de-siecle Vienna was the birthplace of psychoanalysis, seventeenth century Amsterdam was the wellspring of liberalism, and today it is still a city that takes individual freedom very seriously.

A wonderfully evocative book that takes Amsterdam's dramatic past and present and populates it with a whole host of colourful characters, Amsterdam is the definitive book on this great city.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (22 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408703475
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408703472
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 248,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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)

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)

Shorto is an excellent storyteller and rootler of strange facts, and Amsterdam should be issued as standard kit for anyone visiting the city (Guardian)

[Shorto's] fine portraits of individuals are in the Amsterdam tradition, and he has an Amsterdammer's feel for this backwater town that remains the world's laboratory of liberalism (FT)

Rich and eventful . . . [A] book that easily fuses large cultural trends with intimately personal stories (New York Times)

Book Description

This is the first 'biography' of the city of Amsterdam - in the same vein as Peter Ackroyd's London.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing the history of Amsterdam to life 7 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent history of the city but also gives some fascinating insights into the development of Dutch culture over the centuries. The Dutch were lucky enough not to suffer the feudal system where the wealth of a nation was concentrated into the hands of a few people (usually at the pointed end of a weapon or naked treachery) and this is still reflected to some extent in society today. The book breathes life into parts of Amsterdam that may not otherwise be discovered by people and would be an interesting read if you are planning to visit the city.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We researched and written 2 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The history of Amsterdam reads like a novel and is utterly fascinating that a small nation could yield so much power and possess so much wealth not unlike the English empire a couple of centuries later.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story... excellent writer 14 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the 2nd book by Russell Shorto I have read (the first was his "Island at the Centre of the World") and I love the way he writes. In both cases he has a great story to tell and tells it brilliantly. Along the way he is genuinely illuminating ... not only about history about about processes and ideas urgently relevant in the modern world.

This has become my favourite book and I will be recommending it heartily to friends.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating history of this lovely city. 9 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very thoroughly researched and readable history of Amsterdam, offering the reader numerous intimate historic details gathered by the author who obviously has a great love and understanding of this unique city. It should have an automatic place on the bookshelf of any past or current resident, and provides an ideal purchase for any visitor who wishes to understand Amsterdam's origins and development over the centuries.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but not always accurate 6 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A highly enthusiastic and atmospheric introduction to the city . I feel I have been there already, although I have yet to visit. However there are inaccuracies in the text. Chief among them is his treatment of the Anabaptist movement. He confuses the wild and bizarre behaviour of the people running naked through the streets , setting up their own kingdom in Munster with the sober, Trinitarian, orthodox real anabaptists. A movement spreading from Switzerland through to the Mennonites in Holland. They were the radical reformation who rejected infant baptism and the union of church and state . They rejected force and have nothing to do with what happened in amsterdam and Munster. He ought to read "the reformers and their stepchildren" by verduin (baker house). It makes we wonder how accurate the rest is.
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