Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Russell Shorto: Amsterdam

Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City, by Russell Shorto on Amazon. Today, 22 October 2013, is the book's publication day!

Amsterdam cover Russell Shorto knows his Amsterdam! He knows the social, economic, political, and religious history of the city; he has done a lot of research (of course you need already to know what something is about in order to know what to look up and discover more about), and brought all of it together extremely well.

I love Amsterdam, city of canals, and city of bicycles. I've loved the city since before I first ventured there. I love landing at Schiphol and the sound of church bells. I love that some of my progenitors were Dutch. I even love the cold wind blowing off the North Sea. And I love how Russell Shorto describes the city's human scale, its dual emphases on the individual and on a fully collaborative society that accomplishes virtually nothing without getting it done together. I had to read this book!

In school most of us learned something about how humans working together claimed The Netherlands from the sea; ocean trade routes and trading in commodities; speculative financial markets; exploration and settlement of "new worlds" formed part of most high school and undergrad curricula. How interesting it was to read biographical sketches of at least a dozen truly historically pivotal Amsterdammers like Rembrandt and Spinoza and van Gogh―with each account of each life exactly the correct length.

The author articulates ways all these and many more aspects of living in Amsterdam (and truly, of being Dutch) contributed to the development of an almost unimaginably diverse and complex world within a world that, in general, has been a safe place for differences.

Amazon send me a prepublication "bound galley," so I don't have end notes or index, but I will take advantage of the splendid bibliography. Five stars for sure, and a keeper for my own bookshelves.

my Amazon review: Amsterdam Panorama

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