An endlessly entertaining portrait of the city of Amsterdam
and the ideas that make it unique, by the author of the acclaimed Island at the Center of the World
Tourists know Amsterdam as a picturesque city of low-slung
brick houses lining tidy canals; student travelers know it for its legal
brothels and hash bars; art lovers know it for Rembrandt’s glorious portraits.
But the deeper history of Amsterdam, what makes it one of
the most fascinating places on earth, is bound up in its unique geography-the
constant battle of its citizens to keep the sea at bay and the democratic
philosophy that this enduring struggle fostered. Amsterdam is the font of
liberalism, in both its senses. Tolerance for free thinking and free love make
it a place where, in the words of one of its mayors, “craziness is a value.”
But the city also fostered the deeper meaning of liberalism, one that
profoundly influenced America: political and economic freedom. Amsterdam was
home not only to religious dissidents and radical thinkers but to the world's first
great global corporation.
In this effortlessly erudite account, Russell Shorto traces
the idiosyncratic evolution of Amsterdam, showing how such disparate elements as
herring anatomy, naked Anabaptists parading through the streets, and an
intimate gathering in a sixteenth-century wine-tasting room had a profound
effect on Dutch—and world—history. Weaving in his own experiences of his
adopted home, Shorto provides an ever-surprising, intellectually engaging story
of Amsterdam from the building of its first canals in the 1300s, through its
brutal struggle for independence, its golden age as a vast empire, to its
complex present in which its cherished ideals of liberalism are under siege. Download and start listening now!