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

Conversation and Book Signing with Author Russell Shorto

Thursday, April 3, 7:00PM

Author Russell Shorto and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik discuss Mr. Shorto's new book, Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City. Q&A,  book signing and reception to follow.


This event is part of the New Amsterdam History Center lecture series and is free and open to the public. With thanks to our other co-sponsors, the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Anne Frank Center USA.


Space is limited. RSVP through the link on the right.



Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City is an endlessly entertaining portrait of the city of Amsterdam and the ideas that make it unique by the author of The 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.


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


“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?”
—Charles C. Mann, author of 1491 and 1493


"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



If you are disabled or have mobility issues, please email so that we can arrange for your access as best we can. Please note, that our landmark facility is not (yet) wheelchair accessible but we will do our best to help those with mobility limitations.

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