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by Geert Mak,Philipp Blom

Cosmopolitan, stylish, even a little decadent, Amsterdam--"the Venice of the North"--is a city of legendary beauty. From a twelfth-century settlement of wooden huts at the mouth of the River Amstel, it had become by the late sixteenth century one of the great cultural capitals of Europe and a major financial center.

In this gracefully written examination of Amsterdam's soul--part history, part travel guide--the Dutch writer Geert Mak imaginatively depicts the lives of early Amsterdammers and traces the city's progress from a small town of merchants, sailors, farmers, and fishermen to a thriving metropolis. Mak's Amsterdam is a city of dreams and nightmares, of grand civic architecture and magnificent monuments, but also of civil wars, uprisings, and bloody religious purges. In his delightfully instructive journey through the city and through time, Mak displays an eye for the bizarre and the unexpected: a Rembrandt sketch of a young girl executed for manslaughter; the shoe of a medieval lady unearthed during a remodeling project; a graffito foretelling the city's doom on the wall of a mansion, daubed by a deranged burgomaster with his own blood.

Amsterdam remains a magnet for travelers from around the world, and this charmingly detailed account of its origins and its history through the present day is designed to help the reader step into daily life in a truly modern city.

Download Amsterdam epub
ISBN: 0674003314
ISBN13: 978-0674003316
Category: History
Subcategory: Europe
Author: Geert Mak,Philipp Blom
Language: English
Publisher: Harvard University Press (1999)
Pages: 338 pages
ePUB size: 1869 kb
FB2 size: 1176 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 911
Other Formats: lrf txt docx lit

Een kleine geschiedenis van Amsterdam (the Dutch Title of this book) has been on my friends' must-read lists since it was released in Dutch in 1995. I have finally gotten around now to reading it, and am only sorry that I hadn't read it sooner.

Mak is very good at choosing periods from the life of the city to highlight and also choosing the anecdotes that make them real. Whether his focus is on the portrait of Gerrit Janszoon Peggedochter, or the reaction of modern Amsterdammers to the marriage of (then Princess, now Queen) Beatrix, the stories are always fascinating. I liked how he made an effort to tie the Amsterdam of the past to its current incarnation.

Mercifully, he doesn't overly focus on tulipmania-- that's been covered more than well enough elsewhere.

I have not read the Dutch version, only the English, and I found the translation smooth and sufficient.
Fascinating history of a fascinating city. Starting in the dark ages, Amsterdam carved out a unique place for itself in Europe, a thoroughly bourgeois, businesslike town that was strong enough to hold the aristocrats at bay. When you get to more modern times, though, the narrative drags and gets pretty leaden with modernist politics, so stop reading about 1850.
Amsterdam, written by Geert Mak, a journalist and popular history writer, is a history of the city from its beginnings. It is great reading for anyone visiting or moving to Amsterdam, but because the city was so central to Dutch history, it also provides a good overview of the Netherlands' past. The book is well balanced, giving equal weight to the various periods since the city's foundation in the twelfth century. Holland's golden seventeenth century, of course, the century of Rembrandt, features well, but so do the modern era and its struggles. The book draws very largely from contemporary anecdotes and concentrates on the life and growth of the city, though it necessarily also touches on the political context. Finally, because its many small stories are so often related to existing buildings, streets, or canals, or to archaeological finds, the modern city comes alive as much as the historical. Recommended to me by a Dutch friend, complete with maps and illustrations, this is for anyone vaguely curious about that incredible European city that has been Amsterdam.
greed style
I bought the English translation of this book to use as a reference for a graduate level research presentation. It served as an excellent source of information as well as an entertaining and endearing read. About a year after the presentation I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Amsterdam and see it for myself. Both the city and the book are fabulous!
Mak draws his history from many quarters with a fine sense of balance and writing skill. In the early part of the book, he details the City's acumen in trade and finance and the rich history of its ferocious effort to build out this wonderful City against the forces of nature. The highlight is the taking of Amsterdam by the Germans in May of 1940; the sense of denial in the Amsterdammers, yet far to the south of the City, a haunting "lowing of the cows" sensing in their animal way the buildup of the German invasion. He writes about the dutiful efficiency of the Dutch bureaucracy aiding the Germans in rounding up the Jews and in his balancing way, the courage of the Resistance.
I loved this book. After visiting and falling in love with Amsterdam, I sought to learn more of its history. This book does a great job of putting you inside the city throughout its long and remarkable history. From the first settlements at the edge of the wetlands to its zenith as the world's foremost trading power to modern times, author Mak makes the history come alive by focusing on individuals as well as the average Amsterdamer. Blom's translation is impeccable (I often find that Dutch translates very well to English). Highly recommended to the discerning traveler or the merely curious.
As a long-time fan of the Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular, I was excited to find such a book. Most histories of the region tend to be very dry, highly focused and expensive. The expensive part being the only reason I have not yet read them. This book was extremely accessible, and I had a bit of fun noticing the Dutch-isms that crept through into the English grammar.

If you have any interest in Amsterdam, and how it came to be, you must read this book.
I read this book in Dutch, and lived in Amsterdam for many years. Being an (ex)Amsterdammer, I guess there are many things you take for granted, and I certainly subscribe to Mak's explanation that one of them is "being proud of not being proud".
However, having lived away from Amsterdam for so many years now, this book has thoroughly re-established my (not so proud) appreciation for Amsterdam! My next trip to my beloved home town will, thanks to Geert Mak, be an altogether different one.