Russell Shorto, bestselling historian of the Dutch colonial experience in America, will give a preview of his new book (to be published this coming October), Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, Friday, May 3, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue in downtown Albany.
Earlier that same day at 3:15 p.m., the author will deliver the Fossieck Lecture of the UAlbany History Department, “The Dutch Influence on American Colonial History,” in the Assembly Hall, Campus Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus.
Russell Shorto is renowned for his bestselling history of life in Dutch colonial New York, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America (2005), which the New York Times called, “Astonishing…. A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past.” The Wall Street Journal called it, “A masterpiece of storytelling and first-rate intellectual history,” and the Times Literary Supplement (UK) called it, “[An] absorbing, sensual, sometimes bawdy narrative featuring whores, pirates, explorers and scholars,” and said, “With clarity and panache, Shorto briskly conveys the complex history of the age of exploration.”
In the afternoon, Shorto will deliver the Fossieck Lecture on Early American History of the University at Albany’s History Department. The title of the lecture is “The Dutch Influence on American Colonial History.” Shorto is currently spending time in the city of Albany conducting research at the New York State Archives and the New York State Library for a work-in-progress, a new perspective on the cultural history of the American Revolution.
In the evening, Shorto will give a preview of his soon-to-be-published book, Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City (October 2013). His presentation will be followed by a reception hosted by the Friends of the NYS Library. Shorto’s new book presents the argument that the Dutch metropolis “has influenced the modern world to a degree that few other cities have.” Shorto asserts that “Just as fin-de-siecle Vienna was the birthplace of psychoanalysis, seventeenth century Amsterdam was the wellspring of liberalism,” adding that, “Today, it is still a city that takes individual freedom very seriously.”
Shorto’s most recent book was Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason (2008), which traces the strange adventures of the skeletal remains of the Enlightenment philosopher—bought, sold, stolen, fought over, studied, revered and reviled— following his death in 1650. The Nature reviewer called it, “Beautifully written, entertaining, enlightening…-.”
Shorto’s other books include Saints and Madmen: How Pioneering Psychiatrists Are Creating a New Science of the Soul (1999) and Gospel Truth: The New Image of Jesus Emerging from Science and History, and Why It Matters (1997).
A contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, Shorto lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where he directs the John Adams Institute for Dutch-American cultural exchange.
The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by UAlbany’s History Department, the New Netherland Institute, the Friends of the New York State Library in conjunction with their annual meeting, and the New York State Writers Institute.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at
Photo of Russell Shorto by Jennifer May.