Mak, Geert 1946-

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Mak, Geert 1946-


Born December 4, 1946, in Vlaardingeiv, Netherlands; son of Catrinug Mak (a reverend in Orthodox Dutch Reformed Church) and Geertje udMclen; married Mietsie Ruiters. Ethnicity: "Dutch." Education: Protestant University of Amsterdam, law degree, 1972.


Home—Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Friesland, Netherlands. Office—Binnenkant 34, 1011BL Amsterdam, Netherlands. Agent—Atlas Herengracht ud1, 1017BT Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Journalist, beginning in the 1970s; NDe Groene Amsterdammer, editor, 1975-85; RC/Handelsblad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, city editor, 1985-92; VPRO-Radio, Milversum, foreign editor, 1990-97; University of Amsterdam, professor in the department of metropolitan studies, 2000-03. Professor of constitutional law, Utrecht University, 1972-75.


Henriette Roland Holst Prize, Royal Dutch Society of Literature, 1999; Book of the Year, Trouw/CPNB, 2000 and 2004, for In Europa; honorary degree, Open University in Heerlen.



The Angel of Amsterdam, [Netherlands], 1992.

Een kleine geschiedenis van Amsterdam, Atlas (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1994, translation by Philipp Blom published as Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd (title means "How God Disappeared from Jorwerd"), [Netherlands], 1996.

Amsterdam, Harvill (London, England), 1999, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

De eevmvanmyn vader (title means "The Century of My Father"), Atlas (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1999.

Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in Late Twentieth-Century Europe, Harvill (London, England), 2000.

Lopen met van lennep: de zomer van 1823: dagboek van zijn voetreis door Nederland, Waanders (Zwolle, Netherlands), 2001.

In Europa: reizen door de twintigste eeuw, Atlas (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2004, translation by Sam Garrett published as In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of Gedoemd tot kwestbaarheid (title means "Doomed to Vulnerability"), a pamphlet about responses to the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a Dutch Muslim extremist.


In Europa is scheduled to be adapted as a series of documentary films to be broadcast in 2007, 2008, and 2009.


Geert Mak's many popular books on his native Netherlands have earned him acclaim, in the words of Europe contributor Roel Janssen, as "the biographer of the Dutch in the twentieth century." In De eevmvanmyn vader (which means "The Century of My Father"), Mak examines "not just the history of his family," according to Janssen, "but the emotions, the political changes, and particularly the immense social and cultural upheavals that took place in the Netherlands between 1900 and 1999. Basing his research on letters, diaries, interviews with family members, and his own recollections, Mak chronicles events in the life of his father, a Protestant minister assigned to the Dutch East Indies, where, during the Japanese occupation in World War II, he worked as slave laborer on the Burma railroad while his wife and two children were sent to an internment camp. After the war the family returned to the Netherlands, where Mak was born just as the country was gearing up for the major political and social reforms that brought the country a socialist form of government. According to Mak's home page, De eevmvanmyn vader has remained his most popular book.

Mak has also written frequently about Amsterdam, the city he calls home. The Angel of Amsterdam contains his personal portraits and analysis of the city, while Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City presents an accessible history that a writer for Publishers Weekly described as "imaginative, engaging and astute."

To recognize the millennium, with its growing ethnic tensions in Europe but also its calls for political unity, Mak traveled back and forth across the European continent for the paper NRC Handelsblad, writing and publishing a daily column about the experience. He expanded these observations into the book In Europa: reizen door de twintigste eeuw, which earned rave reviews and became a best seller. In addition to visiting major cities, Mak also traveled to sites where major conflicts took place; his musings on World War I, for example, were written in a farmhouse in Ypres, and his account of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was written from a town square in Volgograd. Other stops on his itinerary were Guernica, the Spanish Basque town destroyed by German bombers in 1937; Predappio, birthplace of Mussolini; Berchtesgaden and Chartwell, the country homes of Hitler and Churchill, respectively; and Gdansk, where shipyard workers began the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1980 that eventually removed the Communist government from power. Mak ends the book in the former Yugoslavia, not only the site of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that led to World War I, but a site of continued ethnic conflict at century's end as the Balkans erupted in civil war and "ethnic cleansing."

A Publishers Weekly reviewer hailed In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century, as the book was titled in English, as a "brilliant compendium" of observations and insights on twentieth-century Europe. Admiring Mak's choice to structure the book according to his meandering travels, a writer for Kirkus Reviews described the result as a "compelling vision of a fractured, segmented, yet terminally conjoined Europe, where socialized humanity strives on as its leaders continually fail." Calling In Europe a "magnificent" book, Ben McNally wrote in his review for Ben McNally Books that "it is hard to imagine a more entertaining and illuminating encapsulation of a century, or a more intelligent and accessible companion than Geert Mak."



Booklist, September 1, 1999, review of Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd, p. 76; September 15, 2000, Jay Freeman, review of Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City, p. 214; June 1, 2007, Brad Hooper, review of In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century, p. 21.

Europe, March, 2000, Roel Janseen, "The Dutch Biographer," pp. 39-40.

Geographical, April, 2000, John Ure, review of Amsterdam, p. 87.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2007, review of In Europe.

Library Journal, September 1, 2000, David Keymer, review of Amsterdam, p. 227; June 15, 2007, Barbara Walden, review of In Europe, p. 79.

London Review of Books, June 7, 2007, review of In Europe, p. 31.

New Yorker, September 17, 2007, review of In Europe, p. 99.

New York Sun, August 3, 2007, Jules Treneer, "Crisscrossing the Continent with Geert Mak."

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2000, review of Amsterdam, p. 79; May 14, 2001, review of Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in Late Twentieth-Century Europe, p. 67; May 21, 2007, review of In Europe, p. 44.

Spectator, October 28, 2000, review of Jorwerd, p. 59.

Time International, April 30, 2007, Eben Harrell, "The Lost Continent: Geert Mak Goes in Search of Europe."

Times Literary Supplement, September 15, 2000, Jonathan Israel, review of Amsterdam, p. 26; September 15, 2000, review of Amsterdam, p. 26; July 27, 2007, "Past Incorrigible," p. 25.

Urban Studies, October, 2000, Sean Damer, review of Amsterdam, p. 2122.

Weekly Standard, December 27, 2004, Christopher Caldwell, "Holland Daze: The Dutch Rethink Multiculturalism," p. 22.

Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 2007, Martin Walker, review of In Europe, p. 101.


Ben McNally Books, (March 11, 2008), Ben McNally, review of In Europe.

Geert Mak Home Page, (March 11, 2008).