The best books on Baruch Spinoza

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Baruch Spinoza and why they recommend each book.

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Theological-Political Treatise

By Robert Harvey Munroe Elwes, Benedictus de Spinoza,

Book cover of Theological-Political Treatise: Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

Ostensibly an implacable intellectual foe of Maimonides’ “Guide,” this twice-excommunicated Jewish philosopher makes his own compelling arguments for the basis of spiritual experience/prophecy. At the same time, one senses a powerful compatibility with his philosophical opponent’s viewpoints.

Theological-Political Treatise

By Robert Harvey Munroe Elwes, Benedictus de Spinoza,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Theological-Political Treatise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Theological-Political Treatise (Latin: Tractatus Theologico-Politicus) by Baruch Spinoza, was originally published in Latin in 1670. The work is a pre-emptive defence of his post-humously published magnum opus, Ethics (Latin: Ethica, ordine geometrico demonstrata), a book which he expected a barrage of harsh criticism for.In the treatise, Spinoza elaborated a harsh systematic criticism of Judaism and general organised religion. Arguing that theology and philosophy needed to be kept separate. Distinguishing between theology's goal of obedience, and philosophy's attempt to understand rational truth. Spinoza also argued that claimed supernatural events, like prophecy and miracles have natural explanations. Furthermore, he argued that God…


Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in the interface of biology and the mind, and between the mind and usually invisible worlds. Both Philip K Dick and the medieval Jewish philosophers labor mightily to unpack and communicate realms of the imagination residing in science fiction as well as Hebrew Bible prophecy. Likewise, the influx of Eastern religious practices and beliefs have pointed to areas of consciousness previously unknown to the West.


I wrote...

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

By Rick Strassman,

Book cover of DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

What is my book about?

After completing his groundbreaking research chronicled in DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Rick Strassman was left with one fundamental question: What does it mean that DMT, a simple chemical naturally found in all of our bodies, instantaneously opens us to an interactive spirit world that feels more real than our own world?

When his decades of clinical psychiatric research and Buddhist practice were unable to provide answers to this question, Strassman began searching for a more resonant spiritual model. He found that the visions of the Hebrew prophets--such as Ezekiel, Moses, Adam, and Daniel--were strikingly similar to those of the volunteers in his DMT studies. Carefully examining the concept of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, he characterizes a "prophetic state of consciousness" and explains how it may share biological and metaphysical mechanisms with the DMT effect.

Benedict de Spinoza

By Henry Allison,

Book cover of Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction

My first book is an oldie but a goodie (and is due to come out soon in a third edition). Published in 1987, this is a highly readable and accessible introduction to Spinoza’s philosophy. It includes discussion of his views on God, the human being, the passions, the life of reason, and our ultimate happiness. It also covers his political thought and his views on religion. I recommend this book to anyone approaching Spinoza for the first time. Because the Ethics is such a difficult read, it is good to have a guide like this by your side.

Benedict de Spinoza

By Henry Allison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benedict de Spinoza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the rear cover of this 254 page book: "This highly acclaimed book provides a general introduction to the life and works of one of the major philosophers of the seventeenth century. In this revised edition, Henry E. Allison has rewritten the central chapters on the 'Ethics', taking into consideration the most important recent literature on Spinoza's metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, and moral theory. This is an excellent general introduction to Spinoza's thought. Allison expounds Spinoza sympathetically, but without glossing over the difficulties. Though written in a way which should make it accessible to undergraduates, his book also contains much that…


Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Bento's Sketchbook

By John Berger,

Book cover of Bento's Sketchbook

John Berger taught us to see art in a new way. His acclaimed BBC series changed the way art was shown on TV. Contemplating art included looking around and finding remarkable images being used in plain situations. In his book, Here is where we meet he placed a heart-touching short story in Lisboa, my adored city. I realised that we had often crossed the same roads and parks, enjoyed the same views. I was conquered. In Bento’s Sketchbook, Berger searches for the mind of Baruch (Bento) Spinoza, one of the most enigmatic philosophers of the 17th century. It is nice to follow this book by reading Antonio Damásio’s Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Berger also mentions Damásio, describing what goes on in his mind and body when drawing. The Dutch Philosopher, a member of the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam, had a rich work…

Bento's Sketchbook

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bento's Sketchbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza-also known as Benedict or Bento de Spinoza-spent the most intense years of his short life writing. He also carried with him a sketchbook. After his sudden death, his friends rescued letters, manuscripts, notes-but no drawings.

For years, without knowing what its pages might hold, John Berger has imagined finding Bento's sketchbook, wanting to see the drawings alongside his surviving words. When one day a friend gave him a beautiful virgin sketchbook, Berger said, "This is Bento's!" and he began to draw, taking his inspiration from the philosopher's vision.

In this illustrated color book John Berger…


Who am I?

I've taught Drawing in universities since 1985. Currently, I work at IADE-Universidade Europeia in Lisbon, Portugal. Long before that, at the age of five, I drew a volcano. A mountain exploding on the top as a delirious shiny crown and lava running from its flanks making a pattern of vibrant reddish-yellow. Proudly, I showed it to my mother. She exclaimed: What a beautiful pineapple! I only retained the word ‘beautiful’ and never stopped drawing. Trained as an architect, I discovered the virtue of drawing what we see, while experiencing the act of being there. I also became a compulsive reader, perhaps to experience the act of being elsewhere. 


I wrote...

The Smooth Guide to Travel Drawing

By Eduardo Côrte-Real,

Book cover of The Smooth Guide to Travel Drawing

What is my book about?

The Smooth Guide to Travel Drawing shows sketches of the world, resulting from leisure and mostly from work from the late 1990s to 2009. England, France, Italy, Israel, Japan, Spain, US, and Portugal, are some of the inspiring places depicted in this book.

Here, I advocated a neutral position while sketching that differs from an approach towards illustration or creating postcards from the most iconic places. You can find more detail in the interior of an apartment in the Lower East Side than in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The drawings were made in moments of suspension in time that are common to every person traveling. It also describes the mental state that occurs while drawing and gives good technical advice on sketching the world around us.

Spinoza on Human Freedom

By Matthew J. Kisner,

Book cover of Spinoza on Human Freedom: Reason, Autonomy and the Good Life

Continuing on the theme of how to make Spinoza accessible to non-specialists, this is an excellent study of the many dimensions of Spinoza’s moral philosophy. For a long time, most of the literature on Spinoza was devoted to his metaphysics and epistemology, essentially Parts One and Two of the Ethics. Kisner’s was one of the first books devoted to the work’s moral dimensions in Parts Three, Four, and Five --  the ethics of the Ethics, so to speak. He covers all the right ground: freedom, happiness, responsibility, benevolence, and so on, and does so in an engaging and illuminating way.

Spinoza on Human Freedom

By Matthew J. Kisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza on Human Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spinoza was one of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment, but his often obscure metaphysics makes it difficult to understand the ultimate message of his philosophy. Although he regarded freedom as the fundamental goal of his ethics and politics, his theory of freedom has not received sustained, comprehensive treatment. Spinoza holds that we attain freedom by governing ourselves according to practical principles, which express many of our deepest moral commitments. Matthew J. Kisner focuses on this theory and presents an alternative picture of the ethical project driving Spinoza's philosophical system. His study of the neglected practical philosophy provides an…


Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Book cover of Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good

This is another important contribution to our understanding of Spinoza as a moral philosopher. It is a denser read than the first three books, but fascinating nonetheless for those already with a little Spinoza under their belt. Rather than concentrating on just the latter parts of the Ethics, where most scholars interested in Spinoza’s moral philosophy focus and where we find the mature discussion of the “free person” who lives under the “guidance of reason”, Sangiacomo is especially concerned with the evolution of Spinoza’s moral thought from his earliest writings to his final, uncompleted work. He considers tensions within, and pressures upon, Spinoza’s understanding of the “Supreme Good” and how to achieve it, and the changes that that account consequently undergoes. Sangiacomo’s thesis is thus both historical and philosophical.

Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good

By Andrea Sangiacomo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spinoza's thought is at the centre of an ever growing interest. Spinoza's moral philosophy, in particular, points to a radical way of understanding how human beings can become free and enjoy supreme happiness. And yet, there is still much disagreement about how exactly Spinoza's recipe is supposed to work. For long time, Spinoza has been presented as an arch rationalist who would identify in the purely intellectual cultivation of reason the key for ethical progress.
Andrea Sangiacomo offers a new understanding of Spinoza's project, by showing how he himself struggled during his career to develop a moral philosophy that could…


Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Spinoza's Religion

By Clare Carlisle,

Book cover of Spinoza's Religion: A New Reading of the Ethics

Next to Descartes, Spinoza is perhaps the greatest philosopher of the early modern period. He is often regarded as a precursor of today’s secularist outlook, while others see him as a kind of pantheist. In this fluent and original new study, Clare Carlisle brought home to me the religious dimension in Spinoza’s thought, and she offers a brilliant account of why he is still relevant today, when religious ways of thinking are increasingly under attack.

Spinoza's Religion

By Clare Carlisle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza's Religion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bold reevaluation of Spinoza that reveals his powerful, inclusive vision of religion for the modern age

Spinoza is widely regarded as either a God-forsaking atheist or a God-intoxicated pantheist, but Clare Carlisle says that he was neither. In Spinoza's Religion, she sets out a bold interpretation of Spinoza through a lucid new reading of his masterpiece, the Ethics. Putting the question of religion centre-stage but refusing to convert Spinozism to Christianity, Carlisle reveals that "being in God" unites Spinoza's metaphysics and ethics. Spinoza's Religion unfolds a powerful, inclusive philosophical vision for the modern age-one that is grounded in a…


Who am I?

I have spent my career writing and teaching philosophy, working on early-modern philosophers, especially that most controversial and enigmatic figure, René Descartes. In recent years my main interest has been in the philosophy of religion, focusing on grand traditional questions about the meaning of life, and on the spiritual dimension of religious thought and practice. I have argued for a ‘humane’ turn in philosophy, meaning that philosophical inquiry should not confine itself to abstract intellectual argument alone, but should draw on a full range of resources, including literary, poetic, imaginative, and emotional modes of awareness, as we struggle to come to terms with the mystery of human existence. 


I wrote...

In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

By John Cottingham,

Book cover of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

What is my book about?

What is the soul? Does the concept still have a place in our modern scientifically oriented world? I argue that the concept of the soul is one that has a claim to be central to our thinking about what it is to be human. We are all engaged in the task of trying to understand the experiencing subject, the core self that makes us what we are. In searching for the soul, we aim to realize our true selves and find meaning in our lives. Exploring the soul in its many dimensions, historical, moral, psychological, and spiritual, In Search of the Soul aims to show how strongly the concept of soul still resonates today when human beings speak about what matters most deeply to them.

Think Least of Death

By Steven Nadler,

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

Baruch Spinoza was the philosophical flower of the Dutch Golden Age. Bertrand Russell called him the "noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers", and I am certainly not going to disagree. Like many of the innovators of the Golden Age, his ideas still seem fresh. Expelled from his Jewish community in Amsterdam for his ‘heresies’, we now find his conception of God as nature highly congenial. We probably share his dislike of ritual and perhaps aspire to his renunciation of materialism. His advice neither to fear nor to hope when it concerns things we can do nothing about is as good now as it was when it appeared in his most famous work, Ethics, in 1677.

Spinoza’s philosophy is hard to approach in the original – his arguments are rigorously constructed in the style of ancient Greek mathematics proofs. But Steven Nadler, as well as producing a towering biography…

Think Least of Death

By Steven Nadler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Think Least of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Pulitzer Prize-finalist Steven Nadler, an engaging guide to what Spinoza can teach us about life's big questions

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam's Portuguese-Jewish community for "abominable heresies" and "monstrous deeds," the young Baruch Spinoza abandoned his family's import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He quickly became notorious across Europe for his views on God, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his uncompromising defense of free thought. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza's views has long obscured that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of humanity's most urgent questions: How…


Who am I?

In my writing about science, I am always keen to include the artistic and literary dimension that links the science to the broader culture. In Huygens, a product of the Dutch Golden Age, I found a biographical subject for whom it would have been quite impossible not to embrace these riches. This context – including painting, music, poetry, mechanics, architecture, gardens, fashion and leisure – is crucial to understanding the life that Huygens led and the breakthroughs he was able to make.


I wrote...

Dutch Light

By Hugh Aldersey-Williams,

Book cover of Dutch Light

What is my book about?

Filled with incident, discovery, and revelation, Dutch Light is a vivid account of Christiaan Huygens’s remarkable life and career, but it is also nothing less than the story of the birth of modern science as we know it.

Europe’s greatest scientist during the latter half of the seventeenth century, Christiaan Huygens was a true polymath. A towering figure in the fields of astronomy, optics, mechanics, and mathematics, many of his innovations in methodology, optics and timekeeping remain in use to this day. Among his many achievements, he developed the theory of light travelling as a wave, invented the mechanism for the pendulum clock, and discovered the rings of Saturn – via a telescope that he had also invented.

Book cover of Spinoza on Learning to Live Together

James is one of our best Spinoza scholars, and she writes with a clarity and urgency not often found in history of philosophy literature. This is a broad study that covers a lot of ground in just over two hundred pages, with a particular emphasis on how Spinoza envisions political and social life. They are mostly previously published essays, but they all hang together under the theme of how we, as rational and passionate beings, can live together democratically, cooperatively, and in peace. An excellent contribution to envisioning Spinoza as an important moral and political thinker.

Spinoza on Learning to Live Together

By Susan James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza on Learning to Live Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Philosophising, as Spinoza conceives it, is the project of learning to live joyfully. Yet this is also a matter of learning to live together, and the surest manifestation of philosophical insight is the capacity to sustain a harmonious way of life. Here, Susan James defends this overall interpretation of Spinoza's philosophy and explores its bearing on contemporary philosophical debates around issues such as religious toleration, putting our knowledge to work, and
the environmental crisis.

Part I focuses on Spinoza's epistemology. Philosophical understanding empowers us by giving us access to truths about ourselves and the world, and by motivating us to…


Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Potentia

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Book cover of Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

It is impossible to read Spinoza and not think often of Thomas Hobbes. Spinoza read Hobbes’s works and was clearly influenced by the English philosopher both in his account of human nature and, especially, in his political thinking. This is, as far as I know, the first book devoted explicitly to the two thinkers together. Field’s focus is on the political, and she does a beautiful job of analyzing and distinguishing different conceptions of ‘power’ (both in the individual and in the group), as well as illuminating similarities and contrasts between these two of the most important early modern thinkers on politics and the state.

Potentia

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Potentia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We live in an age of growing dissatisfaction with the standard operations of representative democracy. The solution, according to a long radical democratic tradition, is the unmediated power of the people. Mass plebiscites and mass protest movements are celebrated as the quintessential expression of popular power, and this power promises to transcend ordinary institutional politics. But the outcomes of mass political phenomena can be just as disappointing as the
ordinary politics they sought to overcome, breeding skepticism about democratic politics in all its forms.

Potentia argues that the very meaning of popular power needs to be rethought. It offers a…


Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Spinoza

By Steven Nadler,

Book cover of Spinoza: A Life

Over the past decade or so, I’ve probably read six or seven biographies of Spinoza, some considerably more helpful than others. Nadler’s study is a striking success of scholarship and biography. Spinoza’s story of being this deft thinker but also being excommunicated in Holland (and we still don’t exactly know why) can make for a great story, but that was not the case before Nadler’s book appeared. I was fortunate to be able to tell the author how I felt about his book in person.

Spinoza

By Steven Nadler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also one of the most radical and controversial. The story of Spinoza's life takes the reader into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual, and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. This new edition of Steven Nadler's biography, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award for biography and translated into a dozen languages, is enhanced by exciting new archival discoveries about his family background, his youth, and…


Who am I?

I’m a historian of China and Japan whose work has hewed close to the cultural interactions between Chinese and Japanese over recent centuries. I’m now working on the history of the Esperanto movement in China and Japan from the first years of the twentieth century through the early 1930s. The topic brings together my interests in Sino-Japanese historical relations, linguistic scholarship, and Jewish history (the creator of Esperanto was a Polish-Jewish eye doctor). Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly interested in Jewish history. I think by now I know what counts as good history, but I’m still an amateur in Jewish history. Nonetheless, these books all struck me as extraordinary.


I wrote...

Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

By Joshua A. Fogel,

Book cover of Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

What is my book about?

After centuries of virtual isolation, during which time international sea travel was forbidden outside of Japan’s immediate fishing shores, Japanese shogunal authorities in 1862 made the unprecedented decision to launch an official delegation to China by sea. Concerned by the fast-changing global environment, they had witnessed the ever-increasing number of incursions into Asia by European powers―not the least of which was Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853–54 and the forced opening of a handful of Japanese ports at the end of the decade. 

This was the first official meeting of Chinese and Japanese in several centuries. Although the Chinese authorities agreed to few of the Japanese requests for trade relations and a consulate, nine years later China and Japan would sign the first bilateral treaty of amity in their history, a completely equal treaty. East Asia―and the diplomatic and trade relations between the region’s two major players in the modern era―would never be the same.

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