Simon Schama

Simon Schama, author of Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel, is a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.

The Monte Lupo Story

Simon Schama, 18 September 1980

Professor Cipolla’s new book puts one in mind of a Florentine espresso: miniscule in size; briefly stimulating in effect; and extortionate in price. At £7.50 for 85 pages of text his readers will be shelling out eight pence a page, a tariff which, I couldn’t help but calculate, would have put my own first book in the shops for around £65 a copy. Not for nothing, then, is he renowned as the most economical of economic historians, specialising in small books on big subjects – literacy, population, technology and the like. Many of these have brilliantly succeeded in dealing with complex historical problems within the space of a nutshell. In this case, however, the shell is altogether more imposing than the nut.

Berenson’s Elixir

Simon Schama, 1 May 1980

Bernard Berenson once began a will with the phrase: ‘If I die …’ Such a prudential approach to immortality is understandable coming from someone who had been transmogrified into a sacred relic during his lifetime. In his octogenarian splendour, looking like some pixillated Nestor, venerated from far and near as the oracular source of wisdom on Italian art, ‘II Bibi’ took on an iconic quality. In the public mind, he became the incarnation of Renaissance man, sustaining an exquisite humanism amidst the detritus of European cultural collapse.

Revolution and Enlightenment in France

Simon Schama, 20 December 1979

No walnuts, no Enlightenment, it seems. For, as Robert Darnton tells us in his epic chronicle of the Life and Times of the quarto edition of the Encyclopédie, it was nuts and resin from the Midi together with Paris turpentine and linseed oil which made the ink (six monstrous 250-livre barrels) which primed the type which printed the 36 million sheets which comprised the quarto which lowered the price which Spread the Word which overthrew superstition which disarmed the Old Regime and inaugurated the rationalist millennium. Or was it?

Simon Schama​ is devoting a trilogy to the 3000-year-long ‘Story of the Jews’. His attention, however, is not evenly distributed. The first volume, The Story of the Jews: Finding...

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Ever since Samuel Johnson’s icy comment of 1775 – ‘How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?’ – British observers have felt...

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The Argument from Design

John Barrell, 24 August 1995

The five videotapes of Simon Schama’s BBC 2 series Landscape and Memory must have been sent to me in a wrapping all too suspiciously plain. They never arrived, nicked, we presume, by a...

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Theodore Zeldin, 13 June 1991

‘Are you a satisfied man?’ ‘I am certainly not that,’ replies Simon Schama. But he is the opposite of a revolutionary. Even when he complains, his criticisms are carefully...

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Last Farewells

Linda Colley, 22 June 1989

On display at the British Museum at present is one of the most brilliant propaganda campaigns ever launched. Something very different from the glossy philistinism of Saatchi and Saatchi...

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One of the most lively debates currently engaging the attention of historians, more or less the world over, concerns the so-called ‘revival of narrative’. Ought written history to...

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