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The Monte Lupo Story

Simon Schama, 18 September 1980

Faith, Reason and the Plague 
by Carlo Cipolla.
Harvester, 112 pp., £7.50, November 1980, 0 85527 506 5
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... Professor Cipolla’s new book puts one in mind of a Florentine espresso: minuscule 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 ...

Revolution and Enlightenment in France

Simon Schama, 20 December 1979

The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the ‘Encyclopédie’ 1775-1800 
by Robert Darnton.
Harvard, 624 pp., £13, September 1979, 0 674 08786 0
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... 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 ...

Berenson’s Elixir

Simon Schama, 1 May 1980

Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 477 pp., £9.50, June 1979, 0 674 06775 4
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Being Bernard Berenson 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 473 pp., £8.50, January 1980, 0 297 77564 2
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... 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 ...
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... pendulum seems to be swinging back to narrative, it is encouraging to find a scholar as gifted as Simon Schama moving in the opposite direction. His first book, Patriots and Liberators, published in 1977, told the story of a major episode in Dutch political history, the revolution of the late 18th century, in a fluent narrative divided into 12 ...


Theodore Zeldin, 13 June 1991

Dead Certainties 
by Simon Schama.
Granta, 334 pp., £15.99, May 1991, 0 14 014230 4
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... 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 padded, as though in boxing-gloves, so that they do not hurt. Perhaps these days no one can admit to being satisfied. On the other hand, he is the Mellon Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard and he has just published a work of fiction ...

In Orange-Tawny Bonnets

David Nirenberg: ‘The Story of the Jews’, 8 February 2018

Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492-1900 
by Simon Schama.
Bodley Head, 790 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 1 84792 280 9
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... 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 the Words, spent 473 pages on the 2500 years between 1000 BC and 1492 AD. The second, enigmatically entitled Belonging, requires 790 pages to cover the 400 years between 1492 and 1900, and two characters who presumably attracted Schama because they both preached a Jewish return to Zion ...

Last Farewells

Linda Colley, 22 June 1989

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution 
by Simon Schama.
Viking, 948 pp., £20, May 1989, 0 670 81012 6
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The Oxford History of the French Revolution 
by William Doyle.
Oxford, 466 pp., £17.50, May 1989, 0 19 822781 7
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The Shadow of the Guillotine: Britain and the French Revolution 
by David Bindman.
British Museum, 232 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 7141 1637 8
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... bourgeoisie, and had led to the triumph of capitalism. Now, in these books by William Doyle and Simon Schama, we have two further reappraisals of this event written by British-born scholars. Both see the Revolution as a tragedy. Both argue that the initial impetus was not social or economic change. And both are very much historians of their time in ...

Period Pain

Patricia Beer, 9 June 1994

by Stella Tillyard.
Chatto, 462 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7011 5933 2
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... would be in any lively historical novel, past or present. But the eulogy pronounced by the great Simon Schama, author of Citizens, calls for comment: ‘A dazzling achievement,’ he writes, ‘an extraordinary story told by a phenomenally gifted writer’. This strikes me as over-ecstatic. The Schama connection is a ...

Humdrum Selfishness

Nicholas Guyatt: Simon Schama’s Chauvinism, 6 April 2006

Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution 
by Simon Schama.
BBC, 448 pp., £20, September 2005, 0 563 48709 7
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... interest in the slave trade) for the introduction and persistence of slavery in America. Simon Schama thinks that this silence about America’s founding paradox has lasted far too long. Americans have been allowed to generate their own creation myths, which marginalise the contradiction between liberty and slavery in the Revolutionary era. Take ...

Family Stories

Patrice Higonnet, 4 August 1994

The Past in French History 
by Robert Gildea.
Yale, 416 pp., £30, February 1994, 0 300 05799 7
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La Gauche survivra-t-elle aux socialistes? 
by Jean-Marie Colombani.
Flammarion, 213 pp., frs 105, March 1994, 2 08 066953 2
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... history to one senseless deed of violence after another’, as he presumes (wrongly) Simon Schama to have done. Also to be avoided is Theodore Zeldin’s pointilliste description of isolated individuals, moving through time and space like ‘rogue electrons’. Following Keith Baker, Gildea means to study instead the ‘set of discourses and ...

The Argument from Design

John Barrell, 24 August 1995

Landscape and Memory 
by Simon Schama.
HarperCollins, 624 pp., £25, April 1995, 0 00 215897 3
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... 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 postal worker with a thing for blue movies. I like to think he wasn’t too disappointed. There was a lot more drapery than he could have wished or expected: in each of the programmes I remembered to record myself, the entire studio had been wrapped in muslin or bunting, by a designer whose notions of landscape art were mainly derived from Christo’s ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Literary Prizes, 10 May 2001

... prizes. Zadie Smith won in the New Talent category; Jamie Oliver was best for Home and Leisure and Simon Schama for General Knowledge; J.K. Rowling wrote the best children’s book and Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet Feather won the Fiction Award. These results, of course, could have been predicted with a fair degree of accuracy by anyone casting their eye over ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Caliban’s Lunch, 24 June 2010

... spoon, wipes his mouth and rises from the table like a new tele-hybrid, part Jonathan Meades, part Simon Schama, for another assay: ‘The mid-16th century, in gastronomic terms, was precisely such an exotic place.’ And off we go with ‘How to smeare a rabbet or a necke of mutton’, from The Good Hous-wives treasurie. Beeing a verye necessarie Booke ...

At Tate Britain (2)

Rosemary Hill: Kenneth Clark, 3 July 2014

... Countess of Schaumburg-Lippe’ by Joshua Reynolds (c.1759). Clark photographed by Gerty Simon in front of Renoir’s ‘La Baigneuse Blonde’ (c.1933).PreviousNext Born in 1903, the only child of wealthy parents, he first appears aged seven in a portrait by John Lavery. Solemn in white shorts, broad-brimmed hat in hand, he stands in a darkly ...

At the Serpentine

Paul Myerscough: Cy Twombly, 20 May 2004

... naivety – Twombly’s, or possibly their own – and tend to overcompensate for it. Here’s Simon Schama in his introduction to the catalogue for Cy Twombly: Fifty Years of Works on Paper: ‘Twombly’s Apollo is not the fine-limbed hunk of the Belvedere, but the pitiless flayer of Marsyas … what Twombly draws from archaic mythology is its ...

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