The Embarrassment of Riches

The Embarrassment of Riches : An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age

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This is the book that made Simon Schama's reputation when first published in 1987. A historical masterpiece, it is an epic account of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age of Rembrandt and van Diemen. In this brilliant work that moves far beyond the conventions of social or cultural history, Simon Schama investigates the astonishing case of a people's self-invention. He shows how, in the 17th-century, a modest assortment of farming, fishing and shipping communities, without a shared language, religion or government, transformed themselves into a formidable world empire - the Dutch more

Product details

  • Paperback | 720 pages
  • 166 x 234 x 38mm | 1,501.41g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperPerennial
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New ed.
  • 0006861369
  • 9780006861362
  • 538,900

Review quote

'Simon Schama writes with grace and wit, and his enthusiasms are contagious.' Anita Brookner 'Schama is one of the few historians writing today who can recreate the mentalite of another culture.' Jonathan Miller 'One reads it all with mounting enjoyment and at the end one's sense of Dutch civilisation in the Golden Age of Rembrandt and van Diemen is not just salted and enriched - but remade.' Robert Hughes 'This is history on the grand scale, and like all generously conceived historical works leaves us reflecting about the present as well as the past.' John Gross, New York Times 'Seldom has a people opened its doors so wide. A performance on the epic scale.' Independentshow more

About Simon Schama

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. He is the author of 'Patriots and Liberators', which won the Wolfson Prize for History, 'The Embarrassment of Riches', 'Citizens' which won the 1990 NCR book award for non-fiction, 'Dead Certainties', 'Landscape and Memory' which won the W H Smith Literary Award in 1995, and 'Rembrandt's Eyes' (1999). He is also the author of the monumental 'History of Britain' published in three volumes. He was art critic of the 'New Yorker' from 1995 to 1998 and was made CBE in the 2001 New Year's Honours more

Review Text

Scholarly, exhaustively researched, packed with highly esoteric information, this massive study is less daunting than it might seem at first glance, thanks to Schama's lively writing style and his eye for the colorful and thought-provoking detail. Specialized, but likely to instruct and, more importantly, entertain the general reader. Focusing his attention on the Netherlands during the 17th century, Schama investigates the linkage that the citizens who wrested their lands from the sea felt with the waters lapping their shores. The sea, quite understandably, was viewed as an enemy and, in a particularly evocative section, the author discourses at length on the identification the Dutch felt with the Children of Israel, especially the Jews of Exodus and their flight through the Red Sea. It is intriguing to speculate on how Netherlander attitudes influenced our Puritan forebears during their stay in the Low Countries. Puritan talk of founding the "New Jerusalem" and the Calvinist emphasis on Old Testament teachings owe much lo the Pilgrims' sojourn in the Netherlands. Equally provocative are the insights given into Golden Age attitudes toward sexuality - chastity was demanded and. again, had something to do with Old Testament attitudes, this time toward "cleanliness." Not that women were secluded, as they were in Latin countries; they were, in fact, quite liberated in their social intercourse, but a Dutch woman's reputation had to be as spotless as her doorstep. The dichotomy between apparently uninhibited public behavior and the strictest private morality confused and shocked both Catholic visitors and Puritan moralists. Among other topics that come under Schama's scrutiny are art, superstition. finance and child-rearing during the period when the Dutch Republic was one of Europe's superpowers. In each area he explores, Schama discovers details that prompt far-ranging speculations about religion, philosophy and the human condition. A stimulating and important dissection of a little-known but constantly fascinating era. A lavish compilation of 325 photographs (not seen) illustrates the text. (Kirkus Reviews)show more