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The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age Paperback – 19 Apr 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; (Reissue) edition (19 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006861369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006861362
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prize-winning author of fourteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age; Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution; Landscape and Memory; Rembrandt's Eyes; the History of Britain trilogy and Rough Crossings, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written widely on music, art, politics and food for the Guardian, Vogue and the New Yorker. His award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC stretches over two decades and includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain and the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art. The American Future: A History appeared on BBC2 in autumn 2008.

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Review

‘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 mentalité 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.’ Independent

About the Author

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 list.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 29 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
From a rich foundation of material and an exquisite writing style, Schama guides us through the formative years of the Dutch Republic. The politics of that creation, however, he leaves to others. Instead, he addresses the underlying conditions of Dutch society of the period. At the outset, he decrees he will avoid Culture in favour of culture. This welcome departure makes this book a treasure of information. However, it isn't a volume for the novice. Much background history in Enlightenment Europe in general and the Dutch role in particular, is required before tackling this book.
That a beached whale can become a cultural artefact seems aberrant at first glance. The Dutch, as Calvinists, could find a moral message in a wide disparity of events. Whale beachings proved no exception. Pamphlets, articles, even books could make use of cetacean corpses to invoke metaphors of nationalism, extravagance, profit, indulgence and divine messages. Schama shows how easily the besieged Protestant nation at the edge of Catholic Europe found means to justify and define their existence. This form of thinking and expression gave the Dutch strength to sustain a novel experiment in society and nationhood. It also refutes the suggestion that the Dutch were governed by a dogmatist Calvinism. Flexibility and tolerance, no matter how often challenged, remained the foundation of Dutch culture. Against all odds, the Republic survived and flourished.
The flourishing becomes the pivotal point in Schama's account. The influx of riches from global trade challenged aspects of Calvinist values. Extravagance was condemned, but not impaired. The lure of commerce was strong and the accumulation of wealth too rapid to be hampered.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Mar. 1999
Format: Paperback
This is narrative, factually dense history at its best. Schama demonstrates an immense range of knowledge and insight in this analysis of the rise and fall the 17th century Dutch Republic. Using art particularly, but Dutch culture of the Golden Age as a whole, he shows the heart of the nation with all its neuroses and religious idiosyncracies. A fantastic tour de force. One of the best history books I've read.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By giffin.lorimer@cwcom.net on 8 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
A fascinating insight into the origins of one of our closest neighbouring states. Wonderfully readable, superior in this respect to many other bestselling history books. The themes are often surprising (the popularity of breakfast paintings, for example) but help to demonstrate how widely distributed was the wealth of the nation in that era. It's interesting to consider the confluence of trade and democracy in such a centrally-located country, when all around was despotism, and to reflect on its importance in sowing the seeds of liberal democracy to its neighbours in succeeding centuries.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Deb on 25 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
Intimate details of the Dutch obsession with hygeine and their indulgent attitude to children, brought this book alive for a modern reader. The author's style is reminiscent of his quirky TV appearance. I could almost see him as I read his wonderful book. It kept me captivated from start to finish. I was reading to research for my own book,(John Lofting available on Amazon),but it stood in its own right as a real gem for me, and now takes pride of place on my bookshelves for dipping into again later.
John LoftingJohn Lofting: 1
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lindsey Clare Gee-Turner on 2 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
Having had Dutch family members (ex-sister-in-law, guardians), I realised how much we have got from them (or copied) & I enjoyed this book. It was incredibly informative, frank & thorough about whole way of life & the art. The photographs were particularly good. I'd read it again as it's the only book I know of its type. He whizzes along with serious, important information rather like on tv. I think this is the best of his books that I've read (Rough Crossing & History of Britain). I will certainly be reading more of Simon Schama's - maybe on more art.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey H. Fearnley on 22 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
I purchased this excellent book as a reference for my BA (hons) degree dissertation which I am in the process of writing. The book was recommended by my tutor as part of my reading material. I keep dipping into the pages and I must say that those areas that I have used for my research, so far, have been most helpful and enlightening I shall not be using the book to read from cover to cover(700 pages),for it is not intended to be a novel but will use it as a reference to assist me in theorising my subject. The book is well written and extremely well researched. The bibliography is endless and the references are numerous. Michael Schama's enthusiasm for his subject is obvious. The book also contains an abundance of images helping him to make his point.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shove Coupler on 4 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
Not for the first time, the difference between Schama the TV presenter and Schama the historian is laid bare. Frankly I prefer the former. This book is full of dense thickets of facts and anecdotal detail but is all but unreadable. I find his prose style florid and self-indulgent. It is full of contemporary observations but there is no sense of a coherent narrative. He keeps skitting about: "so-and-so said in 1644 ... a view repudiated in 1647 when ... just as, ten years earlier, so-and-so commented ... " you lose any sense of whereabouts in time you are, or who's views you are reading, or why you should care. OK, history isn't a coherent narrative but that's what I want the historian to make of it! The book is lavishly illustrated, but, in the paperback edition, in black and white; reasonalbe enough for a small engraving or pamphlet, but reducing an entire painted ceiling to a two-inch grey-and-white square seems pretty pointless.
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