This is a work of erudition and painstaking research. So much so that I suspect it presents a dense thicket of quirky historicism to the average reader. Schama seeks out the collective self image, the self identity of the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries. His tool is metaphor; in this case it is dyke building by the Dutch in their reclamation of land. Holding back the waters has a dual biblical and political significance which defines the mentality of the Dutch federacy. Schama's preoccupation is assembling evidence in support of the existence of a collective national consciousness and its evolution and dialogue with daily life and commerce. If one disagrees that such phenomena exist, or even if they do, that they can be exhaustively analysed in Schama's terms, then this work may be difficult to endure. There is a vast amount of information in the work; some astounding, some funny, but mostly dry unless Dutch history is your forte. As a non historian, I found this work prolix, pedantic and ultimately self indulgent. However, I would have nothing but admiration for the scholarship involved in the work.
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