Monday, June 16, 2008

Why Simon Schama...

...is my favorite historian. From todays Froomkin:
British Web site The First Post reports: "George Bush's valedictory dinner at Downing Street last night was attended by a bevy of distinguished British historians, leading some to believe the president is looking to recruit a ghost writer for a book he is planning. Among those who joined him were Churchill's biographer Martin Gilbert, Niall Fergusson, David Cannadine, Andrew Roberts and Simon Schama. The latter is unlikely to receive a request to help him with the book - expected to promote his freedom agenda and also explain why he took America to war in Iraq -- given that he is on record as saying Bush is 'an absolute [expletive] catastrophe'. My emphasis added.
Nuff said.

For those plushyphiles unfamiliar with Schama's work, Amazon.com has quite a selection. My favorite is Citizens, Schama's hugely entertaining work on the French Revolution, released the year of the French Bicentennial.

For you Anglophiles who saw part or all of the BBC's series, "The History of Britain," Schama was the narrator as well as the author of an exhaustive three-book series to accompany the television production. And when I say "exhaustive," I mean it. He starts at 3500 B.C. and covers everything up to the modern day. Not to worry though, Schama's volumes read like fine novels. His flair for story telling would make most novelists cry with envy.

64 comments:

Plum Pudding said...

i really liked his Power Of Art series last year. His view on David - The Death of Marat was perfect! David in 2008 would be on Fox News...but what pretty pictures!

Ramona Quimby said...

I saw "The History of Britain" on PBS and loved it. Now that I know Schama recognizes Bush for the clusterfuck he is, I'm going to buy the book(s)!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Simon Schama. His "History of Britain" was astoundingly good. I also like to watch him talk. He's a treasure.

-mnkid

four legs good said...

History of Britain WAS astoundingly good.

He's an interesting guy.

Christy said...

used interlibrary loan to request the book Citizens...can't wait! thanks for the recommendation.

pseudonymous in nc said...

When I was 17, Citizens changed my conception of how history could be written. I just lent out my copy of History of Britain to a friend to help explain the kind of narrative that constitutes British history.

The Indy was less circumspect about his description. Hope they let him back into the US -- he teaches at Columbia. Sadly, Niall 'Yay Empire' Ferguson was also at Bush's 'historians, tell me how I'll be vindicated' date.

Christy said...

Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States was the book that changed *my* perception of history. Can anyone compare his style/perspective with Schama's?

four legs good said...

christy, I don't think they're comparable.

Schama writes like he speaks. And he really takes you into the lives of the people of the time he's writing about.

I thought I knew a fair bit about French history until I read Citizens.

Schama is the rare combination of serious scholar and master story teller. He embodies everything I love about history.

Soprano said...

I just bought Citizens for four bucks at a used book store. Looking forward to reading it.

Thp,as Costain's popular four-volume history of the Plantagenet kings of England started my love affair with history when I was 16 years old, and Louis Gottschalk's The Era of the French Revolution got me permanently hooked. What a grand book. Gottschalk was a student of Carl Becker's at Cornell. Was once married to Laura Ridings, the poet. When I met him, he was a professor of history, emeritus, at the University of Chicago, teaching at Illinois in Chicago. Lecturing in a giant survey course because he loved students. I had a couple of tutorials with him. Best history teacher I ever had and a real gentleman, to boot.

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