Read The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age by Simon Schama Online


At the apogee of its powers in the seventeenth century, Holland was a tiny island of prosperity in a sea of want. Its homes were well-furnished and fanatically clean; its citizens feasted on 100-course banquets and speculated fortunes on new varieties of tulip. Yet, in the midst of plenty, the Dutch were ill at ease. In this brilliantly innovative book--which launched hisAt the apogee of its powers in the seventeenth century, Holland was a tiny island of prosperity in a sea of want. Its homes were well-furnished and fanatically clean; its citizens feasted on 100-course banquets and speculated fortunes on new varieties of tulip. Yet, in the midst of plenty, the Dutch were ill at ease. In this brilliantly innovative book--which launched his reputation as one of our most perspicacious and stylish historians--Simon Schama explores the mysterious contradictions of a nation that invented itself from the ground up, attained an unprecedented level of affluence, and lived in dread of being corrupted by its happiness.Drawing on a vast array of period documents and sumptuously reproduced art, Schama re-creates, in precise and loving detail, a nation's mental furniture. He tells of bloody uprisings and beached whales, of the cult of hygiene and the plague of tobacco, of thrifty housewives and profligate tulip-speculators. He tells us how the Dutch celebrated themselves and how they were slandered by their enemies. The Embarrassment of Riches is a book that set a standard for its discipline; it throbs with life on every page....

Title : The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age
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ISBN : 9780679781240
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 720 Pages
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The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age Reviews

  • Kalliope
    2019-02-12 08:47

    Opening the pages of Schama’s Embarrassment of Riches has felt like letting the waters of knowledge wash over my poor guideless and guileless mind. Each new chapter surged like a new tide that would pull me upwards and drag me downwards, pushing and towing my senses mercilessly. These are the ebbs and flows of reading.My hopelessness is then my Embarrassment while the erudition is Schama’s Richness.How could I survive this read? I needed dykes and canals and structures that would organize the flow. For flow it is, and an immensity it is-- what Schama has tried to achieve.He has set himself the task of capturing the notions adopted and followed by a large group of people in a particular time. These notions are the everything that permeates and soaks people’s minds. cultural history with no Capital Letters. In this book there is then no art, even if there are many paintings, engravings and tapestries. There is no literature even if there are loads of quoted texts, published and unpublished. There is no music, but one can hear a cacophony of sounds, some sweet some coarse. There are no events or Treaties, or Acts or Laws that would occupy headlines. Instead it is a plethora of signposts of activities planted by the collective mind, and in this Schama quotes and acknowledges the ideas of the French Structuralist Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945) and his mémoire collective.His clutter of cultural fragments do however form a system of dykes and parapets that channel the information and pursue two main currents. These currents conflict and clash or conflict and reconcile with each other: the openness and liberality of Erasmian humanist thinking and the constricting and admonishing Calvinist creed.And as the times and place he has chosen was a new country, a nation looking for its own roots and identification, he has followed the path of the developing embryo: from its generation to its growth and settlement with its activities and organic needs. And he does succeed in portraying the togetherness and self-assurance of a nation that became emblematically successful.A nation looking for its own root and identifying it as a renewal, not of Antiquity as the Florentines had done already, but of Israel and the people of the Book and Scripture. The Batavians had also emerged out of a primal flood and conquered their land with a messianic and moral purpose. And Rembrandt portrayed this in his mural for the brand new Town Hall. It is just that his Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis already had the broad manner and the unfinished and affronting mode of his later paintings, and it was not accepted. Rembrandt acting already as the enfant terrible of his polished culture.As the nation grows, Schama traces its activities and examines closely some of their symbols. One of the most striking is the presence of the whale as an archetype of the dual nature of Dutch culture. The whale was both the purveyor of wealth (for this was the beginning of the whaling industry) and a warning of retributive penury (for dealing with them entailed high risks). Luckily I did not get scared of these surging whales as I tried not to drown in this flooding reading.Schama includes one of the best discussions I have read of the roots and significance of the Tulip mania of the 1630s. For it was the possibility that the concept of rarity could be reproduced without limits and that the exotic could be made available to everyone, that brought about the explosion of impossibility. Walter Benjamin would have agreed (view spoiler)[This would be his thesis on the effect on our perception of art with the ability to reproduce images mechanically in modern times. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media (hide spoiler)]His section on children I found surprisingly interesting. If high mortality rate had made children invisible during the middle ages, the Humanist obsession with education put children on a different ground. A process that has culminated in modern times as children have become the stars and the adults their planets. But in this Golden Age society, the children, even if educated according to the Humanist ideal, also played moral games, and thus assuaging Calvinist concerns. Games as proverbs became a separate and fruitful genre.And it is in the attitude to wealth were we see those two currents, the Humanist and the Calvinist, having to come to the most delicate accord. Reconciling the irreconcilable. It was proper to generate and accumulate wealth but it had to be dispensed or shown properly.Apart from the presentation and analysis of Dutch culture during the Golden Age, this book has become paradigmatic. With it Schama has demonstrated his belief that culture is made and that even if it is shared by a social group, its makers are a group of particular individuals who hold key and varied positions in their social network. To mention a few of these individuals that parade in Schama's gallery: Jacob Cats (1577-1660), a highly cultured man but who, with his moralistic poems provided material to the less cultured; Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), the draper who became a scientist in his free time; the imposing Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) who during his long life provided a continuous impetus in the arts, literature, science and diplomacy; and the extraordinary female (yes, her gender has to be underlined) painter Judith Leyster (1609-1660), who broke artistic, social and financial moulds.The notions these extraordinary individuals elaborated were however adopted by their contemporaries precisely because they identify themselves with them. In this process of creation and adoption the cultural mental body becomes the property of all. For the culture that Schama strives to identify goes further and deeper than select and precious objects of cult. It is the mental panorama in which an individual places himself or herself and through which he or she relates to his or her contemporaries.We are in dry, solid and safe land then.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • ·Karen·
    2019-01-28 08:40

    From whales to worms, from cheese to children, from tulips to tarts.Simon Schama, for all his irritating wavy head and waggly shoulders when broadcasting, is a writer of grace and verve, one who can engage his audience without ever sounding superior or condescending. He has gone down on record as a historian who believes that his discipline should be more than a playground for arcane arguments amongst academics, who believes that it is of wider import, and therefore needs to be accessible. And accessible is what he does.Here he sets out to examine the cultural history of the Dutch Golden Age, describing and interpreting their beliefs and behaviours, their 'mental bric-à-brac', their cultural 'furniture', their national personality or mentality. The basis for his reading are tracts and handbooks, diaries and invoices and inventories, and above all the thousands of prints and paintings produced during this most fertile of times - nearly all reproduced in the illustrations, if only in black and white. He does make the UP of the seventeenth century feel like the one place and time that you might elect to visit if time travel ever became possible. People, in general, were well fed with a varied diet including fish and meat and cheese, well housed, the streets were clean, cities were orderly places where there was a far lower incidence of violent crime and robbery than in other major cities of Europe,(view spoiler)["Travelers repeatedly chorused their amazement at being able to walk the streets at night unmolested or with the sure knowledge that if they were set upon the felon would be quickly apprehended and dealt with" (hide spoiler)] and you would have had a higher chance than in other countries of belonging to the middling sort of people, that 'brede middenstand' that, he insists, is not synonymous with bourgeoisie, a concept that carries its own defining parameters and Marxist baggage. And even if you didn't, then there was, at least, a widespread system of social institutions. Wholesome, charitable, pragmatic. Does that sound a little insipid? All too well-regulated by the severely dressed burghers in their black silk and high white collars?Frans Hals: De regentessen van het oudemannenhuis(view spoiler)[aka: Beaky, Peaky, Sappy, Servile and Dour (hide spoiler)]However Schama detects a basic conflict at the core: the moral ambiguity of stupendous, unimaginable wealth being sucked into this tiny country at Europe's mouth, into a broadly Calvinist culture which saw fortune as a sign of God's grace, yes, and yet at the same time fulminated against decadence and depravity, eulogized temperance, thrift and modesty.Thrift in theory, indeed, but not in practice. The Dutch were notorious trenchermen, addicted to tobacco, (often laced with something stronger), and to strong drink - Dutch courage. Guzzlers, sozzlers and smokers. One main theme of this book is the method that was found to regulate those appetites, to frame them within a narrative of virtue. One way was to create rituals around the indulgence, to regulate the most ostentatious displays of food and drink, cage them in to sets of rules and regulations, to parade material opulence in civic displays of pomp. "Conventionally mistaken for royalism dressed down," adds Mr. Schama, "it is in fact republicanism dressed up." The picture that emerges of the United Provinces is of remarkable cohesion. A sense of community of nation, which, Schama says in his introduction is "an entity not supposed to have existed before the French Revolution." Nevertheless, he finds writers and preachers who speak of 'vaderlands gevoel', patriotic sentiment, and why indeed should they not? For little Holland was the steadfast hero that faced off flood, wresting land away from water through the building of dikes and pumping windmills, a forge of communitarian feeling if ever there was one. Add on to that their early emancipation from the yoke of a foreign power and the ingredients in the crucible of patriotism are amalgamated into a strong sense of nationhood.My own favourite part of this was the section on women. If forced to live in the past, it seems that this wouldn't be the worst choice possible for a woman, at least as one of the 'brede middenstand'. It was common, for example, for widows to retain the right to recover her full marriage portion plus personal possessions acquired in the marriage, women could make commercial contracts and notarize documents, and the Dutch legal system was not entirely unsympathetic to women pursuing claims against their male abusers. Paternity suits in Leiden, for example, as long as the woman was bringing action against a man of roughly her own social standing, stood a pretty good chance of going in favour of the woman - 57 who won their cases against 21 who lost between 1671 and 1795 - although woe betide if you were a mere housemaid impregnated by your master. And generally, there seems to be a freedom and informality in relations between men and women and an emphasis on affection as a solid basis for marriage of companionship, as so beautifully expressed in this wonderful wedding portrait by Frans Hals of Isabella Cuypman, playfully offering a rose to her new husband. Schama is a scrupulous historian, perhaps over-scrupulous at times, offering an over-abundance (how apt, given the subject) of material that just occasionally can try the patience, of this reader at least. He is not the man of the grand narrative, the wide, sweeping theory of everything, but of the detail of daily life. His strength is in his engaging style, and this magnificent volume plays to that strength indeed.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Katie
    2019-01-27 08:06

    This is a really fun book that explores the Golden Age of the Netherlands (predominantly the 17th century) and its culture - as someone else here put it neatly, it's a book about how the Dutch became Dutch. I wish I had more time to spend reading this work because it's a treasure trove of fascinating information. There's stories about a beached whale, a punishment for sloth that consisted of labor-intesive process of pumping water of a room so that the inmate wouldn't drown, lavish Dutch feasts, and an intentional flood let loose to break a Spanish siege. It's a hugely colorful book, and really fun to read. There's very little political/economic history here, but even if you aren't familiar with it there's still plenty of information to be gained. The Netherlands get passed over in lots of history classes and history works because of their late-gained independence, and this book goes a long way to show why that's unfortunate.

  • Aliefka Bijlsma
    2019-01-22 02:46

    This book is frequently referenced or referred to when discussing the Dutch Golden Age. I wasn't fond of it, it's dry. If you're interested in this piece of Dutch history, you should read these books instead:* Maarten Prak's book "The Dutch Republic in the Seventeeth Century" - especially due to its thematical approach (love the chapter on arts and culture)* Jonathan Israel's book "The Dutch Republic"

  • Phyllis Harrison
    2019-02-17 07:53

    I'm a huge fan of Simon Schama and read this book over and over again. What does a country full of hard-working, modest people do when they find themselves on the top of the heap with too much plenty? What personal and collective issues do they have? Some institutions were centuries ahead of their time in the Netherlands and others struggled to move out of the dark ages along with the rest of their world. The contemporary art alone tells us volumes of things that were never said out loud but only hinted at. Schama covers it all in his usual fascinating style.

  • gaudeo
    2019-02-12 02:03

    For someone who knew little about Dutch history and culture, I found this book (though very long) to be eye-opening and even at times entertaining. Covering everything from the people's penchant for feasting to the birth of children, Schama interprets artworks from the 1600s as he seeks to explore how the Dutch could simultaneously be reputed to be thrifty and profligate. Although it isn't a history of the country per se, it does a very good job of covering the lives of its people.

  • Elaine
    2019-02-09 09:52

    A history that shows you how the Dutch became Dutch. Has pictures, since it was written by an art historian, and a wealth of very interesting themes such as Calvinism vs wealth, the use of art as moralizing tales and business vs pleasure. The Netherlanders I've spoken to said it caused a great ruckus in their country when it came out. Some thought it too simple, some were insulted and some said it was spot on. I loved it.

  • Amy
    2019-02-10 04:55

    Best for academics and anyone who's got a lot of extra time to learn why the Dutch are who they are (expats like myself, perhaps?), but surprisingly great reading for an essentially academic text.

  • Brent
    2019-01-30 08:44

    Awesome. I keep rereading it. The 17th century dutch are the new 21st century Americans. Discuss.

  • Czarny Pies
    2019-02-16 03:43

    This is an absolutely remarkable book in which Simon Schama by examining the Dutch paintings, engravings, sculptures, architecture and poetry of in the period between 1560 and 1670 demonstrates that there was such a thing as Dutch personality that encompassed Dutchman of all regions and social classes. Over this common Dutch personality, there was an ideology of what what it meant to be Dutch that was often close to the reality and never terribly far away.As a tour de force, think of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America in which he was able to present the extraordinary cultural turmoil and lifestyle of Jacksonian America as all belonging to a single American phenomenon. Both de Tocqueville and Schama present a commonality where anyone else would see chaotic diversity. Both finish by convincing the reader of the correctness of their vision.De Tocqueville felt that tit was liberal democracy and social mobility that created the American personality. Schama argues that it was prosperity and inclusive Calvinism that created the Dutch personality. The Dutch felt that prosperity should be for the common good. The well-off burghers lived frugally and donated generously to charities. They lived in small houses with modest facades will allowing themselves luxuries such as paintings on the interior walls. They preached militant Calvinism but considered Catholics and Jews to be full members of their society. One of Schama's major theses was that the Dutch burghers were burgerlijk not bourgeois; that is to say they felt a profound sense of solidarity and lover for their fellow citizens unlike the bourgeois who relished in their wealth extracted by exploiting others. Schama attempts to apologize for such heresy noting that Marx's theory of the bourgeoisie was based on conditions that existed in the nineteenth century and hence did not properly apply to the seventeenth century. I think Schama need not have troubled himself so much. I am one of those people who do not think Marx's model worked well for the nineteenth century either. No one should ever apologize for presenting ideas that are incongruent with Marxism.The greatest parts of the book are those where Schama strays from presenting thesis and simply describes the Dutch and their habits. They were obsessed with cleanliness. They were frugal at times to the point of miserliness. They smoked and drank heavily. They felt that love as necessary in marriage but still chose the mates for their children. Despite professing a belief in Calvinist predestination they took great care to teach virtue to their children. As victors in War they lacked humility. As losers in Wars, they attributed their defeats to their moral faults. Schama goes all over the map and yet somehow brings everything together at the end.The Embarrassement of Riches is great reading and great history.I do wish to quibble on one point. On page 229 I encountered the following sentence about Johan de Witte the political leader of Holland from 1650 to 1672. "DeWitt was a professional calculator, a serious mathematician who published treatises on the element of the curved line (whatever that is)."My! My! My! Seldom is a comment in parentheses so ghastly This is known as being proud of one's own ignorance. I am sure that anyone who has completed their A levels in mathematics you could have explained to Schama that a curve is simply a line which is not required to be straight or in mathematical terms: A plane algebraic curve is the locus of the points of coordinates x, y such that f(x, y) = 0, where f is a polynomial in two variables defined over some field. Even if math gave him trouble in high school, Schama still should have understand that de Witt as a friend of Newton was simply interested in Newton's calculus. Like most great intellectuals of our day, Schama shows a remarkable ignorance of math and science.

  • Ci
    2019-02-18 10:01

    Simon Schama is a “university professor” of Columbia University, which is the highest ranking faculty who serve the university as a whole instead of a specific field. Schama’s expertise is history and art history, which is amply demonstrated in this magnificently enjoyable book on Dutch Golden Age.We encounter Dutch paintings in most fine art museums, and most of us would relish the humanism in the so-called Genre Paintings such as domestic interior of kitchen or parlor, drunken revelry of a family, the sly eavesdropping of a maidservant. Comparing with other 17th century paintings originated in Italy, Spain or English, even the most innocent of viewers can detect something particularly Dutch — the relish of life, presented with less formulaic structure, and often of whimsical delight. The short-cut word is often bourgeoise’s “slice of life”, entirely at home in a secular modern world. But are we reading those paintings wrong?Schama disabuses us from the very beginning with his “moral geography”, the root of Calvinism infused with patriotism to create strong civic institutions and citizenship. The terrifying force of God was reminded by their geography, the flood, and the hostile countries around them. Their success is constantly guarded both within and without. The without is military, the within is the moral, cultural and domestic lives. It is the daily life that is most interesting. Why the obsession with cleanness? Why the popular of the marriage manual or the manual in handling maidservant? How does the Calvinism permeate their daily live as citizen, revelers, clients of brothels and drinking holes? How do they manage their enterprise, their charity, and control of vagabonds and criminals? How do they bring up their children? What is the meaning of blowing bubbles in Dutch children different from that of the Victorians? And their speculative mania unchecked by their doctrinal sobriety and obsession of order and cleanness? The Tulip, the herring, the pretzel, the cat, all connotes meanings beyond what we know as moderns. This is a book suitable for bedtime reading as the language is vivid and witty, the pictures and engravings enlightens us with their uncanny ability to make us laugh. The Dutch comes across to be more admired but not awed, and another trip to museum is a temptation nearly irresistible to see if we can see more clearly of the Dutch.

  • Nicholas Whyte
    2019-02-14 06:41[return][return]A massive huge book this, Schama's attempt to get inside the heads of the Dutch in the last sixteenth and early to mid seventeenth centuries. He is very convincing on the impact of natural as well as political/military disasters, on the formation of Dutch identity after the formation of the state, on the role of religion and the family, and the whole thing is beautifully illustrated with paintings and woodcuts from the period. (I was particularly grabbed by Schama's enthusiasm for Jan Steen.)[return][return]However, I could have done with a bit more of the historical outline - the dramatic events of 1650 are actually better described by Russell Shorto, and it is assumed the reader knows all about William the Silent - and the only two maps provided are a contemporary small woodcut of the Netherlands and an illegible attempt to show where the brothels of Amsterdam were located. If you're only interested in the culture and not in the context, this would be a very satisfying book; but I like a little more framework to hang the pictures from.

  • Julie
    2019-02-18 08:51

    Schama covers in amazing detail the culture and history of the Netherlands during the peak of its Golden Age in the seventeenth century. He provides great insight on some of the origins of the traits we associate with the Dutch - strong business sense, open mindedness, high value for cleanliness and a great work ethic. Although reading this entire book (700 pages) is a bit of a grind, the book is filled with photos of art from the Dutch masters and his descriptions of how they depict the culture of the Netherlands was fantastic. I wish I had read this before vacationing in Amsterdam this summer. Definitely a thoroughly researched and fascinating look at the Dutch Golden Age.

  • Andrew Pessin
    2019-02-10 04:47

    Wow, what an achievement. "An interpretation of Dutch culture in the Golden Age" is right. Everything you could possibly want to know, and probably a whole lot you don't, about Dutch life in the 17th century. As a scholarly achievement this is stunning. Schama knows every painting, every writing, every person, every Dutch event of the 17th century and then some. It's also quite amazing as a piece of literature -- he writes beautifully, evocatively, and can "interpret" a work of art with the best of them ... This took me months to read because it is so chock full of information (and I took some breaks to read other stuff), but it was enjoyable the whole way ....

  • Miriam
    2019-02-22 05:00

    This book literally fell apart as I read it. The pages fell out in chunks. Some poor soul who had this as a textbook valiantly tried to underline important ideas in chapter one, but the underlining petered out in chapter two, only to reappear again briefly after about 300 pages.This is not the first book you should read on the Dutch Golden Age, because it takes a certain amount of straightforward history for granted. It is, as the title suggests, an interpretation instead. There's something to be said for the "moral balancing act" of the Dutch in the seventeenth century, and Schama sets up the various seesaws to be balanced: flood and dry land, morality and materiality, house and street, inside and outside, home and world. Taken together, it seems like a reasonable portrait of the major mental structures in operation at this time.Sometimes, I think his focus on art goes too far. It's one thing to "read" a painting for its probably connotations and specific content; it's another to say whether it's "good" or "bad" or "exemplary" or whether the people in it have specific emotions on their faces. I did not see, for example, the knowing worldliness on the face of a child playing cards, which he says shows the dichotomy of views of childhood--on the one hand the innocence and purity and the other that children are just miniature adults just waiting to fail or falter. I saw a child playing cards. He does use a variety of primary sources and does point out the limitations of his approach. He's at his best when he analyzes the details of the paintings and their meanings in a historical context, or pointing out the layers of meaning that the Dutch might have attributed to their own circumstances and history. Attributing emotions to figures on canvas is a step too far for me. And at some point he relies on his own not always specified aesthetic criteria to determine if a painting is "good" enough to "speak" for the Dutch people.

  • Frank
    2019-01-29 08:44

    SS’s Embarrassment is often more like a travel guide than merely a history of 17th century Netherlands. In addition to the usual recounting of wars and international rivalries, the reader is acquainted what it was like to live there. We learn about the Dutch diet, class structure, attitudes to sex, religion, money, family life, etc. SS is an expert on art as well as history, and a large part part of the charm of this marvelously well researched book is the frequent citation of assumptions implicit in (frequently onweerstaanbaar) Dutch painting to prove his point. Dutch political decentralisation and their strong dislike of a unified hierarchical authority is very familiar to anyone accustomed to German sensibilities. So it is easy to imagine, under slightly different circumstances, the United Provinces remaining inchoate until eventual incorporation in the 19th century German unification. But having struck out on their own path, 17th century Netherlands developed some remarkably advanced social behaviours, comparable to those only arising only in the 20th century elsewhere. One reason may be their early intercontinental contact. Like other nations deprived of a hinterland (the Phonecians come to mind), the Dutch turned to the sea, giving rise to precociously cosmopolitan attitudes.Some aspects remind me of the USA more than other European countries: the generally high tolerance of multiculturalism within the society; and the tension between religiosity, notions of personal freedom and, especially, money, sometimes leading to surprising social consensuses.

  • Mark Walker
    2019-02-06 02:56

    This is described as a book of essays, and indeed it is a series of thematic ways of looking at assessing culture. Some approaches were more interesting than others. Some of it felt a bit self indulgent and that because he knows stuff he wants to tell you about it. But within this book there are interesting insights into what it meant to be Dutch, and some general provoking of thoughts about the culture of any nation. How are nations provided with their identities that hold them together and mean that the citizens are willing to accept, in a modern democracy, the legitimacy of government over that nation. The chapter setting out the sense of these lands being recovered from the sea was interesting. As was the realisation that comes out that though nations can be understood by their art and the way they portray themselves, it is also the other way round in that nations invent myths about themselves and use art to establish artificial and new senses of identity.

  • Persephone Abbott
    2019-01-26 01:53

    I read this once years ago and then bought a copy recently to help me with the book I was writing. Schama is very entertaining a second time round. I was surprised to find myself wondering what I had taken in from my first reading of the book all those many years ago; I began to think I must have tried to take things way too seriously because I found the read much more chatty than I had remembered. But then I've now lived in Holland a decade longer and perhaps cultural matters are more ingrained in me these days, perhaps I am more Dutchized and was taken by surprise by the gossipy side of history this time. Nonetheless, this book is going to be a reference to me for many months more to come......

  • Amy Beth
    2019-02-12 03:48

    I used this book as research into the development of the idea of home in the golden age of Dutch culture, so I only was interested enough to read the parts about home, women, and children. I also wished he would have at some point given a clear outline of Dutch history. He just kept referencing it assuming that the reader knew it in some detail. I would have read more of the rest if he had. I feel his later writing is clearer. Beautiful source for illustrations, though.

  • Jack Coleman
    2019-02-02 04:53

    An eclectic tour through the History of Holland through its Art.Simply amazing and what books are intendend to do,enrich your soul. Tea that helps our head and heart Tea medicates most every part Tea rejuvinates the very old Tea warms the piss of those who're Cold, circa 1670

  • Pj Mensel
    2019-02-19 04:58

    Amazingly detailed and extraordinarily rich history of a period. Quite honestly, makes dull history interesting because of the depth of Schama's knowledge and his ability to make connections. Wish all history could be this well written .

  • Matthew
    2019-01-29 02:59

    Wow, this book is dense. Really good artwork and some really detailed information about Holland and its empire in the 1600s...but this is one of those books that after you read it, you'll wonder why you even picked it up, or whether you'll ever need to know half the stuff you've just read...

  • Edie Meidav
    2019-02-08 02:59

    Schama has the gift of making the distant proximate, the unthinkable possible. So far I especially like the chapter on the Dutch tendency to imagine penal punishment. I am not the first to say this, but he is one of our most gifted historians.

  • Lewis colburn
    2019-02-12 07:04

    early schama- not at his best, but filled with strange little details that make it worth reading. lord knows i need to know everything about 17th-century dutch promiscuity, but it's somehow enthralling...

  • Rick Smith
    2019-02-14 08:01

    This was a fantastic book. Heavy on the dry technical writing, as Mr Schama is known for. However a MUST read for anybody interested in the subject. Only 600 pages, as the rest is an appendix that's worthwhile all on its own.

  • David Serxner
    2019-01-22 04:41

    I have had this a while, in fact I think since I saw it at the NGA's bookshop during a Rembrandt exhibit. Schama is an excellent author, I read Citizens for a class on the French revolution as an undergrad. He just tends to get a little heavy at times...

  • Lucinda
    2019-02-12 05:39

    everything dutch, essential before you go

  • Denise
    2019-02-11 06:59

    Yikes! Over 600 large pages. Well, how do you eat an elephant or read a long book - one bite, one page at a time. Recommended reading to prepare for visiting Amsterdam.

  • Kaye
    2019-02-11 03:05

    Especially meaningful to non-Dutch folk living in the Netherlands, this book provides a good look at way the Dutch are so Dutch.

  • J
    2019-01-27 03:07

    Bloei en herfsttij der Nederlanden. Zo verschillend toen en nu, maar ergens diep toch nog altijd hetzelfde, die Lage Landen. "Elck heeft de zijn". Prachtig boek !