The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama

The Embarrassment of Riches

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 his reputation as one of our most perspicacious and stylish historians--Simon S...

Details The Embarrassment of Riches

TitleThe Embarrassment of Riches
Release DateDec 8th, 1997
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Art, European History, Art History

Reviews The Embarrassment of Riches

  • Kalliope
    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 dyke...
  • ·Karen·
    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 i...
  • Katie
    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 th...
  • Aliefka Bijlsma
    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"http:/...
  • Phyllis Harrison
    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 volum...
  • gaudeo
    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 ...
  • Elaine
    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
    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
    Awesome. I keep rereading it. The 17th century dutch are the new 21st century Americans. Discuss.
  • Czarny Pies
    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...
  • Ci
    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...
  • Julie
    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 a...
  • Andrew Pessin
    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, evocativel...
  • Miriam
    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,...
  • Frank
    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...
  • Mark Walker
    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 wit...
  • Persephone Abbott
    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 long...
  • Amy Beth
    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 fo...
  • Jack Coleman
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.
  • Lucinda
    everything dutch, essential before you go
  • Kaye
    Especially meaningful to non-Dutch folk living in the Netherlands, this book provides a good look at way the Dutch are so Dutch.
  • J
    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 !