Books

The Face of Britain

Simon Schama

Simon Schama brings Britain to life through its portraits, as seen in the five-part BBC series The Face of Britain and the major National Portrait Gallery exhibition

Churchill and his painter locked in a struggle of stares and glares; Gainsborough watching his daughters run after a butterfly; a black Othello in the nineteenth century; the poet-artist Rossetti trying to capture on canvas what he couldn't possess in life; a surgeon-artist making studies of wounded faces brought in from the Battle of the Somme; a naked John Lennon five hours before his death.

In the age of the hasty glance and the selfie, Simon Schama has written a tour de force about the long exchange of looks from which British portraits have been made over the centuries: images of the modest and the mighty; of friends and lovers; heroes and working people. Each of them - the image-maker, the subject, and the rest of us who get to look at them - are brought unforgettably to life. Together they build into a collective picture of Britain, our past and our present, a look into the mirror of our identity at a moment when we are wondering just who we are.

Combining his two great passions, British history and art history, for the first time, Schama's extraordinary storytelling reveals the truth behind the nation's most famous portrayals of power, love, fame, the self, and the people. Mesmerising in its breadth and its panache, and beautifully illustrated, with more than 150 images from the National Portrait Gallery, The Face of Britain will change the way we see our past - and ourselves.

The Story of the Jews

Simon Schama

It is a story like no other: an epic of endurance against destruction, of creativity in oppression, joy amidst grief, the affirmation of life against the steepest of odds.

It spans the millennia and the continents – from India to Andalusia and from the bazaars of Cairo to the streets of Oxford. It takes you to unimagined places: to a Jewish kingdom in the mountains of southern Arabia; a Syrian synagogue glowing with radiant wall paintings; the palm groves of the Jewish dead in the Roman catacombs. And its voices ring loud and clear, from the severities and ecstasies of the Bible writers to the love poems of wine bibbers in a garden in Muslim Spain.

Within these pages, the Talmud burns in the streets of Paris, massed gibbets hang over the streets of medieval London, a Majorcan illuminator redraws the world; candles are lit, chants are sung, mules are packed, ships loaded with spice and gems founder at sea.

And a great story unfolds. Not – as often imagined – of a culture apart, but of a Jewish world immersed in and imprinted by the peoples among whom they have dwelled, from the Egyptians to the Greeks, from the Arabs to the Christians.

Which makes the story of the Jews everyone’s story, too.

Rembrandt's Eyes

Simon Schama

This dazzling, unconventional biography shows us why, more than three centuries after his death, Rembrandt continues to exert such a hold on our imagination. Deeply familiar to us through his enigmatic self-portraits, few facts are known about the Leiden miller's son who tasted brief fame before facing financial ruin (he was even forced to sell his beloved wife Saskia's grave). The true biography of Rembrandt, as Simon Schama demonstrates, is to be discovered in his pictures. Interweaving of seventeenth-century Holland, Schama allows us to see Rembrandt in a completely fresh and original way.

Scribble, Scribble, Scribble

Simon Schama

Passionate, provocative, entertaining and informative, Scribble, Scribble, Scribble ranges far and wide: from cookery and family to Barack Obama, from preaching and Shakespeare to Victorian sages, from Charlotte Rampling and Hurricane Katrina to 'The Fate of Eloquence in the Age of The Osbournes'.

A History of Britain - Volume 1

Simon Schama

Change - sometimes gentle and subtle, sometimes shocking and violent - is the dynamic of Simon Schama's unapologetically personal and grippingly written history of Britain, especially the changes that wash over custom and habit, transforming our loyalties.

What makes or breaks a nation? To whom do we give our allegiance and why? And where do the boundaries of our community lie - in our hearth and home, our village or city, tribe or faith? What is Britain - one country or many? Has British history unfolded 'at the edge of the world' or right at the heart of it?

Schama delivers these themes in a form that is at once traditional and excitingly fresh. The great and the wicked are here - Becket and Thomas Cromwell, Robert the Bruce and Anne Boleyn - but so are countless more ordinary lives: an Irish monk waiting for the plague to kill him in his cell at Kilkenny; a small boy running through the streets of London to catch a glimpse of Elizabeth I.

The first in a series, this volume paints a rich and vivid portrait of the life of the British people and their nation.

A History of Britain - Volume 2

Simon Schama

Simon Schama explores the forces that tore Britain apart during two centuries of dynamic change - transforming outlooks, allegiances and boundaries.

From the beginning of July 1637, battles raged on for 200 years - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.

The British Wars is a story of revolution and reaction, inspiration and disenchantment, of progress and catastrophe, and Schama's evocative narrative brings it vividly to life.

A History of Britain - Volume 3

Simon Schama

The final stage of Simon Schama's epic voyage around Britain spans centuries, crosses the breadth of the empire and covers a vast expanse of topics - from the birth of feminism to the fate of freedom.

The Fate of the Empire asks crucial questions about the nature of empire, journeying from celebrations of industrial and imperialist power at the Great Exhibition, to the catastrophic Irish potato famine and the Indian Mutiny.

Through the military and economic shocks and traumas of our past, Schama asks the question that is still with us - is the immense weight of our history a blessing or a curse, a gift or a millstone around the neck of our future?

This third and final volume in the series is a vast compelling history, made more so by the lively storytelling and big bold characters at the heart of the action. But alongside flamboyant heroes, like Nelson and Churchill, Schama recalls unsung heroines and virtually unknown enemies. Alongside the grand ideas, he exposes the grand illusions that cost untold lives.

The Power of Art

Simon Schama

* 'Great art has dreadful manners...' Simon Schama observes at the start of his epic exploration of the power, and whole point, of art. 'The hushed reverence of the gallery can fool you into believing masterpieces are polite things, visions that soothe, charm and beguile, but actually they are thugs. Merciless and wily, the greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure and then proceed in short order to re-arrange your sense of reality...'

* With the same disarming force, Power of Art jolts us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, as Schama closes in on intense make-or-break turning points in the lives of eight great artists who, under extreme stress, created something unprecedented, altering the course of art for ever.

* The embattled heroes - Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko - faced crisis with steadfast defiance. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world. With powerfully vivid story-telling, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeois life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of civil-war Spain.

* Most compelling of all, Power of Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight world-class works of art. Created in a bolt of illumination, such works 'tell us something about how the world is, how it is to be inside our skins, that no more prosaic source of wisdom can deliver. And when they do that they answer, irrefutably and majestically, the nagging question of every reluctant art-conscript... "OK, OK, but what's art really for?"'

The American Future

Simon Schama

The American Future traces the history of a country whose most enduring trait is its capacity for self-renewal, especially at times of disaster. Examining issues of power, race and immigration, religious fervour and prosperity, this masterful portrait of the world's most controversial superpower looks backwards and forwards to understand why now, more than ever, the fate of America, and by extension the rest of the world, is hanging in the balance.

Rough Crossings

Simon Schama

Rough Crossings is the astonishing story of the struggle to freedom by thousands of African-American slaves who fled the plantations to fight behind British lines in the American War of Independence. With gripping, powerfully vivid story-telling, Simon Schama follows the escaped blacks into the fires of the war, and into freezing, inhospitable Nova Scotia where many who had served the Crown were betrayed in their promises to receive land at the war's end. Their fate became entwined with British abolitionists: inspirational figures such as Granville Sharp, the flute-playing father-figure of slave freedom, and John Clarkson, the 'Moses' of this great exodus, who accompanied the blacks on their final rough crossing to Africa, where they hoped that freedom would finally greet them.

Simon Schama's Power of Art

Simon Schama

'Great art has dreadful manners...' Simon Schama observes at the start of his epic exploration of the power, and whole point, of art. 'The hushed reverence of the gallery can fool you into believing masterpieces are polite things, visions that soothe, charm and beguile, but actually they are thugs. Merciless and wily, the greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure and then proceed in short order to re-arrange your sense of reality...' With the same disarming force, Power of Art jolts us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, as Schama closes in on intense make-or-break turning points in the lives of eight great artists who, under extreme stress, created something unprecedented, altering the course of art forever.
The embattled heroes - Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko - faced crisis with steadfast defiance. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world. With powerfully vivid story-telling, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeouis life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of civil-war Spain.
Most compelling of all, Power of Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight world-class works of art. Created in a bolt of illumination, such works 'tell us something about how the world is, how it is to be inside our skins, that no more prosaic source of wisdom can deliver. And when they do that they answer, irrefutably and majestically, the nagging question of every reluctant art-conscript... "OK, OK, but what's art really for?"

Hang-Ups

Simon Schama

Pre-eminent author and art historian Simon Schama has written widely on art for many years to great acclaim. In Hang-Ups, a personal selection of his articles from, amongst others, The New Yorker, appears in Britain for the very first time. Brilliantly and lucidly written by one of the most singular voices in non-fiction, this volume of provocative and often idiosyncratic essays makes hugely satisfying reading for lovers of both art and social history. In contains pieces on artists as diverse as David Hockney, Rembrandt and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and on such subjects as the unforgettable peculiarity of Stanley Spencer. From the author whose writing has been called sublime and whose ability to bring art and history vividly to life has earned him admiration worldwide, Hang-Ups is Schamas rallying cry for the art lover to look at familiar works of art and their artists and embrace a new way of seeing.

Citizens

Simon Schama

One of the great landmarks of modern history publishing, Simon Schama's Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is the most authoritative social, cultural and narrative history of the French Revolution ever produced.

'Monumental ... provocative and stylish, Simon Schama's account of the first few years of the great Revolution in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist'<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;Eugen Weber, The New York Times Book Review

'The most marvellous book I have read about the French Revolution'<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;Richard Cobb, The Times

'Dazzling - beyond praise - He has chronicled the vicissitudes of that world with matchless understanding, wisdom, pity and truth, in the pages of this marvellous book'<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;Bernard Levin, Sunday Times

'Provides an unrivalled impression of the currents and contradictions which made up this terrible sequence of events'<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;Antony Beevor, Express

Simon Schama is University Professor in Art History and History at Columbia University in New York, and one of the best-known scholars in Britain in any field. He is the prize-winning author of numerous books, including Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations), Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt's Eyes and three volumes of A History of Britain. He is also the writer-presenter of historical and art-historical documentaries for BBC Television. He lives outside New York City with his wife and children.

History of Britain (Vol 2): The British Wars 1603-1776

Simon Schama

'Great Britain? What was that?' asks Simon Schama at the start of this, the second book of his epic three-volume journey into Britain's past. This volume, The British Wars, is a compelling chronicle of the changes that transformed every strand and stratum of British life, faith and thought from 1603 to 1776. Travelling up and down the country and across three continents, Schama explores the forces that tore Britain apart during two centuries of dynamic change - transforming outlooks, allegiances and boundaries.

From the beginning of the British wars in July 1637, for 200 years battles raged on - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.

The story of that great alteration is a story of revolution and reaction, inspiration and disenchantment, of progress and catastrophe, and Schama's evocative narrative brings it vividly to life.

History of Britain (Vol 3): The Fate of the Empire: 1776-2000

Simon Schama

'While Britain was losing an empire, it was finding itself...' The compelling opening words to this volume, The Fate of the Empire, set the tone and agenda for the final stage of Simon Schama's epic voyage around Britain, her people and her past. Spanning two centuries, crossing the breadth of the empire and covering a vast expanse of topics - from the birth of feminism to the fate of freedom - he explores the forces that shaped British culture and character from 1776 to 2000.

The story opens on the eve of a bloody revolution, but not a British one. The French Revolution's spirit of fiery defiance and Romantic idealism sparked off a round of radical revolts and reforms that gathered momentum over the coming century - from the Irish Rebellion to the Chartist Petition. How could the world's first industrial society come through its growing pains without falling apart in social and political conflict? Would the machine age destroy or strengthen the institutions that held Britain together? And if the British Empire helped to make Britain stable and rich, did it live up to its promise to help the ruled as well as the rulers? Amidst the military and economic shocks and traumas of the 20th century, and through the voices of Churchill, Orwell and H. G. Wells, The Fate of the Empire asks the question that is still with us - is the immense weight of our history a blessing or a curse, a gift or a millstone around the neck of our future?

It is a vast, compelling epic, made more so by the lively storytelling and big, bold characters at the heart of the action. Schama also exposes the grand illusions that cost untold lives when India's viceroys let millions of starving Indians die. Why? What went wrong with the liberal dream? The answers emerge in The Fate of Empire, which reveals the living ideals of Britain's long history, 'a history that tied together social justice with bloody-minded liberty'.

Simon Schama

Biography

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prize-winning author of seventeen books, including The Embarrassment of RichesCitizensLandscape and MemoryRembrandt's Eyes, the History of Britaintrilogy and The Story of the Jews. He is a contributing editor of the Financial Times and his award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain and the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art.