Simon Michael Schama, CBE (born 13 February 1945) is an English historian and art historian. He is a University Professor at Columbia University. His many works on history and art include Landscape and Memory, Dead Certainties, Rembrandt's Eyes, and his history of the French Revolution, Citizens. He is best known for writing and hosting the 15-part BBC documentary series A History of Britain. He was an art and cultural critic for The New Yorker.
The son of second-generation immigrant Jewish parents with roots in Lithuania and Turkey, Schama was born in London.In the mid 1940s, the family moved to Southend-on-Sea in Essex before moving back to London. Schama writes of this period in the Introduction to Landscape & Memory (pp.3–4):
I had no hill [the previous paragraph had talked of his enthusiasm for Puck of Pook's Hill], but I did have the Thames. It was not the upstream river that the poets in my Palgrave claimed burbled betwixt mossy banks. ... It was the low, gull-swept estuary, the marriage bed of salt and fresh water, stretching as far as I could see from my northern Essex bank, toward a thin black horizon on the other side. That would be Kent, the sinister enemy who always seemed to beat us in the County Cricket Championship. ...
He worked for short periods as a lecturer in history at Cambridge, where he became a Fellow and Director of Studies in History, and at Oxford where he was made a Fellow of Brasenose College in 1976, specialising in the French Revolution. At this time, Schama wrote his first book, Patriots and Liberators, which won the Wolfson History Prize. The book was originally intended as a study of the French Revolution, but as published in 1977, it focused on the effect of the Patriot revolution in The Netherlands, and its aftermath.
 In America
In 1980 Schama accepted a chair at Harvard. His next book, The Embarrassment of Riches (1987), again focused on Dutch history. In it, Schama interpreted the ambivalences that informed the Dutch Golden Age of the seventeenth century, held in balance between the conflicting imperatives, to live richly and with power, or to live a godly life. The iconographic evidence that Schama draws upon, in 317 illustrations, of emblems and propaganda that defined Dutch character, prefigured his expansion in the 1990s as a commentator on art and visual culture.
Citizens (1989), written at speed to a publisher's commission, finally saw the publication of his long-awaited study of the French revolution, and won the 1990 NCR Book Award. Citizens was very well-received and sold admirably. Its view that the violence of the Terror was inherent from the start of the Revolution, however, has received serious criticism. 
In 1991, he published Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations), a relatively slender work of unusual structure and point-of-view in that it looked at two widely reported deaths a hundred years apart, that of General James Wolfe -- and the famous painting by Benjamin West -- and that of (by murder) George Parkman, uncle of the better known Francis Parkman. Schama mooted some possible (invented) connections between the two cases, exploring the historian's inability "ever to reconstruct a dead world in its completeness however thorough or revealing the documentation," and speculatively bridging "the teasing gap separating a lived event and its subsequent narration." Not all readers absorbed the nuance of the title: it received a greatly mixed critical and academic reception. (Australia's Keith Windschuttle, in his The Killing of History, took particular exception to the book's overt fictionalising). It, apparently, sold poorly, but it is highly valued by some.
Schama's Landscape and Memory (1995) focused on the relationship between physical environment and folk memory, separating the components of landscape as wood, water and rock, enmeshed in the cultural consciousness of collective "memory" that are embodied in myths, which Schama finds to be expressed outwardly in ceremony and text. While in many ways even more personal and idiosyncratic than Dead Certainties, roaming through widening circles of digressions, this book was also more traditionally structured and better-defined in its approach. While many reviews remained decidedly mixed, the book was a definite commercial success and won numerous prizes.
Appropriately, many of the plaudits came from the art world rather than from traditional academia. This was borne out when Schama became art critic for The New Yorker in 1995. He held the position for three years, dovetailing his regular column with professorial duties at Columbia University; a selection of his best essays on art for the magazine, chosen by Schama himself, was published in 2005 under the title Hang Ups. During this time, Schama also produced a lavishly illustrated Rembrandt's Eyes, another critical and commercial success. Despite the book's title, it contrasts the biographies of Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens.
The year 2000 saw Schama return to the UK, having been commissioned by the BBC to produce a series of television documentary programmes on British history as part of their Millennium celebrations, under the title A History of Britain (Schama was insistent on the title beginning with "A" rather than "The", so as to underline that his was a personal subjective view rather than an academic, didactic standard). Schama wrote and presented the episodes himself, in a friendly and often jocular style with his highly characteristic delivery, and was rewarded with excellent reviews and unexpectedly high ratings. There has been, however, some irritation and criticism expressed by a group of historians about Schama's condensed recounting of the British Isles' history on this occasion, particularly by those specialising in the pre-Anglo-Saxon history of insular Celtic civilization. The series was eventually expanded to three, with 15 episodes produced in total covering the complete span of British history up until 1965; it went on to become one of the BBC's best-selling documentary series on DVD. Schama also wrote a trilogy of tie-in books for the show, which took the story up to the year 2000; there is some debate as to whether the books are the tie-in product for the TV series, or the other way around. The series also had some popularity in the United States when it was first shown on the History Channel.
In 2001 Schama received the CBE. In 2003 he signed a lucrative new contract with the BBC and HarperCollins to produce three new books and two accompanying TV series. Worth £3 million (around US$5.3m), it represents the biggest advance deal ever for a TV historian. The first result of the deal was a book and TV show entitled Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, dealing in particular with the proclamation issued during the Revolutionary War by Lord Dunmore offering slaves from rebel plantations freedom in return for service to the crown.
In 2006 the BBC broadcast a new TV series, Simon Schama's Power of Art which, with an accompanying book, was presented and written by Schama. It marks a return to art history for him, treating eight artists through eight key works (Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath, Bernini's Ecstasy of St Theresa, Rembrandt's Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, Jacques-Louis David's The Death Of Marat, J. M. W. Turner's The Slave Ship, Vincent van Gogh's Wheat Field with Crows, Picasso's Guernica, and Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals). It was also shown on PBS in the United States.
In October 2008 BBC broadcast a four part TV series called The American Future: A History presented and written by Schama.
In March 2009 Schama presented a BBC 4 Radio show entitled 'Baseball and me'.
Schama was critical of a call by British novelist John Berger for an academic boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians. Writing in The Guardian in an article co-authored with lawyer Anthony Julius, Schama compared Berger's academic boycott to policies adopted by Nazi Germany, noting “This is not the first boycott call directed at Jews. On April 1, 1933, a week after he came to power, Hitler ordered a boycott of Jewish shops, banks, offices and department stores.”
In 2006 on the BBC, Schama debated with Vivienne Westwood the morality of Israel's actions in the Israel-Lebanon war. He characterized Israel's bombing of Lebanese city centers as unhelpful in Israel's attempt to "get rid of" Hezbollah.  With regard to the bombing he said: "Of course the spectacle and suffering makes us grieve. Who wouldn't grieve? But it's not enough to do that. We've got to understand. You've even got to understand Israel's point of view." 
 United States
 Writing style
Simon Schama has a literary way of writing that is attractive not only to historians but non-historians and is "packed with evocative detail: rich fruit cakes crammed with raisins, currants, nuts and glacé cherries all mulled in brandy sauce" . He has also received criticism for dumbing down history, presenting a "grossly oversimplified,and mythologizing view of the history of nations" and not fostering critical thinking.
- Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780–1813 (1977)
- Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel (1978)
- The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (1987)
- Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (1989)
- Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations (1991)
- Landscape and Memory (1995)
- Rembrandt's Eyes (1999)
- A History of Britain Vol. I (2000, ISBN 0-563-48714-3)
- A History of Britain Vol. II (2001, ISBN 0-563-48718-6)
- A History of Britain Vol. III (2002, ISBN 0-563-48719-4)
- Hang Ups: Essays on Art (2005)
- Rough Crossings (2005, ISBN 0-06-053916-X)
- The Power of Art (2006, ISBN 0-06-117610-9)
- The American Future (2009, ISBN 0-06-053923-2)
- Simon Schama's A History of Britain - BBC (2000)
- Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution - BBC (2005)
- Simon Schama's Power of Art - BBC (2006)
- The American Future: A History - BBC (2008).
- ^ a b c d e f g h i Snowman, Daniel. "Simon Schama." History Today 54, no. 7 (July 2004): 34-36. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009)
- ^ a b c Binstock, Benjamin. “Rembrandt's Eyes by Simon Schama.” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 361-366. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3051386 (accessed April 30, 2009).
- ^ Daniel, M., and S. Steinberg. "Simon Schama." Publishers Weekly 238, no. 22 (May 17, 1991): 46. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009).
- ^ "He provides a reading of cultural tints and social textures," the reviewers in Contemporary Sociology (vol. 17.6 (November 1988:760-762) found, "at a level of visual detail that is usually reserved for art history."
- ^ Notably in Timothy Tackett, "Interpreting the Terror" French Historical Studies 24.4 (Autumn 2001:569-578); Tackett's view of swiftly evolving revolution in his prosopography of the deputies, Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture, 1789-1790 (Princeton University Press) 1996, was not fundamentally at variance with Schama.
- ^ Halttunen, Karen. Review of “Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations.) by Simon Schama.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 79, No. 2 (Sep., 1992), p. 631 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2080071 (accessed April 30, 2009).
- ^ a b Williams, Michael. Review of: “Landscape and Memory. by Simon Schama.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 564-565 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2564086 (accessed April 30, 2009)
- ^ "Simon Schama Antidote". History News Network. Retrieved on 28 March 2007.
- ^ "A History of Britain". IMDb. Retrieved on 28 March 2007
- ^ a b c Cooper, Barbara Roisman. "'A WILD RIDE' THROUGH A HISTORY OF BRITAIN WITH SIMON SCHAMA." British Heritage 23, no. 6 (November 2002): 48. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009)
- ^ Simon Schama's Power of Art. BBC Arts. Retrieved on 28 March 2007.
- ^ a b Nalley, Richard. "SIMON SCHAMA'S POWER OF ART." Forbes 180 (September 18, 2007): 165-165. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009).
- ^ John Berger is wrong, Simon Schama and Anthony Julius, The Guardian, 22 December 2006
- ^ a b c Simon Schama & Vivienne Westwood, This Week, BBC, 24 July 2006
- ^ Schama, Simon (2008-08-30). "In its severity and fury, this was Obama at his most powerful and moving". The Guardian: pp. 34. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/30/barackobama.democrats20081. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- ^ Schama, Simon (2008-11-03). "Nowhere man: a farewell to Dubya, all-time loser in presidential history". The Guardian: pp. 1-2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/03/george-bush-legacy-dubya. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- ^ "Road to the White House". The Evening Times. 2008-11-05. http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/display.var.2465762.0.road_to_the_white_house.php. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- ^ "SIMON SCHAMA; Dumbed Down." New York Times (November 24, 2002): 4. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 1, 2009).
- ^ JULIE BOSMAN. "National Briefing | Arts: National Book Critics Circle Winners." New York Times (March 09, 2007): 20. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 1, 2009).
Binstock, Benjamin. “Rembrandt's Eyes by Simon Schama.” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 361-366. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3051386 (accessed April 30, 2009).
Cooper, Barbara Roisman. "'A WILD RIDE' THROUGH A HISTORY OF BRITAIN WITH SIMON SCHAMA." British Heritage 23, no. 6 (November 2002): 48. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 28, 2009)
Daniel, M., and S. Steinberg. "Simon Schama." Publishers Weekly 238, no. 22 (May 17, 1991): 46. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009)
Halttunen, Karen. Review of “Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations.) by Simon Schama.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 79, No. 2 (Sep., 1992), p. 631 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2080071 (accessed April 29, 2009).
JULIE BOSMAN. "National Briefing | Arts: National Book Critics Circle Winners." New York Times (March 09, 2007): 20. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 1, 2009).
Nalley, Richard. "SIMON SCHAMA'S POWER OF ART." Forbes 180 (September 18, 2007): 165-165. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009).
"SIMON SCHAMA; Dumbed Down." New York Times (November 24, 2002): 4. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 1, 2009).
Snowman, Daniel. "Simon Schama." History Today 54, no. 7 (July 2004): 34-36. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2009)
Williams, Michael. Review of: “Landscape and Memory. by Simon Schama.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 564-565 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2564086 (accessed April 30, 2009)
 External links
- Columbia History faculty page
- Columbia Art History faculty page
- "Free Fight", with Schama, offers "a new look at Britain, America, slavery and freedom during the Revolutionary War". The Brian Lehrer Show, May 8, 2006.