The Embarrassment of Riches

The Embarrassment of Riches

An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age

Book - 1987
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Random House, Inc.
Schama explores the mysterious contradictions of the Dutch nation that invented itself from the ground up, attained an unprecedented level of affluence, and lived in constant dread of being corrupted by happiness. Drawing on a vast array of period documents and sumptuously reproduced art, Schama re-creates in precise detail a nation's mental state. 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.



"History on the grand scale...An ambitious portrait of one of the most remarkable episodes in modern history."--New York Times


"Wonderfully inclusive; with wit and intense curiosity he teases out meaning from every aspect of Dutch seventeenth-century life."--Robert Hughes

Baker & Taylor
Describes the cultural and social milieu of seventeenth-century Holland, where, despite great material wealth and general prosperity, an "anxiety of superabundance" permeated all aspects of the culture

Publisher: New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1987
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780394510750
0394510755
Characteristics: xiii, 698 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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DorisWaggoner
Aug 06, 2014

This splendid account of Dutch history and culture in its Golden age uses art and architecture to illustrate Schama's points. At the beginning of the 17th c., Holland was a conglomeration of feuding states, which came together only when at risk of being overrun by larger, richer military states. Pulling itself together, Holland became an enormously wealthy world empire, one could argue the first since the Romans. The subtitle sums it all up--their wealth, and their religious fervor, led to a constant fear of being corrupted by their wealth. Because the organization of the book is by topic, not chronology, and chapters are very long, things get repetitive in places. But it helped enormously in understanding why a small group of Dutch left for New Netherland, and why they prospered there, among other topics of interest to me.

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