Simon Schama

Simon Schama, one of the great public intellectuals of our time, masterfully delivers his erudite historical and artistic knowledge and appreciation through his books and documentaries. His latest documentary, 'The Power of Art,' is now available on MVGroup. One of these episodes focuses on Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals which I was pleasantly surprised to encounter recently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

'Rough Crossings,' Schama's historical book and documentary relates the story of the establishment of Freetown in modern Sierra Leone. For me, currently mired in a United States of "support our troops" and "spread freedom and democracy" it was particularly poignant to remember that the success of the American Revolution meant more slavery. The founders of Freetown had to struggle immensely and flee from the States to Canada and finally to the jungles of Sierra Leone just to have a remote chance at a "free" and democratic existence. Refugees from American slavery, these slaves in fact experienced the brief 18th century experiment in 'British Freedom.' While there is a valuable mythology of the Founding Fathers and the story of 'American Freedom,' the story of the settlers of Freetown greatly enriches the understanding of 'American Freedom,' particularly in the context of African-American History.

Finally, Schama's 15 part 'History of Britain' stands as his best work to date.

*Update: Regarding Schama's book, 'Rough Crossings,' on his book tour, Schama gives two superb lectures at the Google Mountain View Campus. Lecture 1, YouTube as part of the Authors@Google programme. Lecture 2, Google Video. Both Highly Recommended!

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