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The American Future by Simon Schama

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Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 18 December 2008.

Simon Sharma traces the conflicts in Americas history to put 2008, an historic election year, into context.


The American Future by Simon Schama

In November 2008 the United States will elect a new President. But the imminent collapse of twenty years of Republican conservativism means the country is already conducting an intense self-examination about the trajectory of its history; how it came to find itself in multiple crises and how an America that began as ‘the last, best hope of earth’ came to be so suspected and vilified around much of the world.

* The American Future: A History, written by an author who has spent half his life there, takes the long view of how the United States has come to this anguished moment of truth about its own identity as a nation and its place in the world.

* In each of the chapters devoted to the most compelling issues facing Americans now – the projection of power (“American war”) ; race, immigration and the problematic promise of e pluribus unum (“American skin”); the intensity of religious conviction in public life (“American fervour”) ; the mystique of American land and its battles with the imperatives of profit ('American Plenty'- Schama traces the deep history of the present crisis.

* Cumulatively the chapters build into a history of American exceptionalism – the ‘American difference’ that means so much to its people but which has led it into calamities as well as triumphs.

* The American Future: A History argues that if you want to know what is truly at stake, you need to absorb these stories and understand this history – for understanding is the condition of hope.

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'Schama has a masterly ability to conjure up character and vivify conflict.' - Ben Rogers, Financial Times

'He remains a master storyteller, admirably and sceptically well read in current revisionist histories.' - The Times

About the Author

Simon Schama

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University in New York, and was awarded a C.B.E. in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List. Since 1995 he has been art and culture critic for The New Yorker and essayist for The Guardian. His award-winning books include Citizens; Rembrandt's Eyes and the History of Britain trilogy. His most recent book, Simon Schama's Power of Art, was published to critical acclaim in 2006.

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd October 2008


Simon Schama

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