Embarrasmnt of Riches

Simon Schama, Author
Simon Schama, Author Alfred A. Knopf $50 (698p) ISBN 978-0-394-51075-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
Despite Calvinist sermons on thrift, the Dutch upper and middle classes flaunted their wealth in the consumer paradise that was 17th century Hollandbut they lived uneasily with material riches. How the Dutch reconciled piety with their commitment to profits is just one of the conundrums explored in this cultural history by a Harvard professor. Netherlandic seafarers built a world empire in just two generations; the Dutch nation's precocious rise to power as presented here helps to explain their defensive patriotism, the mania of housewives for cleanliness and the ideal of the family as a miniature commonwealth. The Dutch urge to classify was evident in everything from their tulip classification system to paintings of children's games. Delving into customs, beliefs, popular art and quirks of behavior, Schama has fashioned a tour de force, a profound, unconventional and rewarding portrait of a people. Photos not seen by PW. Reader's Subscription Book Club alternate. (May 31)
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