Simon Schama: TV dumber-down or simply the greatest?

Historians in the News

Some people think Simon Schama – garlanded academic and presenter of such fabulous series as A History of Britain and Rough Crossings – is full of crap. There have been grumblings that he dumbs down and simplifies his history shows, taking a sweeping view of history designed more for the verbal flourish than historical accuracy.

Few people have summarised these criticisms better than the Sunday Times' Adrian Gill who took a swipe at Schama's 2006 series Power of Art: "The point of these authored, visually clotted documentaries is really to be infomercials for instant coffee table tomes". And yes, it is true that even Schama's premium brand of TV history cannot help skating over the deeper complexities of historical truth. But while it's always tempting to point a mocking finger at a man with a plum job as Columbia professor of art history and history, and lucrative TV contracts coming out of his ears, I love him and make a beeline for him every time. I'd go so far as to say he is easily Britain's best arts presenter....

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