Landscape and Memory

by Simon Schama

Paperback, 1996



Call number




Fontana Press (1996), Paperback


Opening a radically new and original path into history, Simon Schama explores the scenery of our Western culture, both real landscapes and landscapes of the mind that have given us our sense of homeland, the dark woods of our imagined origins. What unfolds is a series of compelling journeys through space and time: from the ancient woodland of Poland, a symbol over the centuries of national endurance, through the forest birthplace of the German psyche, to the Big Trees of Yosemite that gave a new nation its holy past. Through all of history, from pre-classical antiquity to the Third Reich and beyond, Schama uncovers the myths and memories that have stamped themselves on our most basic social instincts and institutions: territorial identity, the wild and domestic, mortality and immortality.… (more)

Media reviews

In various cultures, both classic and contemporary, the author studies myths and how they relate to landscapes. Repeatedly, the subject of an idyllic, pastoral place, an Arcadia, arises. In the last chapter, he focuses briefly on Central Park, praising its designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, for his vision of a heroic urban Arcadia. For Mr. Schama, Central Park seems to encapsulate the double-sided nature of the Arcadian concept. The dreamlike version is, he said, "a place of effortless bucolic sweetness, where you can lie on your back and smell the grass while there's a faint noise of people hitting balls with bats." The nightmare version is "a slightly scary, sinister, dense place of sex and death."

User reviews

LibraryThing member bibliothecarivs
This book is a fascinating treatise on the role nature (specifically wood, water, and rock) has played in Western culture. Art and history professor at Columbia University, Schama considered this the one book he needed to write. He expertly touches on so many examples of our environment's influence on our collective memory that the book is difficult to describe- everything from Hitler's obsession with the forests of Europe and the battles fought to get Susan B. Anthony on Mount Rushmore, to Western lust for Egyptian obelisks and dance parties held on the massive stumps of California Sequoias in the mid-nineteenth century. This work is also, with its classical layout and type font and its many excellent illustrations, one of the most beautifully designed books I've ever seen. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member JudyL
A rich and satisfying look into the European heritage. Beautifully written, lyrical prose that is a joy to read.
LibraryThing member JayLivernois
I find this a hard book to finish. It is one of those books it seems difficult to get into although the material is interesting and the thought good.


Original publication date


Physical description

672 p.; 9.21 inches


0006863485 / 9780006863489
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