Simon Schama's 76th Birthday, 1945
On this day in 1945, Simon Schama was born in Marylebone, London to a mother of Ashkenazi descent and a father of Sephardic descent. After studying history at Cambridge, his teaching career has included positions at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Columbia. Schama has divided his scholarly energies between numerous subjects, most notably, British history, the French Revolution, European art history and the history of the Jews. Schama has also written about the relationship between environment and cultural expression, myth in particular. His book Landscape and Memory (1995) takes up this question by exploring the connections between varying topographies and folklore about the past. While his books, and later his art criticism for The New Yorker, earned him a strong readership, his widespread popular recognition is the result of numerous BBC history documentaries that he has written and hosted for the past twenty years. These have included A History of Britain (2000) and Simon Schama’s Power of Art (2006). In 2011, Schama was hired by the BBC to write and host a five-episode series, eventually titled The Story of the Jews, which was first broadcast in 2013 and later in the US on PBS in 2014. The series is based on his three-volume book of the same title. In it, Schama tries to balance the methodology of the academic historian, the authorial voice and structure of the popular historian and an open-minded approach to the biblical narrative. Schama has been an outspoken opponent of academic boycotts against Israel and was critical, from a politically liberal position, of Jeremey Corbin’s leadership of the Labour Party over charges of anti-Semitism. In 2001, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2018, a Knight Bachelor.