Dead Certainties | Granta

  • Published: 04/04/2013
  • ISBN: 9781847087324
  • 153x20mm
  • 352 pages

Dead Certainties

Simon Schama

On 13 September 1759, General James Wolfe, having led the British troops up the St Lawrence to victory in the Battle of Quebec, died on the Heights of Abraham. Schama examines this death, and how Wolfe was made to die again – through the spectacular painting by Benjamin West, and through the writings of the 19th-century historian Francis Parkman. Schama’s second death concerns Parkman’s uncle, George Parkman of Harvard Medical College, who disappeared in 1849 in mysterious circumstances and who was rumoured to have been murdered by a colleague. Through these incidents, Schama sheds light on the writing of history, the history of history, and the relationship of ‘story’ to ‘history’.

In [Schama's] hands the past loses its remoteness and takes on the noise and clutter of experience - a transformation performed by a magician confident enough to remind us before, during and after the performance that it is all an illusion

Andrew Delbanco, New Republic

Unusually for a history book this is a rattling good read. If the past is a foreign country, Schama is a terrific time-traveller

Roy Porter, New Statesman

An infinitely beguiling book, a mind-teasing delight

New York Times

The Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prizewinning author of fourteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age; Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution; Landscape and Memory; Rembrandt’s Eyes; the History of Britain trilogy and Rough Crossings, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written widely on music, art, politics and food for the Guardian, Vogue and the New Yorker. His award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC stretches over two decades and includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain, the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art and The American Future: A History.

More about the author →

Simon Schama on

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Death of a Harvard Man

Simon Schama

‘The lettuce sat in its brown bag, wilting in the unseasonable warmth.’

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

The Many Deaths of General Wolfe

Simon Schama

‘But what good had this done except to assuage the endless sense of impotence and rage that swelled inside him as spring turned into a scorching, dripping, foul-smelling summer?’