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by Simon Schama


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Dead Certainties is divided into two unequal parts. The first glosses the death of general James Wolfe at the battle of Quebec in 1759.

Only 5 left in stock (more on the way). Dead Certainties is divided into two unequal parts. It is interested in the process of mythologizing that followed the battle, by which a semi-official, heroic commemoration came to substitute for other historical versions.

Dead Certainties is a bit of a strange book. Simon Schama combines two stories within it: one called The Many Deaths of General Wolfe recounts Wolfe"s demise in battle, and then looks at the mythologising that followed it, in the forms of Benjamin West's famous painting, and the history of Francis Parkman. The second story, called Death of a Harvard Man, occupies most of the book.

Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations). In this "infinitely beguiling book," renowned historian Simon Schama explores two fascinating historical narratives about money and murder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Small octavo (5 by 7-3/4 inches), original black cloth, original dust jacket. Never before has Schama mingled fiction with history, or, for that matter, focused largely on American history" (New York Times). It is "a virtuoso performance" (New Republic).

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. 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

Unwarranted Speculations. About Dead Certainties. Like his The Embarrassment of Riches and the bestselling Citizens, Simon Schama’s latest book is both history and literature of immense stylishness and ambition.

Unwarranted Speculations. But Dead Certainties goes beyond these more conventional histories to address the deeper enigmas that confront a student of the past.

Schama's next book, Landscape and Memory (1995), focused on the relationship between physical environment .

More personal and idiosyncratic than Dead Certainties, this book was more traditionally structured and better-defined in its approach Plaudits came from the . .

Simon Schama's "Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations)" is an interesting foray into the murky realm of historiography

Simon Schama's "Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations)" is an interesting foray into the murky realm of historiography. The book is comprised of two "tales:" that of General James Wolfe who (purportedly) meets his end at the Battle of Quebec in 1759 and that of George Parkman, a Harvard Professor who met a grisly end in 1849 - which Schama treats as an historical "murder mystery.

Dead certainties : unwarranted speculations. Books for People with Print Disabilities. Internet Archive Books. Uploaded by sf-loadersive.

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.

From Simon Schama's 'Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations)', re-published by Granta (£16. Independent culture newsletter. The best in film, music, TV & radio straight to your inbox.


Comments: (7)

blodrayne
The premise of the book, taking us from the death of General Wolfe to the trial of Dr. Webster, is tenuous. At times I forgot exactly what the first two chapters had to do with the rest of the account.

That said, each of the three "parts" of Schama's story could stand on its own. His style is quick and compelling. It was hard to put down once I started. A much better "beach read" than some of the throw away stuff that usually gets taken on vacations.
Gralmeena
Required text for one of my seminars. Fascinating read that contrasts a couple of events in North American history that have a slightly unexpected connection. The second portion is much longer, and I like the way that Schama organized the material somewhat like a whodunit, so that the reader only gets facets of information as the story progresses in a way that is intriguing and engaging. The title is interesting as it refers to the way that history can be distorted for a number of reasons, and yet it's easy to be so very certain about the "truth" of a particular event.
godlike
It's kind of a strange book, consisting of just two stories. One is his interpretation of a 19th century dismemberment investigation. The other a sort of debunking of the myth surrounding Gen. Wolfe's death during the siege of Quebec. There's no way to know to what extent he meant them to be straight historical accounts versus speculation. But it was a good light read.
Jairani
Condition is 5 star. Great
Voodoosida
Ostensibly a book about two indirectly related deaths, those of an English general in the Seven Year War and of a nineteenth-century Harvard doctor, Dead Certainties actually is a divagation on the nature of history. The title itself gives it away, of course: for nothing is certain, and much will forever remain conjecture, as to these two deaths. History as art, history as tale, history as judicial process. Such is where Schama ultimately wishes to turn his reader's attention. As the author himself admits in his afterword, the book veers between historical enquiry and novella, between source transcription and invention, however faithful.

Dead Certainties is divided into two unequal parts. The first glosses the death of general James Wolfe at the battle of Quebec in 1759. It is interested in the process of mythologizing that followed the battle, by which a semi-official, heroic commemoration came to substitute for other historical versions. Painting, art, monumental sculpture embody their own sublimated truths. But what are the truths of history if not also totalizing? The second, much longer half of the book is an 1850 whodunit involving the alleged murder of George Parkman by another Harvard professor, the respectable but indigent John Webster. Here the process of historical enquiry merges with that of judicial discovery, aiming, with the aid of perforce incomplete evidence, to establish a version of events 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

Dead Certainties should perhaps be classified as micro-history. If so, however, the macro-history it speaks to is to do with the nature of the discipline itself. The most effective of its two sections it the second, which draws parallels between history-writing and court processes. Thus both centre around circumstantial evidence, and both confront contradictory clues in an attempt to re-create a past reality. While trials oppose defence to prosecution, history often is the product of revisionist and counter-revisionist claims. Both remain dominated by narrative more than any candid submission of conflicting evidence. ('But give them only uncertainty and they will squirm with unhappiness like children sent to bed without their story's end,' writes Schama.) And both draw their power at least in part from rhetoric.

In some ways, this is a postmodern tract. 'I have deliberately dislocated the conventions by which histories establish coherence and persuasiveness,' Schama concludes, who puts his two deaths together in several, competing versions rather than in a single narrative. And perhaps the avoidance of any footnotes is to be criticized. It is a little too easy to probe at history-writing's frailties while ridding it of its main prop: the primary source reference. Nevertheless, Dead Certainties is a brilliantly illustrative book on the discipline, to be read alongside Richard Evans's In Defence of History and E.H. Carr's What is History?.
porosh
Simon Schama's "Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations)" is an interesting foray into the murky realm of historiography. The book is comprised of two "tales:" that of General James Wolfe who (purportedly) meets his end at the Battle of Quebec in 1759 and that of George Parkman, a Harvard Professor who met a grisly end in 1849 - which Schama treats as an historical "murder mystery."
Critics of this work charge that Schama has engaged in historical chicanery by incorporating fiction into both accounts and has, thus, mucked up the waters of what is a proper "history." To this, Schama admits so much in his text and also admits to that being his point.
What is interesting is Schama's attempt to stake out a dividing line between what is "historical fact" and what is "historical fiction" and in so doing, obliterate that line. After all, historical fiction is based upon "historical fact" and many historians have written histories based upon "historical fact" that were modified or even overturned after those "historical facts" were proven to be inventions of fiction.
We have a certain reliance on a consistent historical past "reality" or else we run into an Orwellian 1984 reality of a constantly changing historical past. Yet, we can never be quite certain of the "facts" that make up our histories and as Schama puts it:
"... historians are left forever chasing shadows, painfully aware of their inability ever to reconstruct a dead world in its completeness, however thorough or revealing their documentation. Of course they make do with other work: the business of formulating problems, of supplying explanations about cause and effect. But the certainty of such answers always remains contingent on their unavoidable remoteness from their subjects. We are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone around the corner and out of earshot." (p. 320)
"Dead Certainties" is an engaging and thoughtful piece of scholarship/literature that should be taken as such - and as such, it is not perfect.
Dead Certanties download epub
Historical Study & Educational Resources
Author: Simon Schama
ISBN: 0517131722
Category: History
Subcategory: Historical Study & Educational Resources
Language: English
Publisher: Random House Value Publishing (October 18, 1994)