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Professor Sir Simon Schama, Columbia University

Do revolutions matter? Do they sharply change the course of history or are they programmed for disappointment, or much worse outcomes? Are they mostly a state of mind pumped up with utopian rhetoric or do they profoundly alter the structures they claim to demolish and replace? Are they the necessary engines of progress or a deadweight on its advance? And does the revolutionary temper have anything to say to the existential problems of our own time – environmental, biological, demographic and digital? Or should revolutions and their histories be laid to rest in the museum of exhausted illusions?

Sir Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. He is a contributing editor of the Financial Times, author of 20 books, and writer-presenter of over fifty documentaries on art, history and literature for BBC television. Most recently his History of Now series aired on BBC2 in 2022. Sir Simon has been awarded numerous prizes and honours including the NCR prize for non-fiction for Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, the W.H. Smith Literary Award for Landscape and Memory, and the National Book Critics Circle prize for non-fiction for Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution. His work has been translated into 23 languages, and his 20th, and most recent book Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations, was published in the UK in May 2023.

Darwin College interview with Simon Schama.