schama: pulling no punches


Tough love is what Schama has to offer his adopted homeland of 20 years: a riposte to the blood and glory of David McCullough’s 1776 and the vaingloriously named Freedom Tower that will rise to this symbolic number of feet on the site of the World Trade Centre. His constant use of the word ‘patriot’ to describe the American revolutionaries seems freighted with a contemporary distaste.

For the New York of 1776 that Schama describes is under temporary British control, a safe haven for tens of thousands of fleeing blacks who see a far better hope of salvation in Britain’s King George than a nascent American republic. And who, having fought for the British in uniforms bearing the insignia ‘Liberty to slaves’, will risk death in the water attempting to reach their army’s disappearing evacuation ships rather than return to the mercy of their former masters.

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