If asked where in the past I would like to go on a one-way permanent trip, I would definitely not say "Amsterdam in 1660"--or any place else without antibiotics. Five years ago (so that I could make a real killing in the stock market) would seem about right. The past is another, fascinating country, yes. But the pre-industrial past is poor, disease ridden, ignorant, and--if one reflects on the cost of nighttime illumination and the difficulty of travel--boring. (On a two-way round-trip into the past, however, there are lots of possibilities...)
Yet Columbia's Simon Schama appears to think very differently...
Simon Schama: You ask the questions
He is currently University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University in New York. He is internationally acclaimed for his books, which include The Embarrassment of Riches, Citizen, Rembrandt's Eyes, and his two volumes of A History of Britain.
Q: If you could make one journey backwards in time, without the possibility of coming back, where would you go?
Douglas Martin, by e-mail
A: Amsterdam, 1660. The best bread; the best pictures; the most stunning streetscapes in the world; the most musical pubs; the glossiest dogs; the most dazzling women, the most arrogant men; no kings, no wars (for the time being), no bishops; Jews, books, harpsichords galore and... somewhere, Rembrandt van Rijn.Posted by DeLong at June 10, 2002 04:42 PM