Simon Schama was born in London in 1945 and educated at Christ's College, Cambridge where he was Fellow from 1966 to 1976. He moved to Brasenose College, Oxford as Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, and then taught at Harvard University. 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. As a writer and presenter, his TV work includes Landscape and Memory and A History of Britain, the four concluding episodes of which are currently running on BBC2.
If you could make one journey backwards in time, without the possibility of coming back, where would you go?
Douglas Martin, by e-mail
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.
AJP Taylor used to stand in front of a camera and talk without notes for half an hour - no re-enactments, no romantic landscapes, no stirring music. Does television history benefit from these?
Theresa Healey, Birmingham
We're very romantic-nostalgic about AJP Taylor now, but what he did - brilliantly and unapologetically - was lectures; the personality of the pedagogue front and centre stage. Bismarck, Napoleon, Churchill - whomever - were made to dance to the tune of the Great Puppeteer. Modern television history aims, instead, at trying to make the past - in admittedly imperfect cuts - come alive and the visual and aural atmospherics are important, just as descriptive narrative is important to the print historian. But the risks of bathos are correspondingly higher - especially with re- enactment, where producers struggle to make drama with a documentary budget.
Rembrandt is coming round for sack and edam: what are you dying to ask him?
Sandra Grant, by e-mail
Don't see him as a sack drinker, somehow. Jenever (Dutch gin) certainly. So much to ask him - how did he get the impasto in The Jewish Bride on to the canvas? (We know that it wasn't brush or palette knife or even fingers). Did he really have to cut the Claudius Civilis to pieces after it was sent back from the Town Hall? Was Hendrikje pregnant when he painted Bathsheba? And - above all else - isn't it really Apelles, not Aristotle, contemplating the bust of Homer?
I read that you think colonial Britain let millions die in India and Ireland because it didn't want to pay for the aid efforts. But surely you'd agree that our Empire did more good than harm?
Lindsay Harris, London
I wish I could say it did. The title of our programme The Empire of Good Intentions is not meant derisively. The intentions were good - to make what we liked to call "inert" societies educated, better- off and free of disease and superstition, but the overriding aim was always servicing our home economy and building up a huge military paramountcy. …