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simon schama’s book about the Netherlands in the 17th century, The Embarrassment of Riches, was published in 1987 and hailed as a masterpiece of scholarly as well as popular history. Then in 1996 a Johannes Vermeer exhibition in The Hague, with an unprecedented 23 paintings on display, attracted enormous excitement. These two events helped to make the golden age of the Netherlands a source of renewed interest, especially in the English-speaking world.

The speculation in rare bulbs was chronicled in Anna Pavord’s The Tulip and formed the background to Deborah Moggach’s bestselling novel Tulip Fever. This brief but extraordinary episode…

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