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    Guns of August
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (08 March, 1994)
    list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
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    Reviews (115)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary!
    Barbara Tuchman has added a perspective that will prove invaluable through time.This is one of the best books I have ever read.

    Not only is it essential reading if one wants to understand World War I and the geopolitical and military situation that influenced the remainder of the 20th Century; but is also a book that gives extraordinary perspective and life to the individuals who guided and influenced Germany, France, Britain and America during this pivotal moment in History.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The best!
    Rightly considered one of the greatest books on the beginning of World War I, this book won Barbara Tuchman (1912-89) her first Pulitzer Prize. Beginning with the funeral of the British King, Edward VII (1841-1910), the author unfolds European events that led to the Great War and shows how it happened and why. Containing many black-and-white pictures, the storytelling is handled in a wonderfully engrossing manner, almost reading like a novel. The story continues, with all of its horrible mistakes and miscalculations, to the Battle of the Marne, which stopped the German march to Paris.

    Overall, I found this to be a great history book, certainly the best I have ever read on World War I. It's easy to see why this book is so respected. Indeed, I believe that for many generations into the future, this book will be considered a classic on that war.

    So, if you are interested in the First World War, and want to read a great book on it, then I highly recommend this book to you. I give it my highest recommendations.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Bogged Down Before the Trenches
    Barbara Tuchman, has the reputation with this work "The Guns of August," as haven written the definitive and most compelling history of the lead-up and first month of World War I.Having that reputation to live up to may have hurt my estimation of this book.I expected the history to come off the page and envelop me in a world gone mad with war and Nationalism.What I feel I got was a better than average history read that helped me to understand the start of World War I but didn't necessarily immerse myself in dredging up the experience to stick it to the bones of my brain.I wasn't immersed like expected.

    What I truly liked about this book...the Generals come alive with their follies and foibles, their selfish desires and selflessness, their bravery and cowardice, their dashing elan that results in so many deaths.Tuchman paints an seemingly inevitable turn of tides rolling towards chaos.The Schlieffen plan has been set into motion and it seems nothing can hold it back to roll down the Belgian countryside steaming the Allemande juggernaut of divisions and reserves down on Paris.The decision points are revealed and the things counted on and discounted along the way reveal human beings making mistakes and heroic stands that hold the death of one century and the birth of another.

    Tuchman makes heroes and goats of the major players and I suspect the reality of their personality and roles may be a bit more multi-dimensional than is made out to be.King Albert of Belgium is the hero standing up to the Germans by committing his country to a disasterous but strategically important defeat.Sir John French of Britain despite his name worked terribly with the French and is portrayed as a fearful stumbling block to any cohesive allied effort, Joffre is a rock (sometimes as dumb as one but a rock nonetheless), and Gallieni the defender of Paris arises as the hero for urging an attack upon an opportune moment presented by Von Moltke's mistake and underestimation of the French Army.So this was a strength of the book.

    The book surprisingly gets bogged down in the countless retelling of details of which numbered division went where during battles and the retreat.It's suprising at a time when World War I actually involved movement.After all it wasn't much later until it truly got bogged down in trench warfare.Perhaps Tuchman's style is a window of what's to come.It reads more as a technical retelling at points instead of a vibrant history.If you are interested in history, don't let this detractor cause you to pass this one up."The Guns of August," is an important retelling of history however not one of the most engaging ones.It is difficult to live up to its reputation and my expectations admittingly.
    --MMW ... Read more

    Isbn: 034538623X
    Sales Rank: 2803
    Subjects:  1. Campaigns    2. History - Military / War    3. History: American    4. Military - World War I    5. Western Front    6. World War, 1914-1918    7. History / Military / World War I   


    Zimmermann Telegram
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 March, 1985)
    list price: $14.00 -- our price: $11.20
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    Reviews (20)

    5-0 out of 5 stars When the data spoke louder than words
    In forceful, confident prose Ms. Tuchman describes an incident in U.S. history which, if not forgotten, is probably not sufficiently appreciated for its current relevance.President Wilson labored hard to avoid U.S. entry into the Great War; his aim, even on the eve of U.S. involvement, was to win the peace by making himself available to both sides as the honest broker.His efforts to remain neutral had its critics, notably Theodore Roosevelt, but by and large his position mirrored that of the public at large.One critical factor that helped move Wilson from neutrality to belligerence was the uncovering, by British intelligence, of the Zimmerman telegram.That telegram revealed Germany's attempts to forge an alliance with Mexico and thus distract the U.S. from the European theatre.In return, and upon a "certain" German victory, Mexico was promised the restoration of its former holdings -- Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California.While the telegram was a factor in Wilson's volte face, it was by far the most important factor in the creation of a popular, pre-war sentiment in the U.S. electorate.
    Why relevant? Wilson's decision to enter the war was delayed until that point in time when empirical data compelled him to abandon neutrality. In contrast, President Bush invaded Iraq on the presumption, based on intelligence, that WMD would be uncovered.Was Wilson right? Perhaps not.He may well have waited too long.Was Bush wrong? Perhaps not, given the behavior of Saddam Hussein with respect to inspections prior to the war. The Zimmerman telegram is not a "morality tale," but it constitutes a fascinating case study on the interplay between data and decision-making at the highest levels of government.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Re: D.G.
    "Pacifist Woodrow Wilson?" Please refer to Walter Karp's exhaustively researched, "The Politics of War" regarding Wilson's machinations toward war. Pacifist... Ha!

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Kaiser's Diabolical Plot to Seize Texas
    Like the World War Two Enigma saga, the Zimmerman Telegram is a story that arguably gains even more relevance than ever before in today's information age.In short, in 1917 British intelligence leaked to the United States the fact that German's Foreign Office was plotting to co-opt Mexico into World War One on the side of the Central Powers, using as an inducement the prospect of regaining territories lost to America during the Mexican War of 1846.It was this revelation, and not unrestricted submarine war, that triggered Wilson's declaration of war against Germany.Tuchman weaves a story that takes us from Japan (which also harbored ambitions of annexing American territory), through North America and over to London, where Room 40's codebreakers discovered the Kaiser's diabolical plot to seize Texas and then agonized over how and whether to tell Washington.Particularly amusing are the stories of Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to America, a notorious ladies' man whose influence the French and British successfully undermined using pictures of the Count with two young swimsuit-clad women. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345324250
    Sales Rank: 39333
    Subjects:  1. 1864-1940    2. Causes    3. Europe - Germany    4. History - General History    5. History: American    6. Military - World War I    7. Military - World War II    8. World War, 1914-1918    9. Zimmerman, Arthur,    10. History / Military / World War II   


    Proud Tower
    by Barbara W. Tuchman
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (27 August, 1996)
    list price: $15.95 -- our price: $10.85
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    Reviews (25)

    5-0 out of 5 stars stunning and enlightening
    Barbara Tuchman is quite simply the very best narrator of historical events in this century (at least!).

    If you're paying attention, this book will speak to you in ways you were not expecting about the world then and now. The revelations are almost endless. It is truly a work of art, science and vastly impressive research.

    3-0 out of 5 stars An excellent preface to "The Guns of August"
    A collection of essays and magazine pieces published from 1962-65, Mrs. Tuchman attempts a snapshot of the major powers as well as two of the major movements: the first organized terrorist movement, Anarchism and the rise of Communism which agitated and propelled that Lost World into the catastrophe that ended European dominance and put the remaining Empires (British, French, Belgian and Dutch) on life-support and led to the twin horrors of the Shoah and Communism.

    The "chapters" are only loosely linked by thetheme announced in the sub-title: "A Portrait of the World Before the War."Mrs. Tuchman doesn't quite achieve that, put her fluid, graceful prose and easy, unostentatious erudition still make even the less significant pieces a pleasure to read.While an attempt was made to mould them into a homogenous whole, it doesn't quite work. They remain separate pieces.The qualities of the essays vary with the ones on German militarism and "L'Affaire Dreyfus" Chapters 4 and 6.

    Tuchman also badly misunderstands the greatest and most influential of all German 19th century philosophers--Nietzsche--but she's in excellent company there.Few students of philosophy properly understand Nietzche so it's hardly surprising a general historian would repeat the cliches and misunderstanding of that enemy of German militarism and premature proponent of European cosmopolitanism--a process not dissimilar to that which the US Civil War began and which is still not complete within the United States.

    As introduction to the period, the two above-noted essays are good enough.But a far better introduction to France before the war and the treason comitted by prominent French politicians as well as the Drefus Affair, Richard Watt's "Dare Call It Treason" is far superior.

    A much better examination of Wilhelmine Germany (1871-1918) is to be found in Alexandra Richie's monumental "Faust's Metropolis", a history--if not "biography"--of Berlin.Though the period in question forms only a part of Richie's book, it gives a much better account of the insane militarism and the peculiarly fin-de-siecle German qualities of inferiority and megalomania.The vision of the Kaiser conducting champagne-fueled, homosexual orgies is shocking when you remember that more than two million German soldiers were dying whilst this busted flush of an Emperor debauched and disgraced himself while his nation's manhood underwent its own holocaust that would destroy the social fabric of Germany.

    Indeed, the lack of focus in this book is its biggest weakness."The Guns of August"--to which this book serves as a kind of preface or prolouge--and "A Distant Mirror" bring laser-like focus to one subject and use that to explore the ancillary subjects and illuminate their relationships to the "world-historical" events surrounding them."Proud Tower" is essentially the ancillaries without the main event, the overture without the opera.

    With so many books about these two subjects, Wilhelmine Germany and Third Republic France (the longest French form of government to last since the French Revolution, 1871-1940), the book has little that strikes this reader as distinguishing it from the crowd.

    The essay on Anarchism is interesting in light of the War on Terror but, like the others, it provides little more than a superficial introduction to deeply complex events.Had Tuchman conceived and written this book "of a piece" it would probably have been far superior.On the other hand, it suffers from the defect which it shares with nearly all one-volume histories: in order to give a comprehensive account, the author must decide which events to leave out, which to gloss over and which to concentrate more fully upon.The fact the book is a collection of essays ramifies the defect.Tuchman's last book, "The March of Folly" shows that she could have done a much better job of linking widely different and complex historical events to an overarching theme.

    All in all, it fails to meet the brilliant standards of "The Guns of August," "A Distant Mirror" and the "Zimmerman Telegram."But, it does have the virtue of Tuchman's excellent prose and passion for the subject.And for this and the two essays mentioned in this review, I give it three stars.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Different Take on World War I
    This is not one of Barbara Tuchman's best known books and yet it may be her most daring work.Tuchman's thesis is how could something as horrible as World War I happen if everything in the preceding years were so good?The answer is that "la belle epoque" is a myth and the quarter century prior to WWI was a very unsettling time.

    Tuchman does this by snapshots of various countries just before the war, so the book is more like short stories than a consistent narrative like The Guns of August.Depending on your interests, some chapters will be more fascinating than others.

    Her take on the British class structure did not thrill me that much, but she was very strong on the Anarchist movement, which has eerie overtones given current events, and the American Labor Movement. The centerpiece is a tour de force of early modern French history, specifically the Dreyfus Affair.Hardly touched in schools anymore, the Dreyfus Affair nearly tore France apart and Tuchman gives riveting account of what went on and how high the stakes were.This chapter alone is worth buying the book.

    In fact when I was in high school and college, World War I and the preceding years were lightly covered.Maybe people find World War II more interesting, or easier to understand.But the first World War was just as important (perhaps more so) and the causes of that conflict are complicated and raise very important issues.The Proud Tower is a good start to understanding this often overlooked historical period. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345405013
    Sales Rank: 53762
    Subjects:  1. 20th century    2. History - General History    3. History, Modern    4. History: World    5. Military - World War I    6. Modern - 20th Century    7. History / Military / World War I   


    Distant Mirror:The Calamitous 14th Century
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 July, 1987)
    list price: $17.95 -- our price: $12.21
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    Editorial Review

    In this sweeping historical narrative, Barbara Tuchman writes of the cataclysmic 14th century,when the energies of medieval Europe were devoted to fighting internecine wars and warding off theplague. Some medieval thinkers viewed these disasters as divine punishment for mortal wrongs; others,more practically, viewed them as opportunities to accumulate wealth and power. One of the latter, whoselife informs much of Tuchman's book, was the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, who enjoyed theopulence and elegance of the courtly tradition while ruthlessly exploiting the peasants under his thrall.Tuchman looks into such events as the Hundred Years War, the collapse of the medieval church, and therise of various heresies, pogroms, and other events that caused medieval Europeans to wonder what theyhad done to deserve such horrors. ... Read more

    Reviews (72)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A rare jewel in the crown of History
    Barbara Tuchman does a masterful job of sifting through reams of medieval manuscripts to create this fascinating portrait of 14th century Europe. First, I had no idea that there was still so much original material for a historian to work with. Second, I didn't realize how much could be gleaned from readingbetween the lines of these precious documents. Tuchman delves beneath and behind the recorded words to shine a light on the truth of living in that calamitous time. It was a century in which the Black Death and the Hundred Years' War combined to demoralize and radicalize a weakened populace. It was a century in which the pillars of society, both secular and religious, seemed lethally pervaded with corruption and incompetence. It was a time of peasant revolts that prefigured the popular revolutions of the 18th century and a time when the Church's utter lack of spirituality set the stage for the 16th century reformers. Yet it was also a century of crusading heroes and prophetic witnesses, in which national identities were solidifying.

    Tuchman focuses on a single figure, previously unknown to me, who found himself at many of the critical events of the century. Le Sire de Coucy, thoroughly a man of his time, exemplified the great strengths of his day and (to a lesser extent) its weaknesses. Proud, noble, courageous, discreet and intelligent, Coucy is the epitome of the knight in shining armor, in a time when the virtues of that calling were more sung about than lived. I came away from "A Distant Mirror" with a great admiration for this previously anonymous "chevalier."

    Tuchman calls the 14th century a mirror of the troubled 20th century. The parallels were less clear to me, and this is the sole weakness of the book. We will have to see whether the calamaties of the 20th century (genocidal world wars, global economic disruptions, decolonialism) will set the stage for a wholesale power shift on the part of present-day society.

    That said, "A Distant Mirror" is a sparkling jewel of the popular historian's art, bringing to life a time and place that are otherwise known only through myth and romance.

    5-0 out of 5 stars ONE OF TUCHMAN'S BEST
    A wonderful bit of historical writing.I am a big Tuchman fan but must admit that her ability to get "history acedemics" all in a snit, adds to my delight in her work.I have always felt that the common, everyday sort of guy, like myself, can glean much more from the so called "popular history writers" than they can from a stack of a thousand PhD rantings which end up filed away in a forgotten cabinet in must university storage room.I highly recommend this one.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Living the 14th century
    "A Distant Mirror" is a detailed, well written and mostly engrossing political, cultural, religious and social history of Europe in the fourteenth century.It comes as close as any history of the period to imparting a sense of what life was like, at all levels, in western Europe through plagues, wars, and the vicissitudes of everyday living.

    While the book claims to focus on one life in order to tell the history of the period, it works poorly as biography.The story of Enguerrand de Coucy is more of an excuse for delving into the period and is, in itself, more sideshow than main attraction.This is just as well, for the full cast of characters, kings, princes, lords, popes, cardinals, priests, merchants, farmers, and so on are all so fascinating that the story glides along.At times the book does suffer a little from its verbosity.It could have used a little paring down.Nonetheless as a whole it is a remarkable achievement, and well worth it for anyone interested in European or medieval history. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345349571
    Subjects:  1. 1340-1397    2. 14th century    3. Biography    4. Coucy, Enguerrand de,    5. Europe - France    6. France    7. History    8. History - General History    9. History: World    10. Medieval    11. Nobility    12. History / Europe / General   


    First Salute
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (06 September, 1989)
    list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
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    Reviews (30)

    4-0 out of 5 stars "It is not necessary to hope, in order to persevere"
    As a history of the American Revolution focused on the sea war, one of its least known aspects, "The First Salute" is a very interesting analysis, but definitely not the best book by Barbara Tuchman.

    The role of the sea in the unfolding events has been always considered marginal in the final outcome of the struggle. By describing the first official salute to the United States of America fired by the Dutch port of St.Eustatius in the west Indies in 1776, Mrs. Tuchman stresses the importance of smuggling in sustaining the first phases of the conflict, the role and importance of an American naval force and, in the end, the decisive weight of French naval supremacy in the siege of Yorktown.

    A certain weakness can be perceived in the unevennessand disproportion in treating the matter at hands (the Dutch Rebellion takes about 3 chapters, the Seven Years War about 2, two chapters are dedicated to the creation of the Us navy, one to the biography of Admiral Rodney, while the last four chapters are a rather average description of the last stages of the war).

    Actually what I liked most was the new fascinating perspective you can command from this approach.
    By analyzing the similarities with the Dutch Rebellion (a remark shared with Benjamin Franklin), she can reconsider the American war in a full European context: not just a debate on "philosophical" principles (taxation and representation, freedom of conscience, free trade), but alsoa byproduct of the new precarious balance followed to the Seven Years War (the waning of French treat in Canada, the mortification and wish of revenge of the French monarchy), and the mark of the underground conflict in England between conservative Tories and progressive Whigs (implicit in England, made explicit in the Colonies), that would in the end turn back on the continent andinitiate the age of democratic revolution in Europe.

    So was the American a true Revolution?
    Probably not. Better to be described as the American Rebellion, its successful outcome was decisive in spreading the great hopes of change nurtured by the European Enlightenment, but in the end - like the Dutch- it contented with the reaffirmation of offended rights never proposing officially a brave new man like the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions.

    Very interesting is also the glance cast on the parallel history of the two rebellions: the likeness of William the Silent with Washington, the nature of defensive war, the uneven weight of the forces (both Dutch and Colonies were forced to fight against the strongest superpower of their age), the intestine war (Flanders vs. Holland, American Tories vs. Rebels), the resemblance of the Dutch Act of Rejection and the Declaration of Independence, the actual outcome in the model offederal government.

    As a reader, I'm more interested in the political debate than in the actual story of the American Revolution. If you kept reading up to here, maybe you can be interested in other essays directly related to the argument, I had the chance to read in the past:
    -"The Long Affair : Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800" by Conor Cruise O'Brien, by far one of the best books on Jefferson (see review) -
    -"A few Bloody Noses - The American War of Independence" by Robert Harvey (columnist, editor and former British MP ), an appraisal of the war from an all British point of view. Interesting but average.
    -"Readcoats and Rebels. The war for America 1770-1781" by Christopher Hibbert, a popular historian. Average but extremely readable.

    You are truly welcome ifyou can suggest other readings or just share ideas and comments!
    Thanks for reading.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Bravo for her rousing explanation of Dutch history!
    The best part of this book is Mrs. Tuchman's salute to the formidable ingenuity of the Dutch people.When Tsar Peter the Great decided at the dawn of the 18th century that it was time to bring Russia into the modern world, where's the first place he visited?The shipyards of Holland!He wanted to learn from the masters of the greatest trading nation on earth, with their fleet of 10,000 ships.
    The inhabitants of the Netherlands, by might and main, had wrested their land from the ocean.They never stopped pumping water!Our first ambassador, John Adams, called their country "the greatest curiosity in the world...It is like no other.It is all the Effect of Industry, and the Work of Art..."
    But the most important period in Dutch history to understand are the eighty years (1568-1648) of resistance against the domination of Spain, then the most powerful nation in the world.Rembrandt, their greatest artist, was born in the middle of that period.So was Peter Stuyvesant, who lost his leg fighting against the Spaniards in the Caribbean (he's buried in New York City's Bowery).Also born at this time: the Dutch East India Company.By 1700 they had gained control of the cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg trade.
    Mrs. Tuchman speaks of the 1581 Oath of Abjuration (the Dutch Declaration of Independence), the defeat of the Spanish Armada later in that decade, and the importance of two events in 1609 -- the discovery of the Hudson River ("America's Rhine") and the founding of the Bank of Amsterdam.
    It's sad that nowadays the Netherlands seem to have fallen so far, as they embrace euthanasia and other destructive notions...

    [I hadn't realized that Mrs. Tuchman's family played such a large role in recent American history: her grandfather was Henry Morgenthau Sr., who was President Wilson's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire; her uncle served as FDR's secretary of the treasury; and her father, Maurice Wertheim, bought "The Nation" magazine from the pacifist Oswald Garrison Villard.Barbara went off to Madrid in the late 1930s to cover the Spanish Civil War for "The Nation."]

    3-0 out of 5 stars Misleading title
    In The First Salute, A View of the American Revolution, Tuchman attempts to provide new insight to America's war for independence.While she does cover lesser-known events and people, her topic choices are too far removed to be understood unless by historians who wish to concentrate solely on the British aspect.More emphasis is placed on Admiral Rodney and his adventures in the West Indies that any other figure of the era.Few chapters deal directly with the War in the colonies, instead the story centers on naval considerations and British holdings in the area.While these has residual effects on the American Revolution and may be able to entertain, the title is grossly misleading.

    Readers who have no preconceived connection with the American Revolution directly or with are seeking a predominantly British view are encouraged to read The First Salute as it is well written, informative and entertaining. Do not be fooled by the title though.While it connects with the American Revolution, its scope only scratches that surface.
    ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345336674
    Sales Rank: 115917
    Subjects:  1. 1775-1783, Revolution    2. Campaigns    3. History    4. History - General History    5. Naval operations    6. Reference    7. Revolution, 1775-1783    8. United States    9. United States - Colonial Period    10. United States - Revolutionary War    11. History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)   


    Practicing History:Selected Essays
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 August, 1982)
    list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
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    Reviews (6)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Barbara Tuchman for Dinner
    I love the feeling that I'm picking the brain of BWT. Her methods of writing and observations are worthwhile for a lifetime. The humility the author has toward fact gathering benefits all her readers. This collection is first a delight to any fan of the woman herself, and second a tool for learning about good history writing. A bonus third point is for history novices like me- a crash course on several topics of interest. A "crash course" from Barbara Tuchman is possibly an experience of the most concise, informative and comprehensive summary on a subject you'll find. A must-have for the restroom bookshelf for those of us addicted to reading.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Get it for the Two Essays on The Historian
    "Practicing History", by Barbara W. Tuchman, sub-titled "Selected Essays".Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1981.

    This book is a collection of essays written by the noted Historian, Barbara W. Tuchman (e.g. "The Guns of August"), over the course of her long career.In my humble opinion, for the novice historian, the most interesting essays are, "The Historian as Artist" (pages 45-50), "The Historian's Opportunity", (pages 51-64).In these two essays, Ms. Tuchman challenges the budding historian to not only collect facts, dates and events, but rather to write History so the end product is as engaging as modern novel, BUT, based upon excellent scholarship. Ms. Tuchman is a proponent of "narrative" History, where the facts "...require arrangement, composition planning just like a painting - Rembrandt's 'Night Watch`" (page 49). These two essays would enhance any course in Historiography.

    Some of her remaining essays are a bit dated, but provide keen insight into the times, as in Tuchman's "Japan: A Clinical Note", (pages 93-97).Her essays on Israel tend to be a bit chauvinistic, in the sense thatthe author's objectivity slips and she can find very little wrong with the budding Jewish state in what was once Palestine. The essay, "Perdicaris Alive or Rasuli Dead" (pages 104-117), is very entertaining, particularly if you are interested in New York's Teddy Roosevelt.All in all, the first section of this book, (called "The Craft"), includes essays that should be required reading for a student beginning graduate work in History.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Tuchman on a smaller scale
    These essays allow the reader to enjoy Barbara Tuchman's incisive historical analysis and sharp wit in small doses.Most of the essays were written in the 1950s or 1960s or even earlier, but they are still fresh and pointed. Reading Tuchman is like listening to your favorite history professor.She'll tell a dramatic story and finish up with some wry observations that will keep you thinking long after. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345303636
    Sales Rank: 129587
    Subjects:  1. 1900-1999 (20th century)    2. 20th century    3. Historiography    4. History - General History    5. History, Modern    6. History: American    7. Reference    8. World - General    9. History / Reference   


    The March of Folly : From Troy to Vietnam
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 February, 1985)
    list price: $16.95 -- our price: $11.53
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    Reviews (34)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Pretty much essential reading, these days
    I credit Barbara Tuchman with making me enjoy history.She has a rare gift for being incredibly comprehensive (I have no idea how she managed to work her way through the God knows how many sources, primary and otherwise, that she's used in here assorted works (yes, I know, research assistants, but still)) while still maintaining a real narrative stucture to her text.I'd rate A Distant Mirror as one of my favorite books, ever.

    The March of Folly is something of a different beast.Tuchman has more of an agenda here, a definite point she wants to get across.Rather thanjust laying out the details of the time periods (which, don't get me wrong, she still does and does well) she uses said details to construct a cogent portrayal of those in power acting in idiotic ways.And she tries to explain why they do so.It's fascinating reading.And you get the impression that even Tuchman is somewhat dismayed by the sheer ineptitude displayed by some of the principle actors in her narrative.

    Which is one of the things I like most about her (and, by extension, about this book): she's objective, but only up to a point.She doesn't let her objectivity get in the way of calling moronic behavior for what it is.And that makes this a vastly entertaining read.And, more importantly, a vastly informative one.

    Of the three sections of this book (omitting the bit about the Trogan War - I know why she included it, but it still strikes me as a tad misplaced in a work of history), the final one is clearly what Tuchman's been building towards.And it's clearly the most relevant to us, today, given the unmitigated disaster that American foreign policy has, once again, become.(The previous two sections are likewise fascinating, just a bit less pertinent).

    Given our current policy, this is a work that should be requitred reading for all in the current administration.Sadly, I would suspect that most of our current leaders have not even heard of Tuchman.A pity - their actions could easily inspire a second edition of this work were Tuchman still alive.

    I highly, highly recommend this book.Not only to history buffs, but to all those with an interest in current foreign policy.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Wordy but insightful
    Insightful look at specific points in history where one or numerous significant errors caused a momentous shift in power or policy.Tuchman begins with the Trojan Horse and skips through time making stops in 16th Century Rome, 18th Century Colonial America and 20th Century Vietnam.Tuchman tends to be verbose in many of her pieces, but The March of Folly is the most extreme case I have encountered yet.Tuchman's thesis is instructive as usual and her argument is presented convincingly.Despite the repetition of information and the depth of the argument, The March of Folly is worth the read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Will Governments ever learn.............
    What makes Ms. Tuchman's writing so relevant is how it forces the aware reader to apply the lessons learned onto today's contemporary issues.Moreover, the detail of British perspectives during the Revolutionary War was worth the price of the book alone.Anyone looking for some original work about how the dangers of groupthink and the echo chamber continually lead to ultimate failure should purchase this book. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345308239
    Sales Rank: 6134
    Subjects:  1. Errors, inventions, etc    2. History    3. History - General History    4. History, Modern    5. History: American    6. Judgment    7. Modern - General    8. Power (Social sciences)    9. World - General    10. History / World   


    Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45
    by Barbara W. Tuchman
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (07 October, 2001)
    list price: $20.00 -- our price: $13.60
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    Reviews (18)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Tuchman's conflict of interest in writing this
    This book is, like all of Tuchman's, a good read, with her unique combination of good historiography and compelling writing.

    In only one way does it fall short: Tuchman does not disclose in it that Henry Morgenthau Jr., who is mentioned in it, was her uncle, and she should have done this for ethical reasons. Morgenthau is mentioned in passing in the book, although as Treasury Secretary he was not a central player in Chinese affairs of that era. However, this entire book may be seen as an attempt to answer the "Who Lost China?" question central to the anti-Communist reaction of the late 1940s and 1950s. Tuchman is here defending the New Dealers from charges of being soft on Communism or in active collusion with the Communists, a charge that I'm sure must have put her uncle on the defensive. Because one of his top deputies was Harry Dexter White, proven to be part of the Alger Hiss spy ring passing secrets to the Soviets, and Morgenthau's judgment in keeping him aboard for years after suspicions were raised about him can certainly be questioned. U.S. policy on China may easily have crossed Morgenthau's desk and come into White's, and then Stalin's and Mao's, hands.

    Tuchman argues strongly that Chiang Kai Shek himself lost China through his ineptness, his faction's corruption, and his preoccupation with hoarding U.S.-donated arms and aid to use in the struggle against Mao that he knew would begin once the Japanese were driven out of China. She shows Stilwell as a capable general whose advice Chiang would not take and whose authority Chiang repeatedly subverted.

    Tuchman deals too quickly, however, with the wartime Communist regime, letting a benign and simplistic portrait of them as "agrarian liberals" stick even while noting that Americans who bought that phrase, had been misled. Her portrait of their areas as being well-managed places of peace and justice and equality - and the implication that the Americans should have backed this horse against the Japanese and would have been forgiven for so doing - is a little too simplistic. She should have backed it up with the same kind of research she dedicated to every other major player in the story. It leaves a bad flavor at the end; you sense her greater interest here was in posthumously defending her uncle's name (and she was the granddaughhter of Henry Morgenthau Sr.), which would be aided by the view that Roosevelt and the New Dealers could not have known how cruel Mao's regime would be and can be forgiven for any support they gave or sought to give to him.

    Only at the end, when Tuchman gets shrill on the subject of McCarthyism, does the book falter. And she died before the Venona Files proved McCarthy right about highly placed spies in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

    The rest of this book is quite strong. But for her failure to disclose her personal connection to it, I'm docking her a star.

    P.S. After initially posting this review, I came across yet another Tuchman conflict of interest. In Sam Tanenhaus's biography of Alger Hiss accuser Whittaker Chambers, he notes that Chambers' Communist spying associate John Sherman attempted to set up a Soviet spy ring in Japan using a press agency as a front. When the spying effort failed, he turned over the press agency's editorship to Barbara Wertheim - later Tuchman. Tanenhaus makes it clear that Tuchman herself was not a Communist. But this suggests yet another point of proximity with those involved in espionage, and one does not know how close she may have been to Sherman. Conceivably, if she was close to him, she may have had yet one more motive, as a historian, to attempt to shoot down the postwar anti-Communist effort.

    This is one of Tuchman's more readable books.I purchased this work a number of years ago and it has been a valuable addition to my collection. I read it, or portions of it, even now, every so often. The Stilwell and the American involvement in China must be addressed in order to understand the scope of the war in the Pacific and indeed, very necessary to our understanding intoour complex relationship with China, even to this day. There is no doubt that Tuchman was quite enamored with Stilwell, but this is good as I feel it gives the book a bit more passion than the average, dry biography.Little is known of this American involvement and it has been more ignored by historians than other aspects of the war. Stilwell was and is a fastinating figure, often misunderstood, but one who had a profound influence on the events of those days that are still with us today.Now I must admit to being a very big fan of Tuchman and am sure my some of my delight with this book comes from that.That being said, this books is a good read, and should be added to your library.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent History of the China-India-Burma Theater
    Tuchman wrote "Stillwell and the American Experience in China" during the waning years of the Vietnam war, and it is difficult not to draw a straight line between Stillwell's frustrations with Chiang Hai-Shek and the Johnson/Nixon administrations' later projects in Indochina.Stillwell was in charge of the China relationship, with coordinating mainland China operations against the Japanese Imperial Army with the more fruitful (if almost just as frustrating) campaigns in Burma.Much is made of Eisenhower's career as a diplomat-general but Stillwell was even more the proconsular figure; constantly shuttling between the Nationalist court and the other allies.Not only is Tuchman scathing on the subject of Chaing and his Lady MacBeth wife, she is also deeply skeptical of British motives throughout the Burma campaign.Of all the fronts in World War Two, the Chinese theater is easily the most complicated, and this is the best work, in English, on the topic. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0802138527
    Sales Rank: 34193
    Subjects:  1. 1883-1946    2. Asia - China    3. Biography & Autobiography    4. Biography / Autobiography    5. Biography/Autobiography    6. China    7. Foreign relations    8. Historical - U.S.    9. International Relations - General    10. Military    11. Modern - 20th Century    12. Stilwell, Joseph Warren,    13. U.S. - China Relations    14. United States    15. World War, 1939-1945    16. Stilwell, Joseph Warren    17. Biography   


    Bible and Sword : England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 February, 1984)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $10.88
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    Reviews (8)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Educational, but not her best work.
    This is an interesting and educational read, although not as riveting or effective as Guns of August or First Salute. Of course, the topic is not as riveting. To describe the relationship between Britain and Palestine through the ages is a great challenge, given the rather unexciting nature of that relationship through most of the time at issue. The story necessarily includes a great deal of behind-the-scenes material that pales in comparison to the monumental affairs of war and revolution.

    That being said, the topic is interesting and her treatment is detailed and very helpful. One reviewer complained that she discounted the effectiveness of evangelism toward the Jews, but her description is accurate, historically, in that there was no mass conversion such as the evangelists sought and hoped for. The book certainly focuses on British and not Arab sources, but that is perfectly correct because the book is not about the Arabs, but about Britain and its relation to Palestine, which was never a major player in the Arab world.

    The book is worth reading if only for the detailed description of British attitudes in the 1800's and the astonishing fascination for restoring the Jews which gripped Britain in that time.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Personal Opinions Impede Objectivity
    The review by "hopefulskeptic" is an accurate summary and interpretation of "Bible and Sword."I would like to add my opinion regarding Barbara Tuchman's approach to writing this book.

    During my reading of "Bible and Sword" I developed the impression that Barbara Tuchman wasn't objective about its subject matter.To be fair, she admits this in the foreword.However, I was surprised at the extent of her bias regarding one topic.This was evident when she made observations about the apparent lack of success Christians experienced in sharing their faith with Jews over a nineteen hundred year period.I've read a collection of books which draws a different conclusion.The collection is called "A History of Christianity" and was written by Kenneth Latourette.Latourette's research indicates that Christians experienced a modicum of success in witnessing to Jews during this period, excluding the Inquisition.Tuchman indicates in "Bible and Sword" that Christians had virtually no success.In fact, she states she cannot find any evidence of Jews converting to Christianity beyond a small number.This defies common sense.Given human nature there will always be people who voluntarily renounce their religion for another; Jews for Christianity, Catholics for Protestantism, Protestants for Judaism, etc.

    Further, Tuchman displays thinly veiled contempt toward Christians who share their faith with Jews.Her tone is smug and is based in her belief that Judaism is a superior religion that no intelligent Jew would forswear for an inferior belief system, i.e. in her words, Christianity.She exposes her contempt at several points in the book.She gives no basis for her claim that Judaism is superior to Christianity.You as the reader are just required to accept her view as fact.My opinion is that once she ventured down this path she obligated herself to making her case.Actually, she could easily have told her account of history without offering her opinion on this topic.It didn't add anything to my understanding of the salient issues.

    On these occasions she diverges from rational, objective analysis to an emotional defense of her religion.She is no longer an historian, but an apologist. This may be the outgrowth of a sense of persecution, which is understandable, but not fitting for a historian.

    Her unrestrained attempt to coerce you into drawing a conclusion about an irrelevant issue, without providing adequate substantiation for her claims made me question her veracity on other topics she covered in subsequent books.Prior to reading "Bible and Sword" I had read "A Distant Mirror", "The March of Folly", "The Guns of August", and "Stilwell and the American Experience in China."

    I qualify my criticism by noting that "Bible and Sword" was one of Barbara's Tuchman's earliest attempts at writing history, and that her style improved in succeeding works.However, better style should not imply more thorough research or honest exposition.

    Let the reader beware: read more than one person's account of history before drawing any conclusions.Each historical account I've read (including Latourette's books) contains analyses that are influenced by the author's preconceptions.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Well written, ends too soon
    I very much enjoyed Bible and Sword.Like all of Tuchman's work that I have read, it keeps your interest just as much as a good novel.There were several places in the book where I made a note "good writing" such as when she wrote "Now the rationalistsgalloped with the bit in their teeth."

    This book is principally about the ties between Britain and Palestine.Tuchman starts covering the story of how the Jews got back to Israel with the earliest sympathies in Britain coming from

    interpretations of the Christian Bible's Old Testament.She then describes the imagined connection between Joseph of Arimathea and Britain that began in the Middle Ages and goes on to cite evidence of Briton pilgrims to Palestine beginning as early as the time of St. Jerome, ca 386 AD.She then leads the reader through the Crusades and Middle Ages when at times there was a regular tourist service to the Holy Land.These connections were primarily concerned with the New Testament connection with Palestine. During the evangelical Christian movement in Britain of the 1800's, however, there again developed a connection with the names and scenes of the Old Testament.She shows how these emotional and spiritual connections melded with Britain's imperial interests and led to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and then the British-led Palestine Mandate in 1922 for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Imperial interests wanted a friendly and British controlled Palestine to protect the eastern flank of Britain's route to India through the Suez canal.By the 1930's the Brits were already tired of the job and were looking for some one else to dump it on - and then WWII intervened.

    Unfortunately, Tuchman dropped the story pretty much in the late 1920's after telling how the Turkish empire got dismantled with only a few later events mentioned.That was quite a disappointment.I would like to have had her tell the story of how the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine got reactivated after WWII and how the dimensions of the Jewish and Palestinian areas were decided, what the commitments to the non-Jewish citizens were, and how the Jewish partisans forced Britain to get out of Palestine.

    I do have to say that Tuchman's view of the whole of her history is very British.She cites very few Arab sources, not even the English Arab, Lawrence of Arabia, other to mention that he existed and was very active in negotiations on the part of the Arab interests.I had to keep reminding myself that Tuchman was an American educated in America as she gave very little perspective on views from this side of the big pond.

    For some more on the Arab view of the later influences of Europe on Palestine and other areas in the Middle East, I can recommend Part IV of Albert Hourani's book "A History of the Arab Peoples," it doesn't read like Tuchman but it does give much more of the non-European views. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345314271
    Sales Rank: 54135
    Subjects:  1. Europe - Great Britain - General    2. Great Britain    3. History    4. History - General History    5. History: American    6. Middle East - General    7. Middle East - Israel    8. Palestine    9. Relations    10. Zionism    11. History / Israel   


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