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During the fateful uarter century leading up to World War I the climax of a century of rapid unprecedented change a privileged few enjoyed Olympian luxury as the underclass was “heaving in its pain its power and its hate” In The Proud Tower Barbara W Tuchman brings the era to vivid life the decline of the Edwardian aristocracy; the Anarchists of Europe and America; Germany and its self depicted hero Richard Strauss; Diaghilev’s Russian ballet and Stravinsky’s music; the Dreyfus Affair; the Peace Conferences in The Hague; and the enthusiasm and tragedy of Socialism epitomized by the assassination of Jean Jaurès on the night the Great War began and an epoch came to a close

10 thoughts on “The Proud Tower A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890 1914

  1. says:

    How do you follow up a major success in life? It’s a uestion I seldom ask myself My last success was finishing the final two episodes of both The Night Of and Stranger Things in a single night while drinking a 9 handle of rum and avoiding the sidelong glances of my pregnant wife who is due any day That’s the kind of success you only follow up with divorce Barbara Tuchman certainly had to answer that uery In 1962 she published The Guns of August one of the most widely acclaimed works of history ever written It won the Pulitzer Prize It was a popular success It is said that Kennedy read it during the Cuban Missile Crisis So what do you do when your book has made you famous wealthy and also saved the world from nuclear war? How do you come up with an encore? In figurative terms you don’t The Guns of August is her masterpiece and it makes a pretty decent headliner for anyone’s obituary In literal terms well read on I know what I would've done If I’d been Tuchman I likely would have taken my Pulitzer to the beach and spent the rest of my days drinking cheap rum paid for with royalty checks Or I might have pumped out a seuel about the second month of World War I called The Guns of September Tuchman didn't do either of these things She didn't do anything really Instead of a fresh masterpiece Tuchman's next catalogue entry is the literary version of a sit com's clip show The Proud Tower the chronological follow up to The Guns of August is a collection of eight previously published essays written by Tuchman The only original writing is a three page Forward that tries to reverse engineer a thesis In terms of content I don’t think this is much of an issue for today’s reader I doubt many of us have seen the original articles elsewhere Certainly this is my first exposure to any of them This isn’t like picking up Lawrence Wright’s newest book and finding out it’s just his New Yorker articles which I read as they were originally printedIn terms of being a satisfying book though I’m not sure The Proud Tower entirely succeeds It is at the very least misleading as to its intentions The subtitle of The Proud Tower is A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890 1914 Right from the cover you are lead to believe this is a predecessor – in spirit if not in fact – to The Guns of August But it’s not The Guns of August focused intently on August 1914 and the opening weeks of the Great War The Proud Tower on the other hand is all over the place hopping skipping and jumping from one topic to the next It does not provide a portrait a holistic vision so much as it gives us an assortment of snapshots Moreover Tuchman’s interpretation of “world” is narrowly defined to mean – for the most part – Western Europe and the United States It’s the same bias Tuchman displayed in The Guns of August where she barely mentioned the Balkans despite the war having sprung from there Most importantly the shadow of World War I is hardly mentioned at all The topics in Tuchman’s eight essays – here they become chapters – feel randomly drawn She has two chapters on Great Britain both focusing on the shift of power away from the patricians embodied in the House of Lords and into the hands of the common people embodied by the Liberal alliance with Labour The first Great Britain chapter focuses on Lord Salisbury and gets a bit tedious The second chapter about the de fanging of the House of Lords is much brisker and alive with political maneuvering In “The Idea and the Deed” Tuchman provides a fascinating survey of the Anarchist movement Like Socialists Anarchists were looking to foment a revolution Unlike Socialists Anarchists being anarchists were against organization training discipline etc Instead they wanted to spark the revolution by spontaneous acts of violence Tuchman always had a keen eye for comparing historical movements from one time period to another She would have appreciated how familiar the Anarchist tactics feel today in light of modern terrorist tactics The chapter on America entitled “End of a Dream” points the spotlight on Thomas Reed a Maine Republican who served as a powerful Speaker of the House Reed tried to stop America from turnign into an imperial It was a struggle he lost following American successes and land acuisitions in the Spanish American War This was the moment America went from a proud non colonial power to an aggressively grasping empire that mimicked the old order of Europe Frankly I’d never heard of Reed so I appreciated Tuchman bringing her biographical gift to this man a turn of the century titan who has slipped somewhat into obscurity Tuchman’s essay on France centers on l’affaire Dreyfus The Dreyfus Affair began in 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus a French artillery officer was convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans The trial and conviction were seen by many rightly as a sham and motivated by Dreyfus’s Jewish heritage The affair dragged on until 1906 and became a cause célèbre On the one side you had the moral might of the government and military which held itself beyond reproach On the other you had celebrity activists such as Emile Zola who wrote the famous open letter J’accuse that pressured the government to reopen the case In “The Steady Drummer” Tuchman discusses the Hague Conferences in 1899 and 1907 The conventions that came out of these talks attempted to codify the conduct of warfare It touched on issues such as protection for civilians and their property and treatment of prisoners of war Despite a lot of foot dragging among the great powers who did not want other countries to constrain their abilities in time of war Tuchman presents the Hague Conferences as relative successes Indeed as she notes in one of her rare references to the looming Great War a third conference had been scheduled for 1914 It never occurred The oddest chapter is entitled “Neroism is in the Air” Here Tuchman goes on a rather lengthy tangent about Richard Strauss the German composer and conductor I’m not much of an opera guy which is to say I don’t care at all about operas Thus I was predisposed not to care much about this subject Even if I loved opera there’s only so much you can read about music before you just need to listen to it Tuchman concludes The Proud Tower with an article on Jean Jaures The French Jaures was an influential leader of the Socialist movement His murder on the eve of World War I ensured that the Socialist movement would support their respective countries’ march to war Without Jaures the Socialists became – at least for a minute – as ardent nationalists as any Freed from the threat of strikes or opposition the governments of the belligerent nations were free to do as they pleased Unfortunately they desired war As you can see there is no cohering element to these various chapters Accordingly there is an unevenness inherent to the proceedings Nothing connects one chapter to the next They don’t inform each other or build to a thesis statement Tuchman does not deliver any sort of final judgment on the world before the war Rather she is making a bunch of random observations Anarchists are violent Strauss composes excellent operasI liked The Proud Tower on the strength of its best essays Tuchman writes at her usual high level with erudition dry wit and perceptive characterizations However I couldn’t help but feel this book is of a placeholder in Tuchman’s canon than anything else Anyone picking this up in expectation of a preuel to her WWI classic will be disappointed Despite the alleged thematic similarities the two books are worlds apart The Guns of August is driven by a strong narrative The Proud Tower is a loose gathering of unrelated topical essays This book for all its ualities feels like a way to keep up a revenue stream while Tuchman labored on a real project If that’s the case it worked Her next book after The Proud Tower a biography on Vinegar Joe Stilwell also won the Pulitzer Prize Sandwiched between two critical successes The Proud Tower is a relative disappointment in Tuchman’s bibliography

  2. says:

    While from a proud tower in the townDeath looks gigantically down The City in the Sea – Poe This book is really a collection of essays published separately in various journals Any book tackling the social political and artistic situation of the world in the couple of decades before it entered its first global war could only offer a partial view These essays offer a series of selected aspects of this bellicose universe seen through shifting points of viewThere are considerable absences For example Russia and the Austro Hungarian and the Ottoman empires are not tackled Instead we get a focus on Britain France the German Empire and the United States There are additional chapters on Syndicalism Anarchism the institution of the Hague Conferences and on a German MusicianI have two favorite chapters I learned a great deal from the one devoted to the US in which Tuchman shows how after the annexation of the Territory of Hawaii the country turned into something different from the days when it was founded Fascinating was also the account of The Hague Conventions which tackled how if they fundamentally failed they also succeeded in starting a protocol that after some developments alleviated some aspects of brutality when humans decide to engage in war The least relevant of the chapters was the one dedicated to a German composer Entertaining in itself it seemed to grant disproportionate attention to Richard Strauss no matter how beautiful his music is And yet in spite of the merged nature of this collation of essays an overall picture emerges From the Proud Tower we can see that it was the social structure of society with its internal and extreme poles that pulled a greater and greater tension and finally made the inner strings snap But the view also offers the realization that if these social tensions were felt in parallel in the countries Tuchman has selected their logical international relevancy was poisoned by distorting nationalisms What could have been a series of revolutionary and coetaneous changes in domestic social pacts marched instead into a political war against other nations The book starts with the idiosyncrasies and uirks of the British Lords and finishes with the assassination of Jean Jaurès one of the founders of the French Socialist Party for being a pacifist A nationalist shot him fatally a couple of days after the war against Serbia had been declared and four days before the war became generalTuchman writes in a very engaging manner but to me it was at times too engaging I prefer a analytical and less journalistic approach The facts and arguments stay better in my mind

  3. says:

    The Proud Tower Barbara Tuchman's View of the World on the Road to WarChannel FiringBY THOMAS HARDYThat night your great guns unawaresShook all our coffins as we layAnd broke the chancel window suaresWe thought it was the Judgment dayAnd sat upright While drearisomeArose the howl of wakened houndsThe mouse let fall the altar crumbThe worms drew back into the moundsThe glebe cow drooled Till God called “No;It’s gunnery practice out at seaJust as before you went below;The world is as it used to be“All nations striving strong to makeRed war yet redder Mad as hattersThey do no for Christés sakeThan you who are helpless in such matters“That this is not the judgment hourFor some of them’s a blessed thingFor if it were they’d have to scourHell’s floor for so much threatening“Ha ha It will be warmer whenI blow the trumpet if indeedI ever do; for you are menAnd rest eternal sorely need”So down we lay again “I wonderWill the world ever saner be”Said one “than when He sent us underIn our indifferent century”And many a skeleton shook his head“Instead of preaching forty year”My neighbour Parson Thirdly said“I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer”Again the guns disturbed the hourRoaring their readiness to avengeAs far inland as Stourton TowerAnd Camelot and starlit StonehengeApril 1914 Satires of CircumstanceWe are about to embark on a great uest That is to explore a world at war Of course we speak of World War I which would come to be known as World War I It is not only that we seek to explore that world and war but to attempt to understand why it happened what brought it about Not only should we seek to understand what brought it about we must be aware that we seek to do all these things regarding a world that existed one hundred years ago that went to war in 1914 and did not return to a state of uneasy peace until 1918 And in attempting to understand what surprised the world as the greatest conflagration the world to that point had ever witnessed it becomes necessary to know what the world was like Who were the people who lived there How did they live what did they do Nor can we begin to understand the hellish waterspout that sucked so many nations into the depths of seas tinged with blood without understanding that it was not merely a world of politics or property but a world of art music dance and philosophy These are the conflicting aspects of culture that are inconsistent with the idea of war The attempt to put these seemingly impossible inconsistencies together can bring about a great distubance of the human spirit that a world capable of music as beautiful as The Rites of Spring clashing with the uivering chords rising into a crescendo of horns that might sound the trumpets of doom based on the writings of a man who died mad in an asylum but whose philosophy was adopted by a nation as its theme acknowledging the right the need of exerting its power over whole nations out of a sense of nationalist fervorSuch things are of the type that enter our dreams and become our nightmares as we sense the end of one world and the beginning of another It is as though we are walking as somnambulists in a world unknown to us For it is unknown to us We must be capable of forgetting unlearning the modern world of which we consider ourselves to be a partThis is a journey that reuires a guide Just as Aligheri reuired a guide into the Inferno we must have our own Virgil It is highly likely that we will find the need of a Beatrice for the war we will eventually explore was not a paradise but a Hell as fiery as the first book of The Human ComedyAs we speak of Virgil we must think of a world of epic stature that grew as great as Rome and fell just as surely as Rome In one way we are traveling through a world as ancient to us as we would consider a symbol of its literature the Aeneid In his journeys from the sacked city of Troy Aeneas met and fell in love with the ueen of the Carthaginians Dido And Virgil commented that a nation should be ruled by a woman to be so foreign to his people he had to document Dux femina facti which means the leader of the thing was a womanSo our guide is no Virgil Our guide is a woman Barbara Tuchman And as it once was once again Dux femina facitTo be continuedJanuary 30 2014 Our GuideBarbara Tuchman was born Barbara Wertheimer January 30 1912 the daughter of prominent banker Maurice Wertheimer Well that didn't take long Interrupted 252014

  4. says:

    Engaging history of white people from late 19th century to WWI Written by American journalist living in UK and published in 1966 book purports to be A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890 1914 which it ain't by a damn sight and works as a pretty good oil painting of the UK France Germany and the US with smatterings of Russia Spain and Italy thrown in for spice before they all started killing each other with gas and machine guns Author shows us the political social and artistic zeitgeisten of what we on this side of the pond call the Gilded Age giving them all eual emphasis she must have done hella research and doing a slow reveal on a time when ideas held such cultural currency that it was hard to tell the difference between what was actually political social and artistic What author sees in them days was boundless anticipation a sense of progress thousands of folks intoxicated by theory and oratory right before The Great War slapped a moratorium on that kinda Euro centric idealism for the foreseeable future All that social ferment yields a heady brew but pouring it down the drain of history ain't all bad In addition to exegeses on social progression book also gives us the image of Western Civilization as a trans Atlantic European boys club wrestling with humanist governance vs nationalist self preservation in the face of great change The line between crusading progressive and mustachioed blowhard gets a little blurry after awhile and it's hard to tell who the good guys are Still needing a slide rule to work out who the heroes were in the Dreyfus Affair France's multi tentacled meta nationalist trial of the century The impression I get is that this European generation was actually pretty jazzed about the war in which they would wind up exterminating themselves because a it had been a long time since the last war and b they had piles of cool new war things gas air machines rules see the Hague Conventions of 1899 1907 they wanted to try out Kaiser Wilhelm II just knew this war was gonna be awesomeClever trick author pulls by saving her socialism section for the end unwinding the tale of irascibly brilliant cadre men and women dedicating their significant mental resources to the liberation of the international worker; taking Marx's admonishment against nationhood to heart French German British and American intellectuals brainstorm for decades about the best way to improve the plight of the bottom strata of society Their rhetoric gets a little heavy even silly at times but when WWI cuts it short it's a drag When Kaiser Wilhelm declares war barking I know no groups only Germans the inverse of Marx's maxim the worker knows no fatherland we get ready to watch the Socialists march off to kill each other back on earth Author gives us the full brunt of nationalism's tragic victory over humanism We also get ready for serious men in ridiculous helmets blood muddy trenches evil looking gas masks the tropes of a new century's killing fields; an ugly absurd death for a shining absurd era Author knows how remote this period will seem to her readers in the 60s and it's from fucking Mars in 2008 by the way so she writes it all down with the kind of loving and amused distance we reserve at Christmas for kids who don't know about Santa Claus yet Author loves this time but I think she's glad she knows the truth

  5. says:

    It is understandable that many do not ‘get’ Tuchman’s The Proud Tower It is a collection of topics almost disparate stand alone essays which seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with each other As you finish each chapter and begin the next you are almost dumped into another country subject group of people—the world at large—wondering what this has to do with what you were just reading But Tuchman has a very specific purpose which she explains in the Afterword for once worth reading first Here is a brief selection from it ‘The proud tower built up through the great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion of riches and beauty and dark cellars Its inhabitants lived as compared to a later time with self reliance confidence hope; greater magnificence extravagance and elegance; careless ease gaiety pleasure in each other’s company and conversation injustice and hypocrisy misery and want sentiment including false sentiment less sufferance of mediocrity dignity in work delight in nature zest The Old World had much that has since been lost whatever may have been gained’ Even if you only read a few of the fascinating topics in this excellent book you will learn than from any other history book on this era The Patricians England 1895 1902; The Idea and the Deed Anarchists 1890 1914; The End of a Dream America 1890 1902; ‘Give me Combat’ France 1894 9;The Steady Drummer The Hague 1899 and 1907 There is MUCH she does NOT cover This is a book about the peoples living in the countries of the US Great Britain France Germany Austria Hungary with some mention of Russia then considered the ‘Western powers’ Anyone who wants to critiue this or any book on what is not there should not read that book Take each book for what IS there No person or book can be all things to all people and we should not expect them to be It is grossly unfair to expect a book especially one written years ago to come up to our standards Instead we should ask ourselves if we could meet their standards? I dare say we could not As the title says this is a portrait A portrait is a single two dimensional view of a subject It shows some but still leaves out much This is my second complete reading I have also reread several of the better chapters 3 and 4 times MOST highly recommendedJanuary 19 2019 Over the Christmas holidays we went as a family to see Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old and it brought back memories of our trip¹ to the WWI battlefield of Verdun when we lived in Europe So we decided that this and Ms Tuckman's other book The Guns of August would be our next listens¹My singular visit and my husband's several trips there May 26 2008 Folio Society sold this as part of a combined set with The Guns of August Read back in 2001 following GoA but should have read this first The Proud Tower gives the background for the social political artistic military movementsevents which occurred in a spiritually stagnant Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s precipitating the climate necessary for the bloodbath of WWI ExcellentAlthough not considered an 'historian' in the strict sense of the word Barbara Tuchman is accessible ie she writes readable histories for the average person

  6. says:

    The Proud Tower by Barbara W TuchmanJoy Hope Suspicion above all astonishment were the world's prevailing emotions when it learned on August 29 1898 that the young Czar of Russia Nicholas II had issued a call to the nations to join in a conference for the limitation of armaments all the capitals were taken by surprise That the call should come from the mighty and ever expanding power whom the other nations feared and who was still regarded despite its two hundreds years of European veneer as semi barbaric was cause for dazed wonderment liberally laced with distrust This book is a departure from Tuchman's popular histories The Proud Tower was written four years after her Pulitzer winner ‘Guns of August’ This volume of eight loosely connected chapters covers the changing world in the twenty five years leading up to the Great War The focus is on the larger nations England Germany France and to a lesser extent Russia and the United States This read has of a scholarly feel and provides a little less background than her well known histories The writing as expected is still uite good but there were some historical events that I was unfamiliar with I did resort to looking up a number of the historical figures using online resources to assist What follows is a brief synopsis of the eight chapters Chapter 1 covers the Patricians England from 1895 1902 There is a heavy focus on the enigmatic Lord Salisbury Robert Cecil who served as prime minister three different times and was a favorite of ueen Victoria He represented the old Victorian vanguard and was aptly dubbed a patrician or what we would call an imperialist today He served as Prime Minister through the Boer Wars a hard fought campaign and harbinger of the difficult times that lie ahead for Britain Lord Salisbury died a year later in 1903 and the Victorian era was coming to a close This was one of my favorite chapters The average member of the ruling class undisturbed by Lord Salisbury’s too thoughtful too prescient mind did not worry deeply about the future; the present was so delightful The Age of Privilege though assailed at many points and already cracking at some still seemed in the closing years of the Nineteenth Century and of Victoria’s reign a permanent condition To the privileged life appeared secure and comfortable and peace brooded over the land Chapter 2 covers the Anarchists from 1890 1914 From France to the United States to Spain to Italy to Russia there were a large number of assassinations and most of these crimes were committed by anarchists I like the premise of the chapter it was uite thin however An entire book could be written here Chapter 3 covers the United States from 1890 1902 and the death of Isolationism Most of this chapter is focused on Thomas B Reed the congressman from Maine and Speaker of the House Reed was a greatly respected political figure anti war proponent civil rights advocate and an isolationist He opposed the Spanish American war the annexation of Hawaii and the occupation of the Philippines and he later resigned from Congress in protest The era of American expansionism was well under way Military operations in the Philippines swelled in size and savagery Against the stubborn guerrilla warfare of the Filipinos the US Army poured in regiments brigades divisions until as many as 75000 were engaged in the islands at one time Filipinos burned ambushed raided mutilated; on occasion they buried prisoners alive Americans retaliated with atrocities of their own burning down a whole village and killing every inhabitant if an American soldier was found with his throat cut applying the “water cure” and other tortures to obtain information A raiding party which missed Aguinaldo but captured his young son made headlines Reed coming into his office that morning said in mock surprise to his law partner “What are you working today? I should think you would be celebrating I see by the papers that the American Army has captured the infant son of Aguinaldo and at last accounts was in hot pursuit of the mother” Chapter 4 covers France from 1894 1899 focusing heavily on the Dreyfus Affair Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French army and was falsely accused and convicted of passing secrets to the Germans There was strong anti Jewish sentiment in France and across Europe Emile Zola wrote his famous article J’Accuse and Dreyfus was given a second trial and Zola acted as an attorney for him after information pointed to a different officer as the one sending secrets to Germany Dreyfus was convicted at the second trial and Zola fled to England after a libel conviction Dreyfus was later pardoned by the French president This chapter focuses on this powderkeg of anti semitic feelings strong socialist and anti socialist sentiments in France Chapter 5 covers the two Peace Conferences at the Hague in 1899 and 1907 and the drumbeat of militarism The principal nations knew there were problems long before WW1 There were many expansionist and territorial conflicts between the powers in the Pacific and especially in Africa There was also the Naval arms race between Britain and Germany that contributed to the militarism Russia would have been of a factor in the Baltic but their astonishing defeat at the hands of the Japanese in the East left the government and military reeling Chapter 6 “Neroism is in the Air” covers the decadence of Europe largely focusing on Germany in the period of 1890 1914 There is heavy focus here on the art in Europe especially music and the works of many such as Strauss that veered heavily away from Victorian norms Germany was expanding rapidly than any other nation in Europe and Kaiser Wilhelm was promulgating his idea of Germany as the great nation and there was a lust for a new world orderStrauss completed the score of Elektra in September 1908 For the legendary drama set in 1500 BC he wanted everything to be exact and realistic insisting on real sheep and bulls for Clytemnestra’s sacrifice “Strauss are you mad?” howled the stage director in terror “Imagine the cost And the danger What will they do when your violent music begins?” Chapter 7 covers the transfer of power in England from 1902 1911 in the age of the people and the rise of David Lloyd George Chapter 8 the final chapter covers socialism and the assassination of Juares in the immediate days preceding WW1 This chapter focuses heavily on France and the attempts of many socialists to avoid war with Germany and the frustration of many conservative nationalists who were deeply distrustful of the Germans They correctly understood the Kaiser’s ambition to invade France and were concerned about repeating the disastrous Franco Prussian War some forty years earlier Jean Juares was an influential French socialist and widely respected journalist and leader with strong ties to other socialists in Europe He was gunned down by Raoul Villain a French nationalist on July 31st Even if Juares had not been assassinated there was little hope left to avoid war between Germany and France by that point Four stars This read is probably of interest to those who really like histories or exploring widely ranging historical topics whereas Tuchman’s other works like the Zimmerman Telegram and The Guns of August are generally appealing and tightly constructed narratives

  7. says:

    It is a thankless job to write a book about the origins of a widespread conflagration such as the First World War Where is one to draw the line? Where author Barbara Tuchman apparently drew it was the countries of Western Europe Britain France and Germany plus the United States But what about the view from St Petersburg or Vienna or even Istanbul? It is all well and good to talk about the rise of international socialism but what about all the energies released by the decay of the Ottoman Empire and the frustrated desires of the long suppressed peoples on the wrong side of the Adriatic? The Proud Tower A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890 1914 does not even bother to mention the First and Second Balkan Wars that took place in 1912 13 and radically altered the map of Europe She does not mention why Austria wanted to punish Serbia even though the assassinated Archduke Ferdinand was as fiercely unpopular in Vienna as he was in Belgrade and Sarajevo And what about Russia? Why was Nicholas II so eager to go to bat for Serbia? Still and all The Proud Tower is not only an essential book but verges on being a great one I can continue to cavil about what Tuchman does not cover but on the subjects she does cover she is fair to middling great Her chapters on the Dreyfus affair in France the anarchists of Europe on the rise and fall of the patrician politicians of England and the strangeness of Kaiser Wilhelm II's Germany are classicsThe title of the book comes from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe called The City in the SeaWhile from a proud tower in the townDeath looks gigantically downThis is the second time I've read The Proud Tower which remains the classical study of the long slow march to the War To End All Wars

  8. says:

    I simply love Tuchman’s writing style which tells stories around various figures and themes relevant to understanding the origins of the First World War Except in her introduction and final scene on the verge of mobilization of armies she avoids explicit reference to the war because of the power of the lens of hindsight to distort the accuracy of historical truth She leaves it to other accounts including her earlier book “The Guns of August” to elucidate the political evolution leading to the war the “Dual and Triple Alliances Moroccan crises and Balkan imbroglios” Such assessment by itself she believes “is misleading because it allows us to rest on the easy illusion that it is ‘they’ the naughty statesmen who are responsible for war while ‘we’ the innocent people are merely led” In her view “The diplomatic origins so called of the Great War are only the fever chart of the patient; they do not tell us what caused the fever” Her method instead is to “concentrate on society rather than the state” and her agenda is elouently stated in these two sentences The Great War of 1914 18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours In wiping out so many lives which would have been operative on the years that followed in destroying beliefs changing ideas and leaving incurable wounds of disillusion it created a physical as well as psychological gulf between two epochs This book is an attempt to discover the uality of the world from which the great World came With such a goal it is no wonder that I sometimes found myself missing a coherent focus My lazy self wanted someone wise to tell me what to think and present lessons learned from history Instead I came to appreciate how she breathes life into so many figures and lets their stories paint the big picture and like a novelist showing not telling what the narrative themes The book’s origin derives from a set of essays published in magazines and journals The chapters of her stew include 1 the status of the aristocracy in England 2 the evolution of the anarchist movement 3 America’s political struggles over its transition toward imperialism 4 the Dreyfus Affair in France 5 the attempt of the Hague peace conferences to establish as international court 6 the ferment of culture and the arts in Germany 7 the growth in power by the Liberal and Labor Parties in England 8 the evolution of socialism in France England and Germany A little bit of a sketch of these contents is derived from a 2009 Washington Post review by Jonathan Yardley is tucked away here view spoilerIn The Patricians she writes about an England in which the Age of Privilege though assailed at many points and already cracking at some still seemed in the closing years of the Nineteenth Century and of Victoria's reign a permanent condition The Idea and the Deed is about the Anarchists who were able to draw blueprints of a state of universal harmony only by ignoring the evidence of human behavior and the testimony of history End of a Dream is about the rise of the US Navy and America's turn toward imperialism In Give Me Combat she writes about the Dreyfus Affair in which a French officer was convicted of turning over secrets to Germany a wildly controversial case that reeked of anti SemitismIn The Steady Drummer her subject is the peace conferences of 1899 and 1907 at the Hague in which little than rhetorical progress was made toward the goal of a new international order in which nations would be willing to give up their freedom to fight in exchange for the security of law Neroism Is in the Air is about prewar German culture with particular emphasis on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the music of Richard Strauss In Transfer of Power she writes about the transfer of power in England not a mere political transfer from the in party to the outs but one profound to a new class And finally in The Death of Jaurès her focus is on the birth of socialism and with the murder of Jean Jaurès its great French leader the death of his conviction that man was good that society could be made good and the struggle to make it so was to be fought daily by available means and within present realities hide spoiler

  9. says:

    I remember this as an accessible account of the subject with nice vignettes like Lord Salisbury being scooted around his garden in his bath chair

  10. says:

    With this work Ms Tuchman reminds me that she is one of the greatest historians to write in the English language She admirably described those years that could very well have led to a previously unexperienced level of social enlightenment yet instead led to decades of previously unexperienced horrors Occasionally I think about what the air felt like in 1913 Berlin; what would my thoughts for the future have felt like then? What relevance if any does that have for my thoughts today? I was particularly interested in Ms Tuchman’s account of the origins of American imperialism the conseuences of which we experience magnified many times on many dimensions to this day the original debates and debaters regrettably mostly forgotten now shrouded from view through the haze of time leaving instead a seemingly stolid status uo as if things were always destined to be this way Ms Tuchman provided the best summary of these years in the final paragraphIts inhabitants lived as compared to a later time with self reliance confidence hope; greater magnificence extravagance and elegance; careless ease gaiety pleasure in each other’s company and conversation injustice and hypocrisy misery and want sentiment including false sentiment less sufferance of mediocrity dignity in work delight in nature zestWhile Ms Tuchman died several years ago her voice lives in this volume I’m mightily impressed with both her level of research and clarity of expression