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T.H. Breen, 10 May 1990

The First Salute 
by Barbara Tuchman.
Joseph, 347 pp., £15.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3142 8
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Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism 
by Patrice Higonnet.
Harvard, 317 pp., £19.95, December 1988, 0 674 80982 3
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Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America 
by Edmund Morgan.
Norton, 318 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 393 02505 5
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... Revolutions,’ Barbara Tuchman writes, ‘produce other men, not new men. Half-way “between truth and endless error” the mould of the species is permanent. That is the earth’s burden.’ Edmund Morgan and Patrice Higonnet are less pessimistic. They see the great ideological transformations of the 18th century as a continuing challenge ...

Educating Georgie

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1984

Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 462 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 340 24465 8
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... According to Barbara Tuchman, quoted on the jacket, there is ‘a startling royal family scandal buried at the heart’ of this biography of Queen Mary. What steaming titbit can her fellow American, Anne Edwards, biographer of film stars, have turned up at this late hour? Can it really be that rather overworked rumour that identifies Prince Eddy, the Queen’s first fiancé, as Jack the Ripper? Indeed it can ...

World’s End

Robert Wohl, 21 May 1981

August 1914 The Proud Tower 
by Barbara Tuchman.
Papermac, 499 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 333 30516 7
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... How good is Barbara Tuchman’s history? In one respect, the question is irrelevant because her readers have already answered it by purchasing hundreds of thousands of copies of her books. This fact alone might tempt the ‘serious’ student of history to dismiss her. But leaving aside her two Pulitzer prizes and her mountain of admiring reviews – many by distinguished and indisputably serious historians – Tuchman is not so easily dismissed ...


Frances Donaldson, 16 October 1980

Dear Old Blighty 
by E.S. Turner.
Joseph, 288 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 7181 1879 0
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... would be so unbearable that death is to be preferred. Hence the atrocity stories. Mr Turner, like Barbara Tuchman and others, makes it plain that the German atrocities were not all inventions, but many were. There is the letter from Nurse Hume in Belgium, quoted by most writers on the subject: Dear Kale, this is to say goodbye. Have not long to ...

The First Calamity

Christopher Clark: July, 1914, 29 August 2013

The War That Ended Peace 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Profile, 656 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 1 84668 272 8
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July 1914: Countdown to War 
by Sean McMeekin.
Icon, 461 pp., £25, July 2013, 978 1 84831 593 8
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... to reach a wide readership. ‘A phenomenon of such extended malignance as the Great War,’ Barbara Tuchman wrote in The Proud Tower (1966), ‘does not come out of a golden age.’ Two recent studies of the prewar world, Florian Illies’s whimsical kaleidoscopic bestseller, 1913, and Charles Emmerson’s magnificent global study, 1913: The World ...

Departure and Arrival Times

Sheldon Rothblatt, 18 August 1983

The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... biography since the death of Trevelyan’ (he means Churchill, C.V. Wedgwood, the Pakenhams and Barbara Tuchman). And in this mood he goes on to identify the leading issue facing the historical profession today as ‘the real divide’ which ‘is still between the popular and the academic historian, between the artist and the scientist’. This ...

Von Hötzendorff’s Desire

Margaret MacMillan: The First World War, 2 December 2004

Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy 
by David Stevenson.
Basic Books, 564 pp., £26.50, June 2004, 0 465 08184 3
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... a guide to the historiography. I suspect they will also find it heavy going. It is short on what Barbara Tuchman called the ‘corroborative detail’, the one which makes history come alive. What was it like to be in the trenches? In five brief pages in his recent short history, Strachan makes the experience horribly real. The cataclysm of ...

Leo’s Silences

Robert Irwin: The travels of Leo Africanus, 8 February 2007

Trickster Travels: A 16th-Century Muslim between Worlds 
by Natalie Zemon Davis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... and Europe, each continent in turn raised as a mirror to the other. In A Distant Mirror (1978), Barbara Tuchman did something similar, using the career of the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy to shed light on the history of Western Europe in the 14th century. But we know about Enguerrand de Coucy from Froissart and other sources. Leo, by ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... watch Hitchens slash merrily away at figures who are conventionally exempt from tough criticism. Barbara Tuchman, ‘a contented liberal’, is assailed for her appalling prose and the crass obviousness of many of her judgments and then pityingly dismissed as ‘the doyenne of the middlebrow American talk circuit’. He is even tougher on the Kennedy ...


Ian Gilmour and David Gilmour, 7 February 1985

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict 
by Joan Peters.
Joseph, 601 pp., £15, February 1985, 0 7181 2528 2
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... terms of the debate’. More important, these large claims have been enthusiastically endorsed by Barbara Tuchman, Saul Bellow, Lucy Dawidowicz, Arthur Goldberg and many others, and by sundry American newspapers and periodicals, including the Washington Post, Commentary and the New Republic. On the other hand, Norman Finkelstein has described the book as ...

Between Worlds

Edward Said: A memoir, 7 May 1998

... of a history as everyone around me celebrated Israel’s victory, its terrible swift sword, as Barbara Tuchman grandly put it, at the expense of the original inhabitants of Palestine, who now found themselves forced over and over again to prove that they had once existed. ‘There are no Palestinians,’ said Golda Meir in 1969, and that set me, and ...

Some Damn Foolish Thing

Thomas Laqueur: Wrong Turn in Sarajevo, 5 December 2013

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 
by Christopher Clark.
Allen Lane, 697 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 0 7139 9942 6
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... Fifty years ago, Barbara Tuchman’s bestseller The Guns of August taught a generation of Americans about the origins of the First World War: the war, she wrote, was unnecessary, meaningless and stupid, begun by overwhelmed, misguided and occasionally mendacious statesmen and diplomats who stumbled into a catastrophe whose horrors they couldn’t begin to imagine – ‘home before the leaves fall,’ they thought ...

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