Joe's Reviews > The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914

The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman
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May 30, 11

bookshelves: history
Read in May, 2011

Here is one more example of the fine legacy of very readable histories that Barbara Tuchman left us. It features her talent for making historical periods that might seem somewhat obscure to the average non-history buff both interesting and emotionally engaging. She's a fine author to perk the interest of any reader, including the one's who had trouble staying awake during History 101.

Structurally speaking, it is less a single book than eight topical articles under a single cover. Each chapter is a stand-alone account of some aspect of what we in America call The Guilded Age, the energetic and rather confused society brought to a crashing close by World War I. It's an ere that left us a lot of romantic myths (and some myths not so romantic), but as Tuchman points out in her introduction any society that could bring about the bloodbath that followed was not a golden age.

I highly recommend this book to any former history student looking for some clarification on the bizarre mess that was the Dreyfus Affair, or had trouble understanding what the Anarchist movement was all about. Or, for we Americans, how European societies could willingly hold on to so many outdated notions of aristocrtic deference into the 20th Century.

Actually, Tuchman's account of the Dreyfus Affair is eerily reminiscent of our current "birther" movement in both its prejudice and its irrationality. But then is it not often the case that lessons from the past have an application in the present?
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