Ann Mcelligott'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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's review
Jul 23, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: history, non-fiction
Read in July, 2012

A fascinating picture of the world prior to World War I. Each chapter is a vignette exploring a particular era, a political movement or a country. It begins by examining the governing aristocracy in England and then jumps to a portrait of the anarchy movement throughout Europe and the US. Most fascinating to me was the detailed examination of the Dreyfus affair in France which divided French citizens and paralyzed the government and the country. This event in history is well known by title, but here is the story of all its details. The other chapter that fascinated me was about Germany examined through a study of music, most specifically Richard Strauss and his connection of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The final chapter studies the growth of socialism across Europe and the struggle between commitment to an international movement and the pressure of nationalism. While the book does not directly address the rising militarism in Western Europe, it does provide a portrait of the dramatic forces leading to the outbreak of violence in 1914. Tuchman is a wonderful historian and gives us very detailed and still highly readable accounts of crucial ages or events in history. I shall continue to read her works with great enjoyment.
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Jeff I also thought the analysis of Germany via its musical history was fascinating, but at the same time unbalanced. Tuchman only mentioned peripherally the German population explosion and Germany's economic growth, which took it from a quasi medieval hodge lodge of small agricultural estates in 1830 to a modern world power that as technologically advanced as any other nation by 1880. Those 50 years were almost as dramatic as Japan's traumatic experience at approximately the same time and had similar results.

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