Andrew'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
Oct 11, 2007

Read in February, 2008

Things I've read around noon, 15 November pp. 239-246:

"The last proposed agreement on the principle of arbitration and the working out of procedures. Topics 2, 3, and 4 dealt with prohibition or restriction of new types of weapons and predicted means of warfare, such as submarines, asphyxiating gases and 'the launching of projectiles from balloons' for which no specific verb existed.

[. . .]

The Foreign Minister was Count Bernhard von Bulow, an elegant gentleman of extreme suavity and self-assurance and a manner so well oiled that in conversation and correspondence he seemed always to be rubbing his hands like a rug merchant. He used to scribble notes on his shirt cuffs for fear of forgetting the least of His Majesty's wishes. In an effort to catch the effortless parliamentary manner of Balfour he practiced holding onto his coat lapels before the bathroom mirror, coached by an attache from the Foreign Office. 'Watch,' murmered a knowing observer in the Reichstag when Bulow rose to speak, 'here comes the business with the lapels.'

Behind Bulow in control of foreign policy was the invisible Holstein who in the manner of Byzantine courts exercised power without national office. He regarded all diplomacy as conspiracy, all overtures of foreign office as containing a concealed trick, and conducted foreign relations on the premise of everyone's animosity for Germany.

[. . .]

People of Bedford, Rotherhood Residents, or Public Meeting at Bath, Committees of the Liberal Party. All Nonconformists sects were represented: Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Christian Endeavor, Welsh Nonconformists, Irish Evangelicals [. . .] Bible associations, adult schools, women's schools, the National British Women's Temperance Association, the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the west of Scotland Peace and Arbitration Assoc., the Humanitarian League, the Oxford Women's Liberal Association, the General Board of Protestant Dissenters, the Mayor of Leicester, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the Town Clerk of Poole. [. . .]"

All of which is, at least, second to what I read a few weeks ago on the train:

"The most prominent among the new Anarchist leaders was Prince Peter Kropotkin, by birth an aristocrat, by profession a geographer, and by conviction a revolutionist. His sensational escape after two years' imprisonment from the grim fortress of Peter and Paul in 1876 had endowed him with a heroic aura, kept bright afterwards during his years of exile in Switzerland, France, and England by unrepentent and unremitting preaching in the cause of revolt. [. . .] He was born in 1842. After service as an officer of Cossacks in Siberia, where he studied the geography of the region, he became Secretary of the Geographical Society, for whom he explored the glaciers of Finland and Sweden in 1871. Meanwhile he had become a member of a secret revolutionary committee, and on this being discovered, his arrest and imprisonment followed. After his escape in 1876 - the year Bakunin died - he went to Switzerland, where he worked with Elisee Reclus, the French geographer and a fellow Anarchist, on Reclus' monumental geography of the world. Kropotkin wrote the volume on Siberia and, with Reclus, founded and for three years edited Le Revolte, which, after suppression and a rebirth in Paris as La Revolte, was to become the best-known and longest-lived Anarchist journal. His stream of convincing and passionate polemics, the prestige of his escape from the most dreaded Russian prison, his active work with the Swiss Anarchists of the Jura - which caused his expulsion from Switzerland - all topped by his title of Prince, made him Bakunin's recognized successor."
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