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“Books are the carriers of civilization...They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”
Barbara W. Tuchman
“Human beings of any age need to approve of themselves; the bad times in history come when they cannot.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.

[Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov. 1980), pp. 16-32]”
Barbara Tuchman
“War is the unfolding of miscalculations.”
Barbara Tuchman
“Learning from experience is a faculty almost never practiced”
Barbara Tuchman
“So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens - four dowager and three regnant - and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“When the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Books are ... companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of mind. Books are humanity in print.”
Barbara W Tuchman
“Honor wears different coats to different eyes.”
Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August
“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“In individuals as in nations, contentment is silent, which tends to unbalance the historical record.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Human beings, like plans, prove fallible in the presence of those ingredients that are missing in maneuvers - danger, death, and live ammunition.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“in the midst of war and crisis nothing is as clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“Books are humanity in print.”
Barbara W. Tuchman
“For belligerent purposes, the 14th century, like the 20th, commanded a technology more sophisticated than the mental and moral capacity that guided its use.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“When it comes to leaders we have, if anything, a superabundance—hundreds of Pied Pipers…ready and anxious to lead the population. They are scurrying around, collecting consensus, gathering as wide an acceptance as possible. But what they are not doing, very notably, is standing still and saying, ' This is what I believe. This I will do and that I will not do. This is my code of behavior and that is outside it. This is excellent and that is trash.' There is an abdication of moral leadership in the sense of a general unwillingness to state standards….Of all the ills that our poor…society is heir to, the focal one, it seems to me, from which so much of our uneasiness and confusion derive, is the absence of standards. We are too unsure of ourselves to assert them, to stick by them, if necessary in the case of persons who occupy positions of authority, to impose them. We seem to be afflicted by a widespread and eroding reluctance to take any stand on any values, moral, behavioral or esthetic.”
Barbara W. Tuchman
“Arguments can always be found to turn desire into policy.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“Theology being the work of males, original sin was traced to the female.”
Barbara Tuchman
“An event of great agony is bearable only in the belief that it will bring about a better world. When it does not, as in the aftermath of another vast calamity in 1914-18, disillusion is deep and moves on to self-doubt and self-disgust.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“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 more self-reliance, more confidence, more hope; greater magnificence, extravagance and elegance; more careless ease, more gaiety, more pleasure in each other's company and conversation, more injustice and hypocrisy, more misery and want, more sentiment including false sentiment, less sufferance of mediocrity, more dignity in work, more delight in nature, more zest. The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gained. Looking back on it from 1915, Emile Verhaeren, the Belgian Socialist poet, dedicated his pages, "With emotion, to the man I used to be.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914
“The writer's object should be to hold the reader's attention. I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning until the end. This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research.”
Barbara W. Tuchman
“Vainglory, however, no matter how much medieval Christianity insisted it was a sin, is a motor of mankind, no more eradicable than sex.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Of the two classes of Prussian officer, the bull-necked and the wasp-waisted, he belonged to the second. Monocled and effete in appearance, cold and distant in manner, he concentrated with such single-mindedness on his profession that when an aide, at the end of an all-night staff ride in East Prussia, pointed out to him the beauty of the river Pregel sparkling in the rising sun, the General gave a brief, hard look and replied, 'An unimportant obstacle.”
Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August
“No one is so sure of his premises as the man who knows too little.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam
“In a dependent relationship, the protégé can always control the protector by threatening to collapse.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam
“One constant among the elements of 1914—as of any era—was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
“the seven “liberal arts”: Grammar, the foundation of science; Logic, which differentiates the true from the false; Rhetoric, the source of law; Arithmetic, the foundation of order because “without numbers there is nothing”; Geometry, the science of measurement; Astronomy, the most noble of the sciences because it is connected with Divinity and Theology; and lastly Music.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening--on a lucky day--without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena. This has led me to formulate Tuchman's Law, as follows: "The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold" (or any figure the reader would care to supply).”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as "the most flagrant of all passions.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

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The Guns of August The Guns of August
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A Distant Mirror:  The Calamitous 14th Century A Distant Mirror
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The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 The Proud Tower
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The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam The March of Folly
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