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Practicing History: Selected Essays
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Practicing History: Selected Essays

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  478 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Celebrated for bringing a personal touch to history in her Pulitzer Prize–winning epic The Guns of August and other classic books, Barbara W. Tuchman reflects on world events and the historian’s craft in these perceptive, essential essays.
From thoughtful pieces on the historian’s role to striking insights into America’s past and present to trenchant observations on the i
ebook, 352 pages
Published July 13th 2011 by Random House (first published September 12th 1981)
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Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pastrami lovers
Shelves: own, historiography

I'm somewhat new to Tuchman, having read only The Guns of August and this 1981 compilation of essays and speeches ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s. By far the most interesting pieces are in the first section, "The Craft," where she discusses her habits of research and writing. Among her pointers: use primary sources only; and edit ruthlessly. Resist including some irresistible anecdote if it doesn't help or advance your narrative. The second section is titled "The Yield" - meaning what her cr
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Her 1981 book of essays. Most interesting to me were her Watergate-era thoughts on the Presidency: how it’s become too powerful, & too much for one person. The Bush years would have blown her mind. Thinking there’s an essay in there.
I died inside a little when I saw her quoted in Natl. Review (on Google). I suppose she’s well worth stealing, as Orwell said of Dickens.

“Don’t look up so much material,” [a newspaper editor] said. “You can turn out the job much faster if you don’t know too much
Evan Leach
Practicing History is a collection of 33 short essays by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman. I am a big fan of Tuchman’s work, which includes one of the most interesting nonfiction books I’ve ever read (A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century) and a true masterpiece (The Guns of August). This collection wasn’t quite as engrossing as her longer works, but there’s still a lot to like. The book is divided into three sections:

The Craft
The first third of the book consists of eight
Dec 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is divided into three parts: the "craft"--Tuchmann's guidelines for writing history; the "yield"--a collection of short historical pieces that are intended, I suppose, to demonstrate her guidelines; and "learning from history"--a collection of articles and speeches with lessons she has drawn from history.

Of the three sections, the first was the most valuable. Her full length books I think are some of the best examples I've come across of really excellent narrative history. It was helpf
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-other
I very much enjoyed this book. Tuchman is definitely from a different era, and writes about looking back to more refined language while grappling with issues of whether or not to include vulgarity if it's part of the character of an historical figure. She also writes with the racism that was common to her class and era; she ascribes motivations and worldviews to "the Oriental", for example. It's a bit jarring, but mostly fascinating as an artifact of that era.

The book is divided into essays and
Erik Graff
Oct 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians, Tuchman fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Rich Hyde introduced me to Tuchman via her WWI books, The Proud Tower and The Guns of August, during high school. Since then I've kept an eye out for her work, buying such titles as I have found and reading them with varying degrees of profit. Some, such as her book on the 14th century, were a bit beyond me at the time and not very profitable. All, however, have been enjoyable.

This collection, arranged and explained by herself, covers the range of Tuchman's work, everything from historiography t
James Eckman
The first portion of the book is about the author's philosophy and methods for writing popular narrative histories. It's well worth a read by anyone who has any interest in the subject. The rest of the book is assorted articles, All are at least 40+ years old and didn't age well and in the light of hindsight didn't come true. Tuchman was a product of the earlier 20th century and died before the end of the Cold War, this is one of the reasons that some of these articles seem so pessimistic.
Aug 16, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the fun parts of Goodread is finding books that I have not read by authors I like..or in this case love. If you are not a historian and wonder what all the fuss about the subject it, I suggest you read one of her books. If you are a historian than by all means read all of her books and find out how to write about the subject.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
They say you should never meet your heroes. Also, you probably should never read essays by your favorite historian - at least if you care to maintain your high opinion of their insight.

This was a disillusioning read, primarily because it so clearly reveals the author’s previously-hidden biases: Eurocentric, fervently pro-Israel to the point of Arabophobia, socially conservative to the point of clueless prudishness. None of it should be surprising, I guess, for someone born in 1912, but the unde
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-general
Barbara Tuchman was one of our great historians. Her writing would cut against the current grain of academia in that she recognized the value of Western as opposed to alternative values. She was also very much a fan of Israel.

The book frankly dragged in a few places which is why I rated it three stars. But the book is well worth reading. I personally read it in stages, in one case picking up a book she recommended in one of the included essays, Justice in Jerusalem, about the Eichmann trial.
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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner. She became best known for The Guns of August (1962), a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.

As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copie
More about Barbara W. Tuchman...
“I will only mention that the independent power of words to affect the writing of history is a thing to be watched out for. They have an almost frightening autonomous power to produce in the mind of the reader an image or idea that was not in the mind of the writer. Obviously they operate this way in all forms of writing, but history is particularly sensitive because one has a duty to be accurate, and careless use of words can leave a false impression one had not intended.” 2 likes
“Any person who considers himself, and intends to remain, a member of Western society inherits the Western past from Athens and Jerusalem to Runnymede and Valley Forge, as well as to Watts and Chicago of August 1968. He may ignore it or deny it, but that does not alter the fact. The past sits back and smiles and knows it owns him anyway.” 2 likes
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