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A Distant Mirror:  The Calamitous 14th Century A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman
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A Distant Mirror Quotes (showing 1-30 of 124)
“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
“When the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“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
“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
“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
“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
“The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“History was finite and contained within comprehensible limits. It began with the Creation and was scheduled to end in a not indefinitely remote future with the Second Coming, which was the hope of afflicted mankind, followed by the Day of Judgment. Within that span, man was not subject to social or moral progress because his goal was the next world, not betterment in this. In this world he was assigned to ceaseless struggle against himself in which he might attain individual progress and even victory, but collective betterment would only come in the final union with God.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“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
“[T]he obverse of facile emotion in the 14th century was a general insensitivity to the spectacle of pain and death.”
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
“The textile industry was the automobile industry of the Middle Ages,”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“If there have been mute inglorious Miltons in rural villages, presumably there have been unrealized Washingtons born in unpropitious times.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“The origin of war, according to its 14th century codifier Honoré Bonet, lay in Lucifer’s war against God,”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“One by one, members of the Commons, speaking in turn at a lectern in the center of the chamber, added their charges and complaints. The King’s councillors, they said, had grown rich at the cost of impoverishing the nation; they had deceived the King and wasted his revenues, causing the repeated demands for fresh subsidies. The people were too poor and feeble to endure further taxation. Let Parliament discuss instead how the King might maintain the war out of his own resources.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“So lethal was the disease that cases were known of persons going to bed well and dying before they woke, of doctors catching the illness at a bedside and dying before the patient.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“the symbolism of the Garter, a circlet to bind the Knight-Companions mutually, and all of them jointly to the King as head of the Order.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Marco Polo dictated his Travels in French,”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Can the military art be learned in the games and hunts in which you pass your youth?” The”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“principle, formulated for the occasion, that “a woman does not succeed to the throne of France.” Thus was born the momentous Salic “Law” that was to create a permanent bar to the succession of women where none had existed before.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Contradictory conditions are always present. Evidence”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“History never repeats itself,” said Voltaire; “man always does.” Thucydides,”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“What proportion of the peasantry was well off and what poor is judged by what they bequeathed, and since the poorest had nothing to leave, they remain mute. For no other class is that famous goal of the historian, wie es wirklich war (how it really was), so elusive.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“A reformer exhorted children that they would succeed where he and his colleagues had failed with the charge: "Live for that better day.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Fear of God is thrown away,” lamented Brigitta in Rome, “and in its place is a bottomless bag of money.” All the Ten Commandments, she said, had been reduced to one: “Bring hither the money.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“To admit error and cut losses is rare among individuals, unknown among states. States function only in terms of what those in control perceive as power or personal ambition, and both of these wear blinkers.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Once people envisioned the possibility of change in a fixed order, the end of an age of submission came in sight; the turn to individual conscience lay ahead. To that extent the Black Death may have been the unrecognized beginning of modern man.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“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. In creating a climate for pessimism, the Black Death was the equivalent of the First World War, although it took fifty years for the psychological effects to develop.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“also usually employed one or more resident physicians, barbers, priests, painters, musicians, minstrels, secretaries and copyists, an astrologer, a jester, and a dwarf, besides pages and squires.”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
“Not a passing phenomenon nor an external force, the companies had become a way of life, a part of society itself, used and joined by its rulers even as they struggled to throw them off. They ate at society from within like Erysichthon, the “tearer up of earth,” who, having destroyed the trees in the sacred grove of Demeter, was cursed by the goddess with an insatiable appetite and finally devoured himself attempting to satisfy his hunger. Discipline”
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

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