16 March 2009

Barbara Tuchman and the craft of an historian

When I was much younger I read almost everything Barbara Tuchman wrote, from her biography of Stillman in China to The Guns of August. The one that in some ways has stuck with me the most, however, was The Proud Tower, an examination of the fondly remembered (by some) decades right before World War I. She examined the Belle Epoque dispassionately and showed that it was merely a time like any other time, except that this one was marching remorselessly towards its own destruction.

Today's Washington Post has a retrospective review of The Proud Tower. It includes some discussion of the craft of being an historian, which she clearly was. Well worth reading, just as the book is well worth rereading.

though I still must admit, even after having assigned it to classes, I have never managed to read all the way through A Distant Mirror: The Calmatous 14th Century.


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