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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
Born January 30, 1912(1912-01-30)
New York City
Died February 6, 1989 (aged 77)
Greenwich, Connecticut
Occupation writer, journalist, historian
Nationality United States American
Period Middle Ages, Renaissance, 1900
Genres historical
Spouse(s) Dr Lester R. Tuchman
Children Three daughters
Relative(s) Maurice Wertheim (father), Henry Morgenthau Sr. (maternal grandfather), Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (maternal uncle), Robert M. Morgenthau (cousin)

Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (January 30, 1912 – February 6, 1989) was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for her top-selling book The Guns of August, a history of the prelude and first month of World War I which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

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 copies.

Contents

Background

Tuchman was the daughter of the banker Maurice Wertheim, the first cousin of NY district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau and granddaughter of Henry Morgenthau Sr., Woodrow Wilson's Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She received her BA from Radcliffe College in 1933.

She married Lester R. Tuchman (b. 1904, d. 1997), an internist, medical researcher and professor of clinical medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in 1939; they had three daughters.[1]

From 1934 to 1935 she worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Pacific Relations in New York and Tokyo, and then began a career as a journalist before turning to books. Tuchman was the editorial assistant of The Nation and an American correspondent of the New Statesman in London, with Far East News Desk and Office of War Information (1934-45).

Tuchman was a trustee of Radcliffe College and a lecturer at Harvard University, University of California, and the U.S. Naval War College. A tower of Currier House, a Harvard College residential dormitory, was named in her honor.

Tuchman's Law

The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold. 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.[2]

Awards

She twice won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, first for The Guns of August and again for Stilwell and the American Experience in China. In 1980 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Tuchman for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Tuchman's lecture was entitled "Mankind's Better Moments."[3]

List of works

  • The Lost British Policy: Britain and Spain since 1700. A book about British policy in Spain and the western Mediterranean, 1938.
  • Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour: a book about English involvement in Israel over the centuries, 1956.
  • The Zimmermann Telegram: The Zimmermann telegram in early 1917 was a key incident involving Germany and Mexico that helped provoke the USA into entering World War I, 1958
  • The Guns of August details the military decisions and actions that occurred leading up to and during the first month of World War I. The book that established her reputation. John F. Kennedy advised the ExComm to read this book during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 1962. Reprinted several times in the 1980s as August 1914.
  • The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914. Covers the hesitant rise of U.S. imperialism, anarchist assassinations, socialism and communism and the devolution of the 19th century order in Europe and North America, 1966.
  • Stilwell and the American Experience in China: a biography of Joseph Stilwell, 1970.
  • Notes from China, a Trip to China, 1972.
  • A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, a comparison and contrast between 14th century and modern Europe. 1978
  • Practicing History: Selected essays on historical writing, political ambition, and the importance of reading history. Original essays published between 1935 and 1981. Book published 1981.
  • The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam: A meditation on the historical recurrence of governments pursuing policies evidently contrary to their own interests. Focuses on Troy, the Renaissance Popes provoking Protestantism, the British losing their American colonies, and the United States in Vietnam. 1984
  • The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution. 1988 (The title "The First Salute" refers to the famous St. Eustatius "flag incident" of 16. Nov. 1778.)

References

  1. ^ New York Times: Lester Tuchman is dead at 93
  2. ^ Tuchman, Barbara A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century Alfred A. Knopf New York 1978 ISBN 0394400267
  3. ^ Jefferson Lecturers at NEH Website (retrieved January 22, 2009).

External links

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