Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Barbara W. Tuchman, author of the World War I masterpiece The Guns of August, grapples with her boldest subject. Current U.S. politics can be defined by what the historian referred to in her book “The March of Folly” as a “wooden-headedness” in. IN her latest book, Barbara W. Tuchman – the author of such . But any way one approaches ”The March of Folly,” it is unsatisfying, to say the.

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Book review — THE MARCH OF FOLLY By Barbara W. Tuchman

By clicking on “Submit” you agree that you have read and agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. At her worst, she can be barbqra and banal. An exercise in historical interpretation such as this, tracing a single idea through a set of examples, is structured toward her weaknesses; and they are only too apparent. Tuchman applies the concept of folly to historical “mistakes” with certain features barbaa common: The only way to account for such self-destructive policies, in Tuchman’s view, is to label them follies; but that, as she seems unaware, puts them beyond rational explanation.


Her three major examples are the aggressive actions of the Renaissance popes that resulted in the Reformation, Britain’s marxh of the American colonies, and the American debacle in Vietnam. The Trojan Horse episode serves as an introductory prototype.

One of Tuchman’s auxiliary categories is “wooden-headed,” which is what she calls the popes who resisted pleas for barbqra, stuck to their doomed ways, and otherwise lived debauched lives.

On the other hand, “Kennedy was no wooden head,” since he avoided making a decision on Vietnam; had he lived, he would presumably either have withdrawn from Vietnam or become another wooden head.

Disavowals notwithstanding, Tuchman cannot escape exercising hindsight. The appearance is inescapable that she has plumbed her cited sources not for their evocation of the mentality of an age but for some good quotes that support the contention of available alternatives. On the American Revolution, for example, her simple account of the Stamp Act and bxrbara debate on the colonies betrays no substantial knowledge follt the recent, careful reconstruction of the political understandings of the time.


While Tuchman’s gaze is squarely fixed on ministers in London trying to implement an unenforceable tax, the real dynamics of colonial rebellion were being played out in America.

THE MARCH OF FOLLY by Barbara W. Tuchman | Kirkus Reviews

If there was folly here it was the same as Tuchman’s, lying in the ignored political transformation across the ocean. None of the sections work as straight narrative: Unable to explain the courses of action taken, Tuchman cries folly.

That principle of historical interpretation is likely to satisfy very few. Please provide an email address.

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