August 31, 2014

The Guns of August

Barbara Tuchman author of 'The Guns of August' winner of 1963 Pulitzer Prize
As will soon become known the world over, The Den is a great champion of women...especially women who overcome adversity and/or obstacles, however she encounters them, and perseveres.  GSL is the grateful product of such women (at least 3 consecutive generations current research indicates) who will be respectfully introduced in the near future.

While The Den will be introducing great women over the coming weeks who are currently fighting the good fight, I thought it most appropriate to honor the late Barbara Tuchman today.  With Russian tanks and troops rolling into the Ukraine, the Islamic State broadcasting mass executions and vowing to bring mass bloodshed to the West, Israel and Palestine currently in a sharp uptick of their perpetual hostilities, China starting to aggressively assert itself militarily that alarms it's neighbors and the US, and of course North Korea, the failed state run by a lunatic, with nuclear weapons...it seemed only appropriate to reflect back exactly a century to August 1914 when an assassination of a relatively minor figure (Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria) in Sarajevo a few weeks prior (June 28, 1914) set the world ablaze and it's aftermath is still being dealt with 100 years later as the redrawing of the maps of Central & Eastern Europe and the Middle East virtually guaranteed another world war and perpetual conflict between Muslims of different sects and tribes in the region and also Muslims and the West.



Barbara Tuchman's book The Guns of August was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for 1963. It is a beautifully written work of popular history that has sold millions of copies and will never go out of print.  While professional historians give her very high marks on literary quality, they take issue with some of the finer points that she either didn't address or didn't present in proper context yet they still say she got most of the main points right from a macro level.  I have recently finished Catastrophe 1914 by Sir Max Hastings that gives a more in depth look into the causes of the Great War (WWI) and he praises Barbara Tuchman lavishly in the introduction as having a profound influence on him becoming a historian and studying the causes of WWI. President John F. Kennedy was a huge fan and cited 'The Guns...' as giving him more caution during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 when the US & Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war.

Barbara Tuchman is a woman we can all be inspired by.  She didn't let being a woman in a field dominated by men dissuade her, nor did she let her lack of academic credentials (she only had a Bachelor of Arts degree) give her pause, and The Guns of August was her first book which she published when she was 50 years old.  She won a 2nd Pulitzer for her biography on General Joseph Sitwell.

28 comments:

  1. I always appreciate posts that introduce me to an author I haven't previously read and will add this to my book list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Naomi, Tuchman opens the book with the funeral procession of Edward VII in May 1910 as "the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last". That scene is beautifully rendered and even more painful knowing what is to follow. Her book truly is history as great literature that few have ever matched and set a much higher bar for those that followed.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for introducing me to Ms. Tuchman. I am now heading off to order 'Guns' and I would love to find out more about her as well. Her first book at 50?-Well I feel as though I am already behind her because I am already at 40 (don't correct me) and it would take me more than a decade to write something publishable..

    I might never have heard of her otherwise.This is one of the many reasons why I love blogs and blogging

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're quite welcome my dear Bebe and in today's climate it is the victim-cloaking squeaky wheels that seem to get oiled with all the attention and those like the venerable Ms Tuchman who likely faced resistance in some form or another that get overlooked which I find unfortunate as I find the people who face life's challenges head-on and let the excellence of their work speak for itself as the very best role models. I had several similar fine examples up my matrilineal line.

      Delete
  3. Thanks! I am off to download this on my kindle. We have a lot to learn from 1914!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We sure do Wendy...and I'd like to put 'The Guns' on several world leader's nightstands.

      That opening chapter with the Edward VII funeral procession is as beautifully a written scene as you'll find in any great work of fiction...only more powerful as we know what soon follows.

      Delete
  4. This is one of MrBP's favourite books and I can't believe I haven't even read it yet, shame on me.
    What a lady, an intellect, a reasoning mind. The world is going to hell in a hand basket and we need all the help we can get... thanks for this well written post GSL, really lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dani, hearing 'The Guns' is among his favs only reinforces all the other favourable intel I've been receiving on MrBP. I think we need to get 'The Guns' on your nightstand once the dust (and your head) clears from the renos..

      Delete
  5. I love history and strong women so I'm going to order this at once. I'm so glad you have a blog platform now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jen, you'll love this book and, like me, gain a broader understanding of how The Great War unfolded and how easily a chain of events can spiral out of control which is right where we find ourselves exactly a century later.

      Delete
  6. This shall make the cut for 2014 reading list. I keep thinking I should read the Gold Finch but will continue to put it off until this book is read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh 'Gold Finch' certainly has been getting all the buzz with people feeling strongly one way or the other and very few in the middle...I'll also get around to seeing what all the fuss is about soon.

      BB, please do finish 'The Guns' prior to joining us at The Red Lion in early November if at all possible as it will make those cocktails in the gorgeous front room aka 'The Great War Room',that is an impressive repository of WWI literature and memorabilia (not to mention that our host and proprietor Colin whose grandfather was bayoneted at Gallipoli) all the more special.

      Delete
  7. Darling G,

    We had not heard of Barbara Tuchman but she sounds to be a very worthy woman to be championed by 'the Den'. We are most intrigued to know who may follow in her footsteps.

    As Tuchman clearly pointed out in her works, governments persist in courses of action which fly in the face of reason, are folly in the extreme and do not learn from the lessons of history. And, so life goes on.......why does man persist in making the same mistakes, we wonder?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I quite agree on your comments regarding governments but I do often wonder at what was the actual information the leaders were basing their information on, where it came from, who provided it, etc. and often the 'insider' who leaks, or retrospectively recounts, to the press a version of events is often trying to cover his own tracks or take down a rival and is often giving an inaccurate account and yet these fictions get viewed by reporters, those first draft writer's of history, as facts.

      Delete
    2. Darling G,

      Indeed, indeed. Now this is the stuff of which debate at the Den is made!

      Delete
  8. Agree with above, repeating mistakes. Cant wait to get back and order this book and she did it all at age 50!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew you were going to like her Jody!

      Delete
  9. Thank you for the introduction to Barbara Tuchman,G. Knowing of her and her Pulitzer's, I knew very little about her until this great post! I was off to order on Amazon when I mentioned this to Dr.G only to discover that we have had 'Guns' tucked away high on a shelf in the study! It is a fav of his! Shame on me for overlooking what is on our shelves! It has now been given a proper dusting and found the way to my bedside table! Now I am off to learn more about the strong,determined Ms. Tuchman!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dearest T, did I not say that Dr. G will see to your every need? I am not the least bit surprised that a descendent of a top aid to Ike would have this affectionately tucked away in his study..
      You're in for a treat T !

      Delete
    2. Yes, he tries and comes in very handy for reaching those high shelves;-)
      Dear G, you have it backwards...Ike was his grandfather's aide back in the day!

      Delete
    3. Oh yes that does make more sense chronologically and likely places us around the time of 'The Guns'.

      Delete
  10. I still do not seem to be able to comment---quite a few to other folks have disappeared, as well. Anyway---I'm enjoying this immensely.

    rachel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome Racheld! I'm glad you kept at it. I also know the frustration so now 'copy' before sending so merely have to 'paste' to resend.
      We are honored to have you join us as I saw a very interesting and beautifully written comment you recently made over at the charming Hattatts

      Delete
    2. The Den is having IT troubles today and had to 'paste' and resend that comment about 5 times to post and now I see that charming Hattatts have given you a warm welcome....they are always a few steps ahead of me....

      Delete
  11. Wow---I did something right at last.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Darling Rachel,

      You can do no wrong in our eyes and how simply wonderful to find you here! This is becoming quite the home from home!

      Delete
  12. G,
    Thank you for this intro. It sounds fascinating on many levels. I am going to march out to the bookstore tomorrow to find it. I love an actual paper book, don't you? I am always interested in strong women, and am already feeling inspired.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynthia, you'll love 'The Guns...' and books are the only thing I own (other than a few pics) that I care about and nothing beats holding one in your hand and sharing that special intimacy with the author.

      Delete