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bear by san

March 2017

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fight the break of dawn

46. Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August

Tuchman's still a genius. This is four hundred pages of detailed exegesis of the first month of WWI, complete with snark, personlity profiles, and a healthy dose of mid-twentieth-century cultural baggage. It includes sentences like, "This was not necessarily a deliberate attempt to be offensive; it was normal for General Staff officers to be offensive."

It's a brilliant book, and it proves to me again that I find military history right up there with watching paint dry.

I did get lots of ideas for miserable things to do to cavalry, though.

Comments

lots of ideas for miserable things to do to cavalry

you and Custer!

I think that Tuchman is brilliant.
Is that the book where the german general dies while wearing a tutu, and the other officers panic because they never, like, saw a dead body before, and the story got out?
When I re-read GoA and The Zimmerman Telegram earlier this year I don't recall seeing that anecdote so perhaps it's from another book.

Tuchman is indeed pure genius and it is astonishing how current events are still being shaped by that long-ago August (the chapter on the "Goeben" alone shows this - Germany forcing the Ottomans' decision to enter the war and thus directly affecting the subsequent fate of the Middle East). As she says, there has been no escape since then. All this and more because of "some damned fool thing in the Balkans". It's like a cold spash of water to the mind to realize on what pivots events turns.
Then it was "The Proud Tower". I know it was Tuchman
I don't recall the story....
It's from The Proud Tower, also an excellent book. It appears to be the leftover research that didn't get into The Guns of August. Strong cultural flavor of Europe in the waning years of the 19th Century and the first years of the 20th. Highly recommended.

Tuchman at her best has the ability to spin up a world and its atmosphere in very few words.
I recently read a history of Turkey, from which I got this: No Gallipoli, no Atatürk. No Atatürk, no modern Turkey.

(I also read GoA this summer, and it was so brilliantly awesome I had to buy it. One problem: the paperback reprint has really crappy copies of the maps, which are what I friggin wanted.)
lots of ideas for miserable things to do to cavalry, though

Serves them right for showing up late, really.
Her A Distant Mirror has always been my favorite, though whether that's because I'm more comfortable in the world of the 14th century or for some other reason, I couldn't say.
That book is awesome.