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The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914

The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890-1914 - Barbara W. Tuchman I've been punching out the four stars lately, but in justification, if the book is a two I usually just let it gather some dust. Even the threes take longer to finish and then I usually find some excuse to delay the write up. Fours I can consume like potato chips.... Munch munch munch. Supposedly reading is good for you, but after three hundred books this year, non fiction even, I know even less and less.

Tuchman is famous for "guns of august" which probably established the concept of the popular history work. Putting style above research, the result is accessible rather than groundbreaking. Here in Proud Tower Tuchman buys into the idea of "Germans as bullies", but otherwise accurately portrays the myth of the belle époque. I write "myth" because of course the world in 1890-1914 was composed of millions of unprotected workers, rather than the two hundred people at Le jardin de Luxembourg . Still there is the sense that great catastrophe awaits as well as efforts to avert the crisis.

To some degree, this work is marred by an over-emphasis on Tuchman's specific concerns. Suffragism gets extensive treatment, as does an acid dissection of France's handling of the Dreyfus affair, but the world shaking victory of Japan over Russia in 1905, less than twenty years after feudal Japan was opened to the West by Peary, sees little mention. Further, other historians have done better coverage of the incipient decline of the great English aristocracy, and Dadism seems less examined than it might have been, also Tuchman does cover some aspects.

Overall, a fine essay and examination of a world on the brink.