|Barbara W. Tuchman (center), William Shirer (left), and John Eisenhower at the Conference on Research and World War II and the National Archives, June 14-15, 1971. (Source)|
I think she influenced my love of history more than any other person as a young fellow growing up. (The two chaps in the picture with her were pretty good historians in their own right. Mr. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich sparked an interest in World War II which stays with me to this day. Mr. Eisenhower's book The Bitter Woods sparked an interest in the Battle of the Bulge. I devour books on that topic thanks to his work.)
The reunion I mention above was caused by my finding a copy of her book A Distant Mirror. It has been years since I've read that book and finding it on the free book rack at work was a plus (I believe that I've mentioned before how frugal I am). It's a little battered and bruised, but the brilliance of the lady I like to call "my favorite historian" shines through on every page.
Once again I am struck how everything old is new again. The problems we have today, while bad, sometimes pale in comparison to what our ancestors survived. It doesn't trivialize today's problems, not at all, but it helps to put things in perspective.
I was also fortunate to find an interview done with Mrs. Tuchman not long before her death. While I don't agree with all of the opinions expressed in the interview, she still impressed me with her wisdom and the depth of her knowledge.
Barbara Tuchman was one of America's best-known historians. An advocate of the notion that it's worth knowing where we've been, she's looks at the changes in America since the days of Washington, Adams and Jefferson.You can watch the interview here (nope, I couldn't figure out how to embed the video). Nearly 25 minutes long but well worth your time.
At the root of our contemporary predicament, she concluded before her death in 1989, was the absence of a sense of honor. Tuchman twice won the Pulitzer Prize. Her last book, THE FIRST SALUTE*, explores the American Revolution.
As the French are wont to say, "plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose..."**
I wouldn't disagree.
* I read this book as well, brilliant.
** The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Editor's Note: The Wikipedia article on Mrs. Tuchman is very good.