Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Friday, January 30, 2015

Barbara Tuchman, Pulitzer-Winning Historian

Barbara Tuchman (born 30 January 1912)

Historian Barbara Tuchman won the Pulitzer prize twice, first for The Guns of August (1963), which focussed on the first month of World War I, and then again in 1972 for Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–45. Given the centenary of the first world war, The Guns of August is a timely read. And, in our current time of ongoing, endless war-making, you might consider The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984), recently reissued in a new paperback edition.

Barbara Tuchman in 1984
My favorite Tuchman history remains A Distant Mirror: Life in the Calamitous Fourteenth Century (1978). The central metaphor, of the mirror, is the way Tuchman develops her argument that the wars, plagues, climate upsets, religious conflicts, and social tensions of the late fourteenth century are reflected in those of the late twentieth (or the early twenty-first, for that matter).

If you are a reader of medieval and Renaissance historical fiction, you will love Tuchman's book (the paperback edition won the National Book Award for History in 1980)--Tuchman is not writing a scholarly history for academic readers. She writes to be read widely and enjoyed—without sacrificing thorough knowledge and careful research.

Tuchman died in 1989.