Creator / Barbara Tuchman

Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (January 30, 1912 February 6, 1989) was a well-known American historian. She won two Pulitzer Prizes for The Guns of August and Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945. She specialized mainly in military and diplomatic history, particularly the events surrounding World War I. Her books have enjoyed broad appeal, and her books, especially The March of Folly, The Guns of August and The Zimmermann Telegram contain so many real life tropes, mostly of the idiotic kind, that sorting them out requires a study of its own.

In a way, her writing indirectly saved the world in the Cold War, as President John F. Kennedy was an avid reader of The Guns of August and was determined to not to make the same blunders European leaders did at the start of World War I, which probably helped him resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis peacefully. The Guns of August was adapted into a feature documentary, and one of her essays ("Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead") inspired John Milius to write and direct The Wind and the Lion.

Associated Tropes:

  • End of an Age: Tuchman began her most famous work, The Guns of August, with a recounting of the funeral of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1910. The chapter describes the many heads of state and European royal families that marched in the funeral procession, and how all those royal dynasties would be destroyed by the war that was right around the corner. Her follow-up, The Proud Tower, explores prewar Europe in greater detail and depicts it as a Crapsaccharine World with political tumult and international tensions simmering beneath a tranquil surface.
    • Tuchman's book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century deals with a similar theme: namely, the tumult of The Late Middle Ages in Europe and the decline of the medieval era.
  • Idiot Ball / Nice Job Fixing It, Villain! / Too Dumb to Live: As noted above, Tuchman's books often stressed great mistakes made by world leaders, and in fact that was the central theme of The March of Folly, but the Zimmermann Telegram might be the biggest Epic Fail in the history of diplomacy, either open or secret. Just to review: the Germans got the bright idea to ask Mexico—which had fought a war to keep its northern territories seventy years prior, and lost—to fight another war to get them back. They suggested that Mexico take on the immensely richer and more powerful United States in a war of aggression. And they did this with both the Germans and Mexicans knowing that there would be no way for the Germans to help as Germany was sealed up behind a British blockade. Mexico immediately dismissed this ridiculous idea. After the telegram was made public, many people in America thought it was a forgery designed by the British to trick the United States into war. German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman then admitted that he sent it. America declared war on Germany one month later.
  • Trojan Horse: The decision to bring the original within the walls of Troy is examined in the first part of The March of Folly.