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January 30: Barbara W. Tuchman

January 30, 2015

9759510Popular history writer Barbara Wertheim Tuchman, the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for her books The Guns of August (1962) and Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–1945 (1972), was born into a prominent and wealthy family in New York on this date in 1912. Her father was an international banker, head of the American Jewish Committee, and owner of The Nation magazine; her mother was the daughter of diplomat Henry Morgenthau. Tuchman worked as a foreign correspondent for her father’s magazine from 1934 to 1937, during which time she reported on the Spanish Civil War. She was uncredentialed as an historian, but her literary abilities enabled her to take historical research and turn it into storytelling for millions of people. The Guns of August was a history of Europe’s messy slide into World War I; A Distant Mirror (1978) educated readers about the 14th century and the bubonic plague’s ravaging of Europe. Her eleven books included Notes from China (1972), Practicing History: Selected Essays (1978), and The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984), and The First Salute (1988), about the American Revolution in the context of world history. Tuchman died from a stroke in 1989 at age 77.

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” —Barbara Tuchman