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

The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 While from a proud tower in the townDeath looks gigantically down The City in the Sea Poe This book is really a collection of essays published separately in various journals Any book tackling the social, political and artistic situation of the world in the couple of decades before it entered its first global war, could only offer a partial view These essays offer a series of selected aspects of this bellicose universe seen through shifting points of view.There are considerable ab While from a proud tower in the townDeath looks gigantically down The City in the Sea Poe This book is really a collection of essays published separately in various journals Any book tackling the social, political and artistic situation of the world in the couple of decades before it entered its first global war, could only offer a partial view These essays offer a series of selected aspects of this bellicose universe seen through shifting points of view.There are considerable absences For example, Russia and the Austro Hungarian and the Ottoman empires are not tackled Instead we get a focus on Britain, France, the German Empire and the United States There are additional chapters on Syndicalism, Anarchism, the institution of the Hague Conferences, and on a German Musician.I have two favorite chapters I learned a great deal from the one devoted to the US in which Tuchman shows how after the annexation of the Territory of Hawaii the country turned into something different from the days when it was founded Fascinating was also the account of The Hague Conventions which tackled how, if they fundamentally failed, they also succeeded in starting a protocol that after some developments alleviated some aspects of brutality when humans decide to engage in war The least relevant of the chapters was the one dedicated to a German composer Entertaining in itself it seemed to grant disproportionate attention to Richard Strauss, no matter how beautiful his music is And yet, in spite of the merged nature of this collation of essays, an overall picture emerges From the Proud Tower we can see that it was the social structure of society, with its internal and extreme poles, that pulled a greater and greater tension and finally made the inner strings snap But the view also offers the realization that if these social tensions were felt in parallel in the countries Tuchman has selected, their logical international relevancy was poisoned by distorting nationalisms What could have been a series of revolutionary and coetaneous changes in domestic social pacts, marched instead into a political war against other nations The book starts with the idiosyncrasies and quirks of the British Lords and finishes with the assassination of Jean Jaur s one of the founders of the French Socialist Party for being a pacifist A nationalist shot him fatally a couple of days after the war against Serbia had been declared and four days before the war became general.Tuchman writes in a very engaging manner, but to me it was at times too engaging I prefer aanalytical and less journalistic approach The facts and arguments stay better in my mind The Proud Tower by Barbara W TuchmanJoy, Hope, Suspicion above all, astonishment were the world s prevailing emotions when it learned on August 29, 1898, that the young Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, had issued a call to the nations to join in a conference for the limitation of armaments all the capitals were taken by surprise That the call should come from the mighty and ever expanding power whom the other nations feared and who was still regarded, despite its two hundreds years of Europea The Proud Tower by Barbara W TuchmanJoy, Hope, Suspicion above all, astonishment were the world s prevailing emotions when it learned on August 29, 1898, that the young Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, had issued a call to the nations to join in a conference for the limitation of armaments all the capitals were taken by surprise That the call should come from the mighty and ever expanding power whom the other nations feared and who was still regarded, despite its two hundreds years of European veneer, as semi barbaric, was cause for dazed wonderment liberally laced with distrust This book is a departure from Tuchman spopular histories The Proud Tower was written four years after her Pulitzer winner Guns of August This volume of eight loosely connected chapters covers the changing world in the twenty five years leading up to the Great War The focus is on the larger nations England, Germany, France and to a lesser extent Russia and the United States This read hasof a scholarly feel and provides a little less background than herwell known histories The writing as expected is still quite good but there were some historical events that I was unfamiliar with I did resort to looking up a number of the historical figures using online resources to assist What follows is a brief synopsis of the eight chapters Chapter 1 covers the Patricians England from 1895 1902 There is a heavy focus on the enigmatic Lord Salisbury, Robert Cecil who served as prime minister three different times and was a favorite of Queen Victoria He represented the old Victorian vanguard and was aptly dubbed a patrician or what we would call an imperialist today He served as Prime Minister through the Boer Wars, a hard fought campaign and harbinger of the difficult times that lie ahead for Britain Lord Salisbury died a year later in 1903 and the Victorian era was coming to a close This was one of my favorite chapters The average member of the ruling class, undisturbed by Lord Salisbury s too thoughtful, too prescient mind, did not worry deeply about the future the present was so delightful The Age of Privilege, though assailed at many points and already cracking at some, still seemed, in the closing years of the Nineteenth Century and of Victoria s reign, a permanent condition To the privileged, life appeared secure and comfortable and peace brooded over the land Chapter 2 covers the Anarchists from 1890 1914 From France to the United States to Spain to Italy to Russia, there were a large number of assassinations and most of these crimes were committed by anarchists I like the premise of the chapter, it was quite thin however An entire book could be written here Chapter 3 covers the United States from 1890 1902 and the death of Isolationism Most of this chapter is focused on Thomas B Reed the congressman from Maine and Speaker of the House Reed was a greatly respected political figure, anti war proponent, civil rights advocate and an isolationist He opposed the Spanish American war, the annexation of Hawaii and the occupation of the Philippines and he later resigned from Congress in protest The era of American expansionism was well under way Military operations in the Philippines swelled in size and savagery Against the stubborn guerrilla warfare of the Filipinos, the U.S Army poured in regiments, brigades, divisions, until as many as 75,000 were engaged in the islands at one time Filipinos burned, ambushed, raided, mutilated on occasion they buried prisoners alive Americans retaliated with atrocities of their own, burning down a whole village and killing every inhabitant if an American soldier was found with his throat cut, applying the water cure and other tortures to obtain information A raiding party which missed Aguinaldo but captured his young son made headlines Reed, coming into his office that morning, said in mock surprise to his law partner, What, are you working today I should think you would be celebrating I see by the papers that the American Army has captured the infant son of Aguinaldo and at last accounts was in hot pursuit of the mother Chapter 4 covers France from 1894 1899 focusing heavily on the Dreyfus Affair Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French army and was falsely accused and convicted of passing secrets to the Germans There was strong anti Jewish sentiment in France and across Europe Emile Zola wrote his famous article J Accuse and Dreyfus was given a second trial and Zola acted as an attorney for him after information pointed to a different officer as the one sending secrets to Germany Dreyfus was convicted at the second trial and Zola fled to England after a libel conviction Dreyfus was later pardoned by the French president This chapter focuses on this powderkeg of anti semitic feelings, strong socialist and anti socialist sentiments in France Chapter 5 covers the two Peace Conferences at the Hague in 1899 and 1907 and the drumbeat of militarism The principal nations knew there were problems long before WW1 There were many expansionist and territorial conflicts between the powers in the Pacific and especially in Africa There was also the Naval arms race between Britain and Germany that contributed to the militarism Russia would have beenof a factor in the Baltic but their astonishing defeat at the hands of the Japanese in the East left the government and military reeling Chapter 6 Neroism is in the Air covers the decadence of Europe, largely focusing on Germany, in the period of 1890 1914 There is heavy focus here on the art in Europe, especially music, and the works of many such as Strauss that veered heavily away from Victorian norms Germany was expandingrapidly than any other nation in Europe and Kaiser Wilhelm was promulgating his idea of Germany as the great nation and there was a lust for a new world order.Strauss completed the score of Elektra in September, 1908 For the legendary drama set in 1500 B.C he wanted everything to be exact and realistic insisting on real sheep and bulls for Clytemnestra s sacrifice Strauss, are you mad howled the stage director in terror Imagine the cost And the danger What will they do when your violent music begins Chapter 7 covers the transfer of power in England from 1902 1911 in the age of the people and the rise of David Lloyd George Chapter 8, the final chapter, covers socialism and the assassination of Juares in the immediate days preceding WW1 This chapter focuses heavily on France and the attempts of many socialists to avoid war with Germany and the frustration of many conservative nationalists who were deeply distrustful of the Germans They correctly understood the Kaiser s ambition to invade France and were concerned about repeating the disastrous Franco Prussian War some forty years earlier Jean Juares was an influential French socialist and widely respected journalist and leader with strong ties to other socialists in Europe He was gunned down by Raoul Villain a French nationalist on July 31st Even if Juares had not been assassinated, there was little hope left to avoid war between Germany and France by that point Four stars This read is probably ofinterest to those who really like histories or exploring widely ranging historical topics, whereas Tuchman s other works like the Zimmerman Telegram and The Guns of August aregenerally appealing andtightly constructed narratives The Proud Tower Barbara Tuchman s View of the World on the Road to WarChannel FiringBY THOMAS HARDYThat night your great guns, unawares,Shook all our coffins as we lay,And broke the chancel window squares,We thought it was the Judgment dayAnd sat upright While drearisomeArose the howl of wakened hounds The mouse let fall the altar crumb,The worms drew back into the mounds,The glebe cow drooled Till God called, No It s gunnery practice out at seaJust as before you went below The world is as i The Proud Tower Barbara Tuchman s View of the World on the Road to WarChannel FiringBY THOMAS HARDYThat night your great guns, unawares,Shook all our coffins as we lay,And broke the chancel window squares,We thought it was the Judgment dayAnd sat upright While drearisomeArose the howl of wakened hounds The mouse let fall the altar crumb,The worms drew back into the mounds,The glebe cow drooled Till God called, No It s gunnery practice out at seaJust as before you went below The world is as it used to be All nations striving strong to makeRed war yet redder Mad as hattersThey do nofor Christ s sakeThan you who are helpless in such matters That this is not the judgment hourFor some of them s a blessed thing,For if it were they d have to scourHell s floor for so much threatening Ha, ha It will be warmer whenI blow the trumpet if indeedI ever do for you are men,And rest eternal sorely need So down we lay again I wonder,Will the world ever saner be, Said one, than when He sent us underIn our indifferent century And many a skeleton shook his head Instead of preaching forty year, My neighbour Parson Thirdly said, I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer Again the guns disturbed the hour,Roaring their readiness to avenge,As far inland as Stourton Tower,And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.April, 1914 Satires of CircumstanceWe are about to embark on a great quest That is to explore a world at war Of course we speak of World War I, which would come to be known as World War I It is not only that we seek to explore that world and war, but to attempt to understand why it happened, what brought it about Not only should we seek to understand what brought it about we must be aware that we seek to do all these things regarding a world that existed one hundred years ago that went to war in 1914 and did not return to a state of uneasy peace until 1918 And in attempting to understand what surprised the world as the greatest conflagration the world to that point had ever witnessed, it becomes necessary to know what the world was like Who were the people who lived there How did they live, what did they do Nor can we begin to understand the hellish waterspout that sucked so many nations into the depths of seas tinged with blood without understanding that it was not merely a world of politics or property but a world of art, music, dance, and philosophy These are the conflicting aspects of culture that are inconsistent with the idea of war The attempt to put these seemingly impossible inconsistencies together can bring about a great distubance of the human spirit that a world capable of music as beautiful as The Rites of Spring, clashing with the quivering chords rising into a crescendo of horns that might sound the trumpets of doom, based on the writings of a man who died, mad, in an asylum, but whose philosophy was adopted by a nation as its theme, acknowledging the right, the need of exerting its power over whole nations out of a sense of nationalist fervor.Such things are of the type that enter our dreams and become our nightmares as we sense the end of one world and the beginning of another It is as though we are walking as somnambulists in a world unknown to us For it is unknown to us We must be capable of forgetting, unlearning the modern world of which we consider ourselves to be a part.This is a journey that requires a guide Just as Aligheri required a guide into the Inferno we must have our own Virgil It is highly likely that we will find the need of a Beatrice for the war we will eventually explore was not a paradise, but a Hell as fiery as the first book of The Human Comedy.As we speak of Virgil we must think of a world of epic stature, that grew as great as Rome and fell just as surely as Rome In one way we are traveling through a world as ancient to us as we would consider a symbol of its literature, the Aeneid In his journeys from the sacked city of Troy, Aeneas met and fell in love with the Queen of the Carthaginians, Dido And Virgil commented that a nation should be ruled by a woman to be so foreign to his people he had to document Dux femina facti which means the leader of the thing was a woman.So our guide is no Virgil Our guide is a woman, Barbara Tuchman And as it once was, once again Dux femina facit To be continuedJanuary 30, 2014 Our GuideBarbara Tuchman was born Barbara Wertheimer, January 30, 1912, the daughter of prominent banker Maurice Wertheimer Well that didn t take long Interrupted 2 5 2014 Engaging history of white people from late 19th century to WWI Written by American journalist living in U.K and published in 1966, book purports to be A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890 1914 which it ain t by a damn sight and works as a pretty good oil painting of the U.K., France, Germany, and the U.S with smatterings of Russia, Spain and Italy thrown in for spice before they all started killing each other with gas and machine guns Author shows us the political, social, Engaging history of white people from late 19th century to WWI Written by American journalist living in U.K and published in 1966, book purports to be A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890 1914 which it ain t by a damn sight and works as a pretty good oil painting of the U.K., France, Germany, and the U.S with smatterings of Russia, Spain and Italy thrown in for spice before they all started killing each other with gas and machine guns Author shows us the political, social, and artistic zeitgeist en of what we on this side of the pond call the Gilded Age, giving them all equal emphasis she must have done hella research and doing a slow reveal on a time when ideas held such cultural currency that it was hard to tell the difference between what was actually political, social and artistic What author sees in them days was boundless anticipation, a sense of progress, thousands of folks intoxicated by theory and oratory right before The Great War slapped a moratorium on that kinda Euro centric idealism for the foreseeable future All that social ferment yields a heady brew, but pouring it down the drain of history ain t all bad In addition to exegeses on social progression, book also gives us the image of Western Civilization as a trans Atlantic European boys club wrestling with humanist governance vs nationalist self preservation in the face of great change The line between crusading progressive and mustachioed blowhard gets a little blurry after awhile, and it s hard to tell who the good guys are Still needing a slide rule to work out who the heroes were in the Dreyfus Affair, France s multi tentacled meta nationalist trial of the century The impression I get is that this European generation was actually pretty jazzed about the war in which they would wind up exterminating themselves because a it had been a long time since the last war and b they had piles of cool new war things gas, air machines, rules see the Hague Conventions of 1899 1907 they wanted to try out Kaiser Wilhelm II just knew this war was gonna be awesome.Clever trick author pulls by saving her socialism section for the end, unwinding the tale of irascibly brilliant cadre men and women dedicating their significant mental resources to the liberation of the international worker taking Marx s admonishment against nationhood to heart, French, German, British and American intellectuals brainstorm for decades about the best way to improve the plight of the bottom strata of society Their rhetoric gets a little heavy, even silly, at times, but when WWI cuts it short, it s a drag When Kaiser Wilhelm declares war, barking, I know no groups, only Germans the inverse of Marx s maxim the worker knows no fatherland we get ready to watch the Socialists march off to kill each other back on earth Author gives us the full brunt of nationalism s tragic victory over humanism We also get ready for serious men in ridiculous helmets, blood muddy trenches, evil looking gas masks, the tropes of a new century s killing fields an ugly, absurd death for a shining, absurd era Author knows how remote this period will seem to her readers in the 60s and it s from fucking Mars in 2008, by the way so she writes it all down with the kind of loving and amused distance we reserve at Christmas for kids who don t know about Santa Claus yet Author loves this time, but I think she s glad she knows the truth It is a thankless job to write a book about the origins of a widespread conflagration such as the First World War Where is one to draw the line Where author Barbara Tuchman apparently drew it was the countries of Western Europe Britain, France, and Germany plus the United States But what about the view from St Petersburg or Vienna or even Istanbul It is all well and good to talk about the rise of international socialism, but what about all the energies released by the decay of the Ott It is a thankless job to write a book about the origins of a widespread conflagration such as the First World War Where is one to draw the line Where author Barbara Tuchman apparently drew it was the countries of Western Europe Britain, France, and Germany plus the United States But what about the view from St Petersburg or Vienna or even Istanbul It is all well and good to talk about the rise of international socialism, but what about all the energies released by the decay of the Ottoman Empire and the frustrated desires of the long suppressed peoples on the wrong side of the Adriatic The Proud Tower A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890 1914 does not even bother to mention the First and Second Balkan Wars that took place in 1912 13 and radically altered the map of Europe She does not mention why Austria wanted to punish Serbia, even though the assassinated Archduke Ferdinand was as fiercely unpopular in Vienna as he was in Belgrade and Sarajevo And what about Russia Why was Nicholas II so eager to go to bat for Serbia Still and all, The Proud Tower is not only an essential book, but verges on being a great one I can continue to cavil about what Tuchman does not cover, but on the subjects she does cover, she is fair to middling great Her chapters on the Dreyfus affair in France, the anarchists of Europe, on the rise and fall of the patrician politicians of England, and the strangeness of Kaiser Wilhelm II s Germany are classics.The title of the book comes from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe called The City in the Sea While from a proud tower in the townDeath looks gigantically down.This is the second time I ve read The Proud Tower, which remains the classical study of the long, slow march to the War To End All Wars It is understandable that many do not get Tuchman s The Proud Tower It is a collection of topics, almost disparate stand alone essays, which seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with each other As you finish each chapter and begin the next, you are almost dumped into another country, subject, group of people the world at large wondering what this has to do with what you were just reading But Tuchman has a very specific purpose which she explains in the Afterword, for once worth reading fir It is understandable that many do not get Tuchman s The Proud Tower It is a collection of topics, almost disparate stand alone essays, which seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with each other As you finish each chapter and begin the next, you are almost dumped into another country, subject, group of people the world at large wondering what this has to do with what you were just reading But Tuchman has a very specific purpose which she explains in the Afterword, for once worth reading first Here is a brief selection from itThe proud tower built up through the great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion, of riches and beauty and dark cellars Its inhabitants lived, as compared to a later time, withself reliance,confidence,hope greater magnificence, extravagance and elegancecareless ease,gaiety,pleasure in each other s company and conversation,injustice and hypocrisy,misery and want,sentiment including false sentiment, less sufferance of mediocrity,dignity in work,delight in nature,zest The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gainedEven if you only read a few of the fascinating topics in this excellent book, you will learnthan from any other history book on this era The Patricians, England, 1895 1902 The Idea and the Deed, Anarchists, 1890 1914 The End of a Dream, America, 1890 1902 Give me Combat , France, 1894 9 The Steady Drummer, The Hague 1899 and 1907 There is MUCH she does NOT cover This is a book about the peoples living in the countries of the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria Hungary with some mention of Russia, then considered the Western powers Anyone who wants to critique this or any book on what is not there, should not read that book Take each book for what IS there No person or book can be all things to all people and we should not expect them to be It is grossly unfair to expect a book, especially one written years ago, to come up to our standards Instead, we should ask ourselves if we could meet their standards I dare say we could not As the title says, this is a portrait A portrait is a single two dimensional view of a subject It shows some, but still leaves out much This is my second complete reading I have also reread several of the better chapters 3 and 4 times MOST highly recommended January 19, 2019 Over the Christmas holidays we went as a family to see Peter Jackson s They Shall Not Grow Old and it brought back memories of our trip to the WWI battlefield of Verdun when we lived in Europe So we decided that this and Ms Tuckman s other book, The Guns of August would be our next listens My singular visit and my husband s several trips there May 26, 2008 Folio Society sold this as part of a combined set with The Guns of August Read back in 2001 following GoA but should have read this first The Proud Tower gives the background for the social, political, artistic, military movements events which occurred in a spiritually stagnant Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s precipitating the climate necessary for the bloodbath of WWI Excellent Although not considered an historian in the strict sense of the word, Barbara Tuchman is accessible, i.e., she writes readable histories for the average person I simply love Tuchman s writing style, which tells stories around various figures and themes relevant to understanding the origins of the First World War Except in her introduction and final scene on the verge of mobilization of armies she avoids explicit reference to the war because of the power of the lens of hindsight to distort the accuracy of historical truth She leaves it to other accounts, including her earlier book, The Guns of August , to elucidate the political evolution leading to I simply love Tuchman s writing style, which tells stories around various figures and themes relevant to understanding the origins of the First World War Except in her introduction and final scene on the verge of mobilization of armies she avoids explicit reference to the war because of the power of the lens of hindsight to distort the accuracy of historical truth She leaves it to other accounts, including her earlier book, The Guns of August , to elucidate the political evolution leading to the war, the Dual and Triple Alliances, Moroccan crises and Balkan imbroglios Such assessment by itself she believes is misleading because it allows us to rest on the easy illusion that it is they, the naughty statesmen, who are responsible for war while we, the innocent people, are merely led In her view, The diplomatic origins, so called, of the Great War are only the fever chart of the patient they do not tell us what caused the fever Her method instead is to concentrate on society rather than the state , and her agenda is eloquently stated in these two sentences The Great War of 1914 18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours In wiping out so many lives which would have been operative on the years that followed, in destroying beliefs, changing ideas, and leaving incurable wounds of disillusion, it created a physical as well as psychological gulf between two epochs This book is an attempt to discover the quality of the world from which the great World came With such a goal, it is no wonder that I sometimes found myself missing a coherent focus My lazy self wanted someone wise to tell me what to think and present lessons learned from history Instead I came to appreciate how she breathes life into so many figures and lets their stories paint the big picture and like a novelist, showing not telling what the narrative themes The book s origin derives from a set of essays published in magazines and journals The chapters of her stew include 1 the status of the aristocracy in England, 2 the evolution of the anarchist movement, 3 America s political struggles over its transition toward imperialism, 4 the Dreyfus Affair in France, 5 the attempt of the Hague peace conferences to establish as international court, 6 the ferment of culture and the arts in Germany, 7 the growth in power by the Liberal and Labor Parties in England, 8 the evolution of socialism in France, England, and Germany A little bitof a sketch of these contents is derived from a 2009 Washington Post review by Jonathan Yardley is tucked away here view spoiler In The Patricians, she writes about an England in which the Age of Privilege, though assailed at many points and already cracking at some, still seemed, in the closing years of the Nineteenth Century and of Victoria s reign, a permanent condition The Idea and the Deed is about the Anarchists, who were able to draw blueprints of a state of universal harmony only by ignoring the evidence of human behavior and the testimony of history End of a Dream is about the rise of the U.S Navy and America s turn toward imperialism In Give Me Combat she writes about the Dreyfus Affair, in which a French officer was convicted of turning over secrets to Germany, a wildly controversial case that reeked of anti Semitism.In The Steady Drummer, her subject is the peace conferences of 1899 and 1907 at the Hague, in which littlethan rhetorical progress was made toward the goal of a new international order in which nations would be willing to give up their freedom to fight in exchange for the security of law Neroism Is in the Air is about prewar German culture, with particular emphasis on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the music of Richard Strauss In Transfer of Power, she writes about the transfer of power in England, not a mere political transfer from the in party to the outs but oneprofound, to a new class And, finally, in The Death of Jaur s, her focus is on the birth of socialism and, with the murder of Jean Jaur s, its great French leader, the death of his conviction that man was good, that society could be made good and the struggle to make it so was to be fought daily, by available means and within present realities hide spoiler I learned to sit back and enjoy the ride and luxuriate in lingering whenever she did In that way, as a portrait of an age, it stands up well in comparison with her magnanimous, and also wandering, book on the 14th century, The Distant Mirror Tension over the impending cataclysm imbues a special poignancy to her narratives, somewhat like life on the Titanic before the iceberg is struck I get a sense of a ballroom dance with intricate formations of alternating partners With variations among countries, we see the swirl of nationalism vs internationalism, socialism vs capitalism, labor vs management, monarchy vs democracy, working class vs aristocracy, church vs state, cultural modernism vs traditional values My eyes glazed over the most in the first chapter on the persistence of the class structure of Britain in the period As Tuchman herself lived a privileged life of wealth, she certainly had an eye for the details of their upper classes, down to details of their jewelry and fancy dresses She outdid herself in building outrage in me and likely most readers over the excesses in the lifestyles of the patricians and their sense of entitlement as natural rulers Still, I did come to appreciate some of their paradoxes, such as many taking up liberal causes such as constraints on child labor and health care for the poor and their acceptance by the majority of the lower classes I got pleasure from her putting up an iconic portrait by Sargent of Lord Ribblesdale, who was a Liberal Whip in the House of Lords a trustee of the National Gallery This personification of the English gentleman entitled The Ancestor garners this wonderful response from Tuchman Standing at full length in the portrait, dressed as Master of the Queen s Buckhound in long riding coat, top hat, glistening boots and holding a coiled hunting whip, Sargent s Ribblesdale stared out upon the world in an attitude of such natural arrogance, elegance and self confidence as no man of a later day would ever achieve Like most of his kind he had a sense of easy communion with the land based working class who served the sports and estates of the gentry Lord Ribblesdale, the epitome of English gentry painting by SargentI also loved it when she waxed poetic over the aristocracy s love of horses The English gentleman is unthinkable without his horse He provided locomotion, occupation and conversation inspired love, bravery, poetry and physical prowess He was the essential element in racing, the sport of kings, as in cavalry, the elite of war The fox hunting man never had enough of the thrills, the danger, and the beauty of the hunt of the wail of the huntsman s horn, the excited yelping of the hounds, the streaming rush of red coated riders and black clad ladies on sidesaddles, the flying leaps over banks, fences, stone walls and ditches, even crashes, broken bones and the cold aching ride home in winter If it was bliss in that time to be alive and of the leisured class, to hunt was rapture.The reason that I liked the section on U.S imperialism trends is because it countered my conception of what seemed so inevitable from reading about Teddy Roosevelt in McCullough s Mornings on Horseback It was enlightening to see how the beginnings of the advance of the U.S from an isolationist nation into a world power in this period had some powerful naysayers That a man from my state of Maine, Thomas Reed, as a legislative gatekeeper as Speaker of the House, had an important role in the debate against annexation of Hawaii and in putting brakes on the progressive steps leading to acquisition of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines was personally gratifying to me The fount of ideology supporting arguments in favor territorial acquisition at almost any cost is Alfred Mahan, commander of the Naval War College and author of The Influence of Sea Power on History Thomas Reed and Alfred MahanThe section dragged a bit for me over Reed s battle to get rid of the power of the minority party to block any legislation obnoxious to it by refusing a quorum by remaining silent when a roll call vote was held Where she excels is in aptly capturing the personality of these figures and making you imagine the connection to their politics Here are some choice examples on Reed His hair thinned until he was almost bald, his figure bellied out until, as he walked down the streets of Portland, he resembled a human frigate among shallops Silent, impassive, with an inward turned eye, noticing no one, he moved along with the ponderous, gently swaying gait of an elephant How narrow he makes the street look a passer by once exclaimed Never landed in a large sense, nor wealthy, these forbears and their neighbors had striven over the generations to maintain a settlement on the rock ribbed soil, to survive Indian attack and isolation and snowbound winters The habit of struggle against odds was bred into Thomas Reed s blood He never used an extra word, never stumbled in his syntax, was never at a loss, never forced to retreat or modify a position He was instant in rejoinder, terse, forcible, lucid He could state a case unanswerably, illuminate an issue, destroy an argument or expose a fallacy in fewer words than anyone else His language was vivid and picturesque Hardly time to ripen a strawberry, he said to describe a lapse of two months His epigrams were famous All the wisdom in the world consists in shouting with the majority was one A statesman is a politician who is dead was another Once when mistaken for Cleveland in an ill lit room, Reed said, Mercy Don t tell Grover He is too proud of his good looks already Tuchman s profile of Mahan captures a bit of his narrow morality in personal life as a contrast with the questionable moral foundations of his belief in the Manifest Destiny for the U.S to become a global power He had little sense of humor, a high moral tone and shared the respectable man s horror of Zola s novels, which he forbade his daughters to read So precise were his scruples that when living on naval property at the War College he would not allow his children to use the government pencils External expression of his personality was limited his life was inner He was like a steam kettle in which the boiling goes on within an enclosed space and the steam comes out through a single spout.Reed effectively identified militarism and colonial acquisitions as counter to the principles of the nation s founders Yet Mahan and Senator Lodges arguments over the strategic benefits of Hawaii for naval operations in the Pacific combined with economic payoffs won the day Their hunger for bases in Cuba and the Philippines was fulfilled when the sinking of the ship Maine in Havana provided the excuse for the Spanish American War and easy victory I was surprised how divisive the fight over whether to keep the Philippines was It generated strange bedfellows in opposition, as labor leader Gompers was joined by industrialist Carnegie in the protests President McKinley went with keeping the island, with a token payment of 20 million to ease the perfidy We know now that the rebels who fought the Spanish soon turned against American governance and that a long jungle war wreaked devastation on the insurgents and disheartened the U.S military forces in a way that presaged the Vietnam War I appreciated Reed s comments after losing the struggle in Congress to prevent the takeoverWe have bought ten million Malays at 2.00 a head unpicked, remarked Reed acidly, and in the most prescient comment made by anyone at the time, he added, and nobody knows what it will cost to pick them Of other parts of the book, I was most fascinated and moved by Tuchman s coverage of the dream of the socialists for an international brotherhood of workers which would be able to abolish war through the power of a general strike Having recently read about the war resistance movements in Britain in Hochschild s book, To End All Wars , I was primed to feel sad all over again at how nationalism trumped any broader humanitarian movement or the uncompleted attempts of the Hague conferences to institute negotiated settlement of international disputes The motivations and efforts of socialists like Keir Hardie in Britain and Jean Jaur s in France to prevent the war were heroic but futile, in the latter case ended by his murder in August, 1914 The epoch of peace in Europe was revealed by this book to be full of conflicts in ideas, sporadic but pervasive violence surrounding labor strikes and fights for suffrage, small wars confined to distant colonies or the Balkans, and a build up of armaments The gulf between relative peace to world war now became a narrow line easily stepped across In England, Hardie and only a few others protested the Parliament s steps toward war after Germany and France began mobilization of their armies What a powerful ending to the book Tuchman makes Elsewhere there was no dissent, no strike, no protest, no hesitation to shoulder a rifle against fellow workers of another land When the call came, the worker, whom Marx declared to have no fatherland, identified himself with country, not class He turned out to be a member of the national family like anyone else The force of his antagonism which was supposed to topple capitalism, found a better target in the foreigner The working class went to war willingly, even eagerly, like the middle class, like the upper class, like the species Jean Jaures and Barbara Tuchman During the fateful quarter century leading up to World War I, the climax of a century of rapid, unprecedented change, a privileged few enjoyed Olympian luxury as the underclass was heaving in its pain, its power, and its hate In The Proud Tower, Barbara W Tuchman brings the era to vivid life the decline of the Edwardian aristocracy the Anarchists of Europe and America Germany and its self depicted hero, Richard Strauss Diaghilev s Russian ballet and Stravinsky s music the Dreyfus Affair the Peace Conferences in The Hague and the enthusiasm and tragedy of Socialism, epitomized by the assassination of Jean Jaur s on the night the Great War began and an epoch came to a close I remember this as an accessible account of the subject, with nice vignettes like Lord Salisbury being scooted around his garden in his bath chair. With this work, Ms Tuchman reminds me that she is one of the greatest historians to write in the English language She admirably described those years that could very well have led to a previously unexperienced level of social enlightenment, yet instead led to decades of previously unexperienced horrors Occasionally, I think about what the air felt like in 1913 Berlin what would my thoughts for the future have felt like then What relevance, if any, does that have for my thoughts today I was With this work, Ms Tuchman reminds me that she is one of the greatest historians to write in the English language She admirably described those years that could very well have led to a previously unexperienced level of social enlightenment, yet instead led to decades of previously unexperienced horrors Occasionally, I think about what the air felt like in 1913 Berlin what would my thoughts for the future have felt like then What relevance, if any, does that have for my thoughts today I was particularly interested in Ms Tuchman s account of the origins of American imperialism, the consequences of which we experience, magnified many times on many dimensions, to this day, the original debates and debaters regrettably mostly forgotten, now shrouded from view through the haze of time, leaving instead a seemingly stolid status quo, as if things were always destined to be this way Ms Tuchman provided the best summary of these years in the final paragraph Its inhabitants lived, as compared to a later time, withself reliance,confidence,hope greater magnificence, extravagance and elegancecareless ease,gaiety,pleasure in each other s company and conversation,injustice and hypocrisy,misery and want,sentiment including false sentiment, less sufferance of mediocrity,dignity in work,delight in nature,zest.While Ms Tuchman died several years ago, her voice lives in this volume I m mightily impressed with both her level of research and clarity of expression


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