Barbara W. Tuchman

Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (January 30, 1912 – February 6, 1989) was an American historian and author. She won the Pulitzer Prize twice, for The Guns of August (1962), a best-selling history of the prelude to and the first month of World War I, and Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1971), a biography of General Joseph Stilwell.

Tuchman focused on writing popular history.

Early years

She was born January 30, 1912, the Jewish daughter of the banker Maurice Wertheim and his first wife Alma Morgenthau. Her father was an individual of wealth and prestige, the owner of The Nation magazine, president of the American Jewish Congress, prominent art collector, and a founder of the Theatre Guild. Her mother was the daughter of Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Woodrow Wilson's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College in 1933, having studied history and literature. A first book resulted from her Spanish experience, The Lost British Policy: Britain and Spain Since 1700, published in 1938.

In 1940 Wertheim married Lester R. Tuchman (taking his surname), an internist, medical researcher and professor of clinical medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan. They had three daughters, including Jessica Mathews, who became president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

During the years of World War II, Tuchman worked in the Office of War Information. Tuchman's storytelling prowess was rewarded in 1963 when she received the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Guns of August, dealing with the behind-the-scenes political machinations which led to the eruption of World War I in the summer of 1914.

In 1971, Tuchman received the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates.

Tuchman received a second Pulitzer in 1972 for her biography of Joseph Stilwell, Stilwell and the American Experience in China.

In 1978, Tuchman was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She became the first female president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979. She won a U.S. National Book Award in History for the first paperback edition of A Distant Mirror in 1980. Also in 1980 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) selected Tuchman for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Tuchman's lecture was entitled "Mankind's Better Moments".

Tuchman was a trustee of Radcliffe College and a lecturer at Harvard, the University of California, and the Naval War College. Although she never received a formal graduate degree in history, Tuchman was the recipient of a number of honorary degrees from leading American universities, including Yale, Harvard, New York University, Columbia, Boston University, and Smith College, among others.

Tuchman's Law has been defined as a psychological principle of "perceptual readiness" or "subjective probability".



  • The Lost British Policy: Britain and Spain Since 1700. London: United Editorial, 1938.
  • Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour. New York: New York University Press, 1956.
  • The Zimmerman Telegram. New York: Viking Press, 1958.
  • The Guns of August. New York: Macmillan, 1962.
  • The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890–1914. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–45 (1971)
  • Notes from China. New York: Collier, 1972.
  • A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.
  • Practicing History: Selected Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.
  • The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. New York: Knopf/Random House, 1984.
  • The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution. New York: Knopf/Random House, 1988.

Other works

  • America's Security in the 1980s. London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1982.
  • The Book: A Lecture Sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Authors’ League of America, Presented at the Library of Congress, October 17, 1979. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1980.


External links

*TV interview with Bill Moyers Sept. 30, 1988

Category:1912 births Category:1989 deaths Category:American military writers Category:American people of German-Jewish descent Category:Historians of the United States Category:Jewish American historians Category:Jewish American writers Barbara Tuchman Category:National Book Award winners Category:Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction winners Category:Radcliffe College alumni Category:Historians of World War I Category:20th-century American historians Category:20th-century American writers Category:20th-century women writers Category:American people of the Spanish Civil War Category:American women journalists Category:American women historians Category:Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Category:Women in war 1900–1945 Category:Women in war in Spain Category:Women war correspondents Category:Women military writers Category:Women biographers Category:20th-century biographers Category:Trustees of educational establishments

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