Twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Barbara Tuchman now tackles the pervasive presence of folly in governments through the ages. Defining folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interersts, despite the availability of feasible alternatives, Tuchman details four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly in government: the Trojan War, the breakup of the Holy See provoked by the Renaissance Popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain's George III, and the United States' persistent folly in Vietnam. THE MARCH OF FOLLY brings the people, places, and events of history magnificently alive for today's reader.
Includes bibliographies and index.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -428) and index.
Barbara W. Tuchman (1912–1989) achieved prominence as a historian with The Zimmermann Telegram and international fame with The Guns of August—a huge bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Bible and Sword, The Proud Tower, Stilwell and the American Experience in China (for which Tuchman was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize), Notes from China, A Distant Mirror, Practicing History, The March of Folly, and The First Salute.
Edward Hahn, February 1, 2014 (view all comments by Edward Hahn)
A fascinating attempt by Tuchman to explain or at least illustrate why governments choose the wrong path even when they know it's the wrong path. She begins with the story of the Trojan Horse to illustrate the first example of governmental folly leading to disaster.
The next three examples are of the Renaissance Popes, the British handling of the American Revolution and the American actions before and during the Vietnamese War.
The popes, in spite of criticism from many clerics and kings continued to enrich themselves and their families, dissipating the power of the papacy, until the Reformation forced a behavioral change.
The British arrogantly ignored the reality of the American colonist's unwillingness to be treated as second class citizens and continued to pursue a series of policies that led to a 6 year war, a war they knew they could neither win nor afford after the Battle of Saratoga in 1776.
The Americans acted under the illusion that they were fighting against Communism and restraining the so-called domino effect when in reality they were fighting against those who believed they were fighting a war of national liberation. I found this to be the most interesting section as time and time again the politicians chose to ignore the facts and opinions of many to pursue an un-winnable conflict.
While this is not the most gripping of Tuchman's writings, it is a very readable exploration of the blindness of those who often lead nations into conflicts they cannot win.
Jason Straight, April 6, 2009 (view all comments by Jason Straight)
A monument to human foolishness. While historians often try to make sense of the patterns of history, Tuchman's classic book reminds us that history does not always make sense. Since its publication, a sequel could already be written by the failure of many to yield to the lessons of this book's view of history.
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