Barbara Tuchman on folly.


Folly’s appearance is independent of era or locality; it is timeless and universal, although the habits and beliefs of a particular time and place determine the form it takes. It is unrelated to type of regime: monarchy, oligarchy and democracy produce it equally. Nor is it peculiar to nation or class. The working class as represented by Communist governments functions no more rationally or effectively in power than the middle class, as has been notably demonstrated in recent history.

                                                                          –Barbara Tuchman, writing in 1984

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  1. Every one of Tuchman’s books I’ve read (many) was an incredible justification of my attention. And many are frequently re-read. Even the less well-known ones, like “The Zimmerman Telegram” (actually, very close to my favorite).

    • The March of Folly is my favorite, with A Distant Mirror a close second. My favorite Tuchman line is from Stilwell and the American Experience in China: ‘Americans forget that Thomas Jefferson did not operate in China.”

  2. I heard her speak when her book was first published. Being an incurable optimist, I hoped that Vietnam might be the last great folly in my lifetime. Silly me.

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