The wealth of information on various aspects of life in the period preceding World War I
Dreyfus' rehabilitation. The assassination of Jean Jaurès.
I have listened to many, and she is an excellent reader. She apparently knows French and pronounces most names correctly, but unfortunately leaves out the "s" at the end of one of the main figures in the book, Jaurès. It is tricky to know when the final "s" in French names is silent or pronounced, and before the age of internet it is not so easy to look up, so she should not be taken to task; I mention this only so that other readers should not be led astray in their own pronunciation of this name. Readers today, however, have little excuse to mispronounce foreign names as the correct pronunciation is easily found on the internet.
Parts of it (for me, some of the details of English political life) can seem a bit long, but the book is well worth one's patience.
This book helps listeners make and understand connections between social movements in different countries in Europe and America duirng the 25 years preceding World War I. I have listened to it twice because I am still learning from this book.
The history of the Dreyfus affair is fascinating, and it helped me understand some of the many social problems and insecurities in France at the turn of the 20th century. I also enjoyed learning about the history of socialist and anarchist movements in Europe. Tuchman also examines German composer Richard Strauss and rapid changes in classical music during the period before the war. There were scandalous operas and triumphant ballets - which is even more interesting because of the international importance of classical music in that period of tremendous competition between countries in so many aspects of military, economic and social life.
Nadia May has a warm and enjoyable reading style. I deliberately purchased other books narrated by her.
Prelude to disaster
I would very much appreciate music credits for books such as this one (and The Guns of August) that make use of a musical theme at the beginning and end of the recording. It seems unfair not to provide listeners with this information and it is certainly unfair to the musicians.
The Proud Tower opens with a description of the British Parliament, which had changed little since the end of the English Civil War and later it goes on to paint a picture of an equally archaic German near-absolute monarchy, it chronicles class divisions that would not have seemed unfamiliar to a medieval lord. But it also discusses the rising impact of liberalism, communism, and anarchy, the social forces that were spawned as a result of the industrial revolution. This book is ultimately about the clash between these forces, between the old world and the new. It demonstrates, though not intentionally, the dangers posed by both extremes and the benefits of compromise; but it also demonstrates that compromise was not always possible and, because of this fact, the eventual inevitability of the Great War. It is a story about the birth of modern western civilization and the pains we went through in achieving it. In many ways a prequel to her monumental work The Guns of August, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest either in the Great War or in our modern cultural, social, and political institutions and how they came to be.
European history professor specializing in English history 1870-1939.
I read it or listen to it every few years. It's absolutely riveting, either for a general reader or an expert in the field.
The death of Jaures.
An excellent work, all round.
I would have gladly paid double to have a version without Ms. McCaddon's attempts at accents for her non-English speaking quotes. Accurate or not, they distract from the flow of the book.
No. Too much detail for an audiobook. The amount of information is staggering and interesting but it is better suited to reading than listening.
This book, like all of Tuchman's popular histories, is sweeping, interesting for general readers, and easy to understand without being pedantic or shallow. What I've always liked about Tuchman -- her knack for analyzing the root causes of events without losing the colour and passion of individual lives -- is evident here, though somewhat less technically-adept than her brillian medieval history 'A Distant Mirror'.
However, this particular Audible.com edition is marred by the precious upper-class accent of the narrator. Listening to Tuchman's descriptions of English aristocratic privelege in the tones of a girl's private school matron is slightly annoying, but as this lengthy book progresses through chapters on American politics, popular culture and social mores, and the coming Great War, it becomes positively off-putting. I particularly dislike the narrator's tendency to put on goofy foreign accents when reading quotations by the characters Tuchman discusses (GB Shaw in drole Irish brogue, Petr Kropotkin in absurd Russian growl, and so on).
This book is a great value at the price, but sample the reader's voice before you buy.
If you only read one book about the end of the 19th century, "The Proud Tower" this is the book. It's certainly the finest study of the era I've ever read, and I'd be inclined to say that it's the finest ever written. It, and the immediate sequel "The Guns of August" are possibly the greatest works by one of the most masterful historians of our era.
Tuchman humanizes a vast and complex history by following the people who shaped it. It's not a gossipy history, you won't get salacious details here. Rather it's history as a consequence of what those individuals choose to do. It is sometimes moving, often hilarious. The resolutions upon resolutions of the Socialist congresses begin to sound like a Monty Python skit, and yet you never quite lose sight of what they managed to accomplish for the working classes. That's deft writing, and immaculate scholarship.
Nadia May is a superb narrator, who seems to understand her subject matter intimately. She is capable of mimicking the accents of the players, though it's never broad playing. She reads intelligently which is the highest praise I can give.
I've read this book many times, but listening to it was such an immersive experience that I'm about to listen to "The Guns of August." Yes, it's a huge investment in time, I could reread much more quickly than I can listen. But the two methods used in tandem have brought me greater understanding of the material.
Beautifully done. So far, my favorite Audible title.
The Guns of August, because they are really a single unit.
As always, Barbara Tuchman's analysis of this time period is sheer brilliance. She is able to capture the zeitgeist of late 19th and early 20th century Europe and the United States with a clarity and beauty only a historian of her caliber can summon. Further, Nadia May's narration is just fantastic, she is easily one of the best audiobook narrators out there.
A penetrating study of the cross-currents of culture, thought and society in the decades leading up to the Great War. Is war programmed into the human species? Maybe.