The fateful quarter-century leading up to World War I was a time when the world of privilege still existed in Olympian luxury and the world of protest was heaving in its pain, its power, and its hate. The age was the climax of a century of the most accelerated rate of change in history, a cataclysmic shaping of destiny.
In The Proud Tower, Barbara Tuchman concentrates on society rather than the state. With an artist's selectivity, Tuchman brings to vivid life the people, places, and events that shaped the years leading up to the Great War: the Edwardian aristocracy and the end of their reign; the Anarchists of Europe and America, who voiced the protest of the oppressed; Germany, as portrayed through the figure of the self-depicted hero, Richard Strauss; the sudden gorgeous blaze of Diaghilev's Russian Ballet and Stravinsky's music; the Dreyfus Affair; the two Peace Conferences at the Hague; and, finally, the youth, ideals, enthusiasm, and tragedy of Socialism, epitomized in the moment when the heroic Jean Jaures was shot to death on the night the War began and an epoch ended.
©1996 Barbara W. Tuchman; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks
"It would be impossible to read The Proud Tower without pleasure and admiration." (The New York Times)
"Tuchman proved in The Guns of August that she could write better military history than most men. In this sequel, she tells her story with cool wit and warm understanding." (Time)
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.
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.
There was so much detail that it was hard to keep track paticularly of the named people. It was almost like a social piece in a newspaper. Chapter summaries and / or book summary would have helped. This review is based on the audio version. I am reading the text version as well.
great audio book. it can get detailed at times so don't try to remember all the names but instead get a sense of the story. recommend if you have the time
Great book if you already have some basic knowledge of the era. Terrible book if you don't already know a basic outline of Europe of the era.
Hardly a 'moment' - but the (long) description of the changes in music and theater were particularly informative and new information.
Handled different accents, persons, voices, exceptionally well.
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.
Fascinating analysis! I read the book and enjoyed it so much I wanted to listen to it while i drove.
I really disliked this reader. Way too much range in dB. She went from a good loudness and pace to these quick and rushed low-level sections i could barely hear. I would never buy another book with her reading it again.
On level 5 of Robot Hell
The narrative is so engaging. So much ground is covered, so many names, places, movements and events are presented but they flow seamlessly together and never once are you overwhelmed.
It felt intimate. The tone and pacing was if an aunt or grandparent were talking to reading to you when you were a child (but never down to you by any stretch!). It was a flow of information that not at all a lecture.
Hidden sight is of course 20/20. Attitudes, ideas and actions were at times shocking. The Dreifus Affair was insane by ever stretch of the imagination.
This book is worth buying for chapter one alone. This paints a word picture of the lives of the aristocratic rulers of Britain in the last decades of the nineteenth century, at the peak of Victorian imperial power. It is sympathetic in tone, full of individual anecdote, and at times very funny.
Much of the book is just as good, with a close look at US politics at the time, the conditions and ideas that gave rise to the anarchists and international socialists, and the madness that engulfed French politics during the Dreyfus affair. The realistic cynicism in the description of the Hague peace conferences is brilliantly done and gives a strong sense of why the era eventually collapsed into the horror and violence of the Great War. The German chapter and the story of the tangled politics of the 'welfare' parliament are rather slower, but worth the listen.
An excellent demonstration of how individual decisions and historical trends can combine to produce radical, and unpredictable, social and political changes. The book is relevant to the current debate between those who on the one side believe in historical necessity and those who believe in the power of human will to produce "hope and change."
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