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The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 | [Barbara W. Tuchman]

The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914

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.
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Publisher's Summary

"The diplomatic origins, so-called, of the War are only the fever chart of the patient; they do not tell us what caused the fever. To probe for underlying causes and deeper forces one must operate within the framework of a whole society and try to discover what moved the people in it." (Barbara W. Tuchman)

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (353 )
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4.2 (177 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Bruce 03-07-15
    Bruce 03-07-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
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    "Tuchman's great, but this book isn't for beginners"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Proud Tower?

    Hardly a 'moment' - but the (long) description of the changes in music and theater were particularly informative and new information.


    Have you listened to any of Nadia May’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Handled different accents, persons, voices, exceptionally well.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 02-11-15
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 02-11-15

    Acteon

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    "A wealth of information"
    What did you love best about The Proud Tower?

    The wealth of information on various aspects of life in the period preceding World War I


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Proud Tower?

    Dreyfus' rehabilitation. The assassination of Jean Jaurès.


    Have you listened to any of Nadia May’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William E. Bemis Department of Biology, Cornell University 09-06-14
    William E. Bemis Department of Biology, Cornell University 09-06-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Fascinating preview for The Guns of August"
    Would you listen to The Proud Tower again? Why?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Proud Tower?

    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.


    What about Nadia May’s performance did you like?

    Nadia May has a warm and enjoyable reading style. I deliberately purchased other books narrated by her.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Prelude to disaster


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine 06-21-14
    Christine 06-21-14 Member Since 2013
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    6
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    "Great story but I didn't like the reader."
    If you could sum up The Proud Tower in three words, what would they be?

    Fascinating analysis! I read the book and enjoyed it so much I wanted to listen to it while i drove.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Los Angeles, CA, United States 05-30-14
    William Los Angeles, CA, United States 05-30-14 Member Since 2012

    On level 5 of Robot Hell

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    "A portrait of a gilded age"
    What did you love best about The Proud Tower?

    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.


    What about Nadia May’s performance did you like?

    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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peter melbourne, Australia 02-22-13
    peter melbourne, Australia 02-22-13
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    "Lively history, beautifully read"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hyrum TUCSON, AZ, United States 05-21-12
    Hyrum TUCSON, AZ, United States 05-21-12 Member Since 2011
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    "An history of the past with relevance to today"
    Where does The Proud Tower rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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."


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Toronto, ON, Canada 08-01-08
    John Toronto, ON, Canada 08-01-08
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    "Tuchman sweep marred by narrator."

    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.

    7 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joan Charlotte, NC, United States 10-16-10
    Joan Charlotte, NC, United States 10-16-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "inaudible tower"

    I found this to be an nteresting book, but the quality of the reading and recording is poor.

    1 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin West Bountiful, UT, United States 06-13-08
    Robin West Bountiful, UT, United States 06-13-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hard to get through"

    I read her book, A Distant Mirror, many years ago and found it very interesting. I have listened to many audio books and this was by far the hardest one I've tried to get through. I love history but this was dull and many of the words were in a foreign language without explanation. I tried but finally gave up with only an hour left to go.

    3 of 16 people found this review helpful
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