The Proud Tower

  • by Barbara W. Tuchman
  • Narrated by Nadia May
  • 21 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fascinating history

This is a compelling cultural and political portrait of the world prior to World War I. The author's method is to focus closely on personalities and movements around the world. The treatment of Germany via Richard Strauss is fascinating. Her portrait of the anarchists shows surprising parallels with today's terrorists, and you can be sure it is not anachronistic, because this book was published in the early 1960s. There is much more.

Nadia May is a superb narrator for long complex non-fiction works such as this. I marvel at her ability to intelligently sustain drive and interest with this type of text.
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- Doug

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.
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- John

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-27-2005
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.