• The Proud Tower

  • A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914
  • By: Barbara W. Tuchman
  • Narrated by: Nadia May
  • Length: 21 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Release date: 09-27-05
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • 4.1 (609 ratings)

Regular price: $31.47

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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
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Critic Reviews

"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

By Doug on 02-18-07

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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47 of 47 people found this review helpful


By whynot? on 02-06-09

Liked the book, liked the narrator

I, too, started with "A Distant Mirror," which I've read in print twice (20 years apart), and I've always liked Tuchman's ability to use a few singular characters to illustrate the broad strokes of an era. Having listened to several Henry James, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, et al, novels recently, I realized I didn't really have a comprehensive view of late 19th century/pre-WWI political and social history, and I was pleased to find Tuchman had written about the era. Like Simon Winchester, she uses gem-quality details to bring both place and time to life.

I enjoyed the narration very much, but this is clearly a very subjective matter. I have listened to several books (coincidentally) narrated by May, and I really like her tone, her accent(s), her voicings, and her pace. I learned early on in my Audible membership to listen to a sample before downloading, and I am still grateful for classics that offer several narrator options.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Jim on 02-21-14

A triumph of "amateur" history

There are a flurry of new books about the run up to WW1. But despite its being nearly 50 years old I went for Tuchman because The Guns of August is a wonderful account of the war itself, A Distant Mirror is one of my favourite listens about medieval life and in all her writing she strikes a nice balance between strategic overview, domestic detail and vivid personalities. Other subscribers have complained that Tuchman's narrators sound so upper class that it puts them off but that's always felt to me to be a dumb thing to criticise. No narrator should have to apologise for their origins and narration should surely be judged by clarity and tone. Tuchman's stuff always scores highly in both regards.

The Proud Tower itself emerges from Tuchman's research as a sequence of essays on aspects of life between 1890 to 1914 that struck her as significant. It's not the books she expected to write and as a result it's not the book I expected to read making it more interesting and surprising than I anticipated. An example of this is the time she spends focusing on the significance of anarchism and its relationship to the emerging communist ideology. Not a subject I knew much about and not one I thought of as influential in the run up to the war but Tuchman makes an interesting and compelling case for its significance.

I'm only giving this 4 stars because it didn't quite reach the extraordinarily high standards of the books mentioned above but frankly not much does. But if you fancy a bit of old school history with a really strong authorial voice this is a great listen

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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