Friday, January 30, 2015

History for Everyone

Barbara Tuchman (January 30, 1912 - February 6, 1989) never earned a doctorate in history, but the books that she authored injected new life into the layman’s study and understanding of history. While Tuchman herself credited her interest in history to the books she read as a child, it would be remiss to dismiss the experiences and life opportunities made accessible by her influential family. Tuchman’s father, Maurice Wertheim, was a wealthy banker, owner of The Nation, founder of the Theater Guild, who was the President of the American Jewish Congress, and held a host of other important positions. Her grandfather was Henry Morgenthau, Sr., President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to Turkey and Mexico and her uncle was Henry Morgenthau Jr., President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury. 

After Tuchman graduated from Radcliffe College (where she studied history and literature), she traveled with her grandfather Morgenthau to the World Economic Conference in London, did research and editorial work at the American Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations and contributed to the journal Foreign Affairs. She also worked as a correspondent for The Nation, during which time she reported on the Spanish Civil War. Tuchman also spent time in Tokyo, Peking, Moscow and Paris. During World War II, she worked for the Office of War Information. 

Tuchman’s first book, The Lost British Policy: Britain and Spain Since 1700, was published in 1938. In 1940, she married Dr. Lester Reginald Tuchman, and spent the next decade and a half raising their three daughters while researching for her next book. In 1956, she released Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour. This was followed by nine more books over the next 30 years. For her work, Tuchman received two Pulitzer Prizes (Guns of August and Stillwell) and numerous honors (including several honorary degrees).

Barbara Tuchman died in Connecticut, from complications of a stroke, on February 6, 1989.

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