Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (January 30, 1912 – February 6, 1989) was an American self-trained historian and author. She first became known for her best-selling book The Guns of August, a history of the prelude to and first month of World War I, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1963.
Tuchman focused on writing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.
Tuchman was the daughter of the banker Maurice Wertheim. She was a first cousin of New York district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, a niece of Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and granddaughter of Henry Morgenthau Sr., Woodrow Wilson's Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College in 1933.
She married Lester R. Tuchman, an internist, medical researcher and professor of clinical medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in 1939; they had three daughters (one of whom is Jessica Mathews).
From 1934 to 1935 she worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Pacific Relations in New York and Tokyo, and then began a career as a journalist before turning to books. Tuchman was the editorial assistant for The Nation and an American correspondent for the New Statesman in London, the Far East News Desk and the Office of War Information (1934—45).
Tuchman was a trustee of Radcliffe College and a lecturer at Harvard University, University of California, and the U.S. Naval War College. A tower of Currier House, a Harvard College residential dormitory, was named in her honor.
Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening, on a lucky day, without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena. This has led me to formulate Tuchman's Law, as follows: "The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold" (or any figure the reader would care to supply).
Tuchman twice won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, first for The Guns of August in 1963, and again for Stilwell and the American Experience in China in 1972. In 1980 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) selected Tuchman for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Tuchman's lecture was entitled "Mankind's Better Moments."
The Lost British Policy: Britain and Spain since 1700. A book about British policy in Spain and the western Mediterranean, 1938.
Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour: a book about English involvement in Israel over the centuries, 1956.
The Zimmermann Telegram: The Zimmermann telegram in early 1917 was a key incident involving Germany and Mexico that helped provoke the USA into entering World War I, 1958
The Guns of August details the military decisions and actions that occurred leading up to and during the first month of World War I. The book that established her reputation. John F. Kennedy advised his Cuban Missile Crisis committee, the EXCOMM, to read this book during the 13 days of the Crisis. 1962. Reprinted several times in the 1980s as August 1914.
The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914. Covers the hesitant rise of U.S. imperialism, anarchist assassinations, socialism and communism and the devolution of the 19th century order in Europe and North America, 1966.
Stilwell and the American Experience in China: a biography of Joseph Stilwell, 1970.
Notes from China, a Trip to China, 1972.
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, a comparison and contrast between 14th century and late-20th century Europe, with nobleman Enguerrand VII de Coucy as the central figure. 1978
Practicing History: Selected essays on historical writing, political ambition, and the importance of reading history. Original essays published between 1935 and 1981. Book published 1981.
From Troy to Vietnam: A meditation on the historical recurrence of governments pursuing policies evidently contrary to their own interests. Focuses on Troy, the Renaissance Popes provoking Protestantism, the British losing their American colonies, and the United States in Vietnam. 1984
The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution. 1988 (The title "The First Salute" refers to the St. Eustatius "flag incident" of 16 November 1776.)
America's Security in the 1980s: was a photographer with Laurence Martin for this book by Christopher Bertram. 1982.
A Lecture Sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Authors' League of America, Presented at the Library of Congress October 17, 1979: Published in 1980, one edition.