Quotations by Tuchman, Barbara


Wooden-headedness consists of assessing a situation in terms of preconceived, fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be confused by the facts.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“An Inquiry into the Persistence of Unwisdom in Government,” Esquire (1980)
Added on 31-Mar-15 | Last updated 31-Mar-15
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The unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree in the primeval forest which fell without being heard.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Can History Be Served Up Hot?” New York Times (8 Mar 1964)
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Added on 21-Apr-15 | Last updated 21-Apr-15
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The contemporary has no perspective; everything is in the foreground and appears the same size. Little matters loom big, and great matters are sometimes missed because their outlines cannot be seen. Viet­nam and Panama are given four-column headlines today, but the historian 50 or 100 years hence will put them in a chap­ter under a general heading we have not yet thought of.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Can History Be Served Up Hot?” New York Times (8 Mar 1964)
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Added on 12-May-15 | Last updated 12-May-15
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Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Papyrus to Paperbacks: The World That Books Made,” Washington Post (30 Dec 1979)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature, dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. The are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world, and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“The Book,” Lecture, Library of Congress (17 Oct 1979)
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Reprinted in Authors' League Bulletin (Nov-Dec 1979)
Added on 7-Apr-15 | Last updated 7-Apr-15
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To a historian, libraries are food, shelter, and even muse.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“The Houses of Research,” Authors Guild Bulletin (Mar 1972)
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Added on 26-May-15 | Last updated 26-May-15
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Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
(Attributed)
Added on 5-May-15 | Last updated 5-May-15
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Theology being the work of males, original sin was traced to the female.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, ch. 9 (1978)
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Added on 30-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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When the gap between the ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Foreward (1978)
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Added on 2-Jun-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-15
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In the midst of events there is no perspective.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
A Distant Mirror (1978)
Added on 28-Jul-11 | Last updated 28-Jul-11
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Every successful revolution puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945, ch. 8 (1972)
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Added on 9-Jun-15 | Last updated 9-Jun-15
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Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August (1962)

On the defense of coastline prior to an outbreak of war.

Added on 27-Dec-10 | Last updated 28-Dec-10
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War is the unfolding of miscalculations.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August (1962)

In Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1970), she gave this as "History is the unfolding of miscalculations."
Added on 26-Jul-11 | Last updated 23-Jun-15
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Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August, ch. 2 (1962)
Added on 21-Jul-15 | Last updated 21-Jul-15
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Honor wears different coats to different eyes.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August, ch. 7 (1962)
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Added on 19-May-15 | Last updated 19-May-15
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No more distressing moment can ever face a British government than that which requires it to come to a hard, fast, and specific decision.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August, ch. 9 (1962)
Added on 28-Apr-15 | Last updated 28-Apr-15
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To search for meaning we must not forget that the gods (or God, for that matter) are a concept of the human mind; they are the creatures of man, not vice-versa. They are invented to give meaning and purpose to the puzzle that is life on earth, to explain strange and irregular phenomena of nature, haphazard events, and, above all, irrational human conduct. They exist to bear the burden of all the things that cannot be comprehended except by supernatural intervention or design.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam, ch. 2 (1984)
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Added on 14-Apr-15 | Last updated 14-Apr-15
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