- Hardcover: 720 pages
- Publisher: Alfred a Knopf; 1st edition (August 1978)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394400267
- ISBN-13: 978-0394400266
- Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 582 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century Hardcover – August, 1978
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In this sweeping historical narrative, Barbara Tuchman writes of the cataclysmic 14th century, when the energies of medieval Europe were devoted to fighting internecine wars and warding off the plague. Some medieval thinkers viewed these disasters as divine punishment for mortal wrongs; others, more practically, viewed them as opportunities to accumulate wealth and power. One of the latter, whose life informs much of Tuchman's book, was the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, who enjoyed the opulence and elegance of the courtly tradition while ruthlessly exploiting the peasants under his thrall. Tuchman looks into such events as the Hundred Years War, the collapse of the medieval church, and the rise of various heresies, pogroms, and other events that caused medieval Europeans to wonder what they had done to deserve such horrors. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”—The New York Review of Books
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
At forest I had a hard time figuring out why Ms. Tuchman chose the three events -- the fall of Troy, the Renaissance popes, and the British loss of the American Colonies -- as follies prior to the Vietnam war. By the time I finished I felt that Ms.. Tuchman had made the connections. quite strongly.
Because the topics she addresses are timeless and are always here with us. After finishing this book I thought if there will be a day when our rulers do their work accordingly. I guess not. To make mistakes is part of the game. Nobody is free because human race is not an exception in animal kingdom and so is open to make mistakes. We screw things up. And we don't feel sorry.
What do we need to do the right thing? Intelligence? No. Academic studies? No.
Compassion perhaps. And Courage to bring it to its limits. As you read the book you think if there are examples of savvy and healthy political programs that save the world from our senselessness. I guess there are. But how to notice it. How to record things that goes beyond any record because they never happened. The guy who didn't die because there were not bombardment, doesn't know he is alive because someone didn't give an order to shatter his world.
Miss Tuchman doesn't addresses that issue, anyway; instead she displays in front of you the cruel inventory of the unnecessary deaths that the wrong answer, even of highly sophisticated governments, determined. She tells you how the wrong answer was full of good suggestions that could avoid the final output. In every case there was a chance of doing the right thing, I mean, before the facts. And in every case, the authority did the wrong thing.
From Troy to Vietnam has always been the same thing, so I would add to the title "From Troy to Vietnam... and beyond."
We live in a world ruled by governments that think not like rulers but like householders. Not much more. Politics at the highest level, Tuchman reminds us, is not more sophisticated than you could conceive. We are always the head of a family that believe that being the head of a nation give us special powers to solve problems. And it is not like that. The method for making ends meet is only one whether you are in the living room of your house or in the hall of a palace addressing a speech.
Just think about it.
Now, while I'm going to read "A distant mirror," you should try "The March..."
You won't feel cheated, at all.