The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

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The March of Folly From Troy to Vietnam is a Kindle Babs is one crafty talented instructor and this ranks highly among the BEST history books I ve had the pleasure of reading You shou

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam is a Kindle Babs is one crafty, talented instructor and this ranks highly among the BEST history books I've had the pleasure of reading. You should be reading it right now. Seriously, I mean it. This is the second gem by Barbara Tuchman that I've tackled, after the stellar The Guns of August), and the impressiveness of her work has led to my developing rather intense, and possibly inappropriate, feelings for her. I'm smitten. You see, Babs writes history in such a colorful, engaging manner that you don't notice she's shoveling mounds of knowledge into your memory muscle. You're so interested that you just glide along the pages, absorbed in her narrative web, while she's filling your brain with smarts. It's downright spooky. Honestly, how often can you truly say that you've overdosed on happy reading a history book. Yes, she's that good. PLOT SUMMARYTo qualify as "folly" for this book, Tuchman explains that actions need to meet all four of the following criteria: 1. The actions must be clearly contrary to the self-interest of the organization or group pursuing them; 2. The actions must be conducted over a period of time, not just in a single burst of irrational behavior; 3. The actions must be conducted by a number of individuals, not just one deranged maniac; and4. MOST IMPORTANTLY, there must have been a significant group who "at the time" pointed out, correctly, why the action in question was folly (i.e., no Monday morning quarterbacking or 20/20 hindsight). Tuchman spends some pages at the beginning of the book describing a number of "bonehead" and "assclowny" decisions in history that didn't qualify as folly, either because they were a single instance of governmental psychosis, or because they were carried out at the command of a dictator and not a coordinated governmental policy. Based on the above criteria, Babs looks at four primary examples of FUBAR "folly" in history: The Fall of Troy: The loss of Troy as a result of the Trojans' failure to question the deployment of the "Trojan Horse" by the Greeks. While interesting, this for me was easily the "weakest" part of the book, mainly because there is just not enough historical knowledge on the subject for Tuchman to analyze convincingly. She managed to keep me engaged with her stylish delivery, but I think this segment was likely included in order to have the book span a larger swatch of world history. The Renaissance Popes and the Protestant Reformation: The reign of the Renaissance Popes and how their excesses, and their failure to recognize the growing discontent among the Church members, led directly to the Protestant Reformation. I loved this section and it was easily my favorite of the whole book. After finishing this portion, I immediately went about trying to locate other books on the period. It was a fascinating time. Now if I can only get Babs to re-write these other books to make them more interesting. How the Britsh lost the American colonies: Another superb section of the book. What I found most interesting about this discussion of the major events that led up the American Revolution is that Tuchman spent most of her time looking through the eyes of the British, in contrast to peering through the eyes of the American colonist, which is the more common perspective used in studies of this period. Despite my general familiarity with this period, I found this to be very enlightening. The failure of America in Vietnam:. A terrific end to an amazing survey of history. My only quibble here is that I think Tuchman's "objectivity" may have slipped away to make a sandwich or take a nap because you can readily see that she was strongly against the war. Nothing wrong with that, but I prefer not to be able to read historian's personal views in the work. Still, her analysis is excellent, well supported, and she lays out the history in a very engaging manner. Overall, this is as good as histories get. Engaging, informative and wonderfully delivered. I would call this a must for history fans or fans of military history. 6.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!! . Twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Barbara Tuchman now tackles the pervasive presence of folly in governments thru the ages Defining folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives, Tuchman details four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly iTwice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Barbara Tuchman now tackles the pervasive presence of folly in governments thru the ages Defining folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives, Tuchman details four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly in government the Trojan War, the breakup of the Holy See provoked by Renaissance Popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain s George III the USA s persistent folly in Vietnam THE MARCH OF FOLLY brings the people, places events of history alive for today s reader.. Bestseller Ebook The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam I thought 'The March of Folly' would be a good read to balance out the optimism of The Wisdom of Crowds. Turned out to be a great hunch.Why?Indeed, Tuchman's book does in fact emphasize that very optimism. Tuchman's 'Follies' are committed not by the common people but by closeted leaders, lacking in common-sense and cut-off from ground realities. Do I need to mention the Yes-Men that surround them?Tuchman takes up a panoramic view of human history and exposes these decisions, and wonders with us how much Folly it took to make these disastrous calls. Surely common-sense would not have allowed these? Given the scope of this exercise, Tuchman has limited herself to the most famous historical examples of these foolish decisions, ranging from the Trojans bringing the Trojan horse into their walls, and the Renaissance popes provoking the Protestant succession, to the German decision to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare in World War I (thereby triggering America’s declaration of war), and Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack that similarly triggered America’s declaration of war in 1941. But we can extrapolate them into any number of follies that we are familiar with in our own countries and see how leaders make the stupid mistakes over and over again, and incomprehensible mistakes at that.This irrationality is what astounds us when we look back on these gross errors of judgment and Tuchman is especially scathing in dealing with the leaders who make such choices: “Persistence in error,” “wooden-headedness," “refusal to draw inference from negative signs,” and “mental stagnation” are a few choice examples.This should make us conclude that the main message of the book, and of history, is one of Tolstoy-ian embrace of the 'Wisdom of the Masses'? It is quite a powerful argument and one we would dearly love to embrace - it gives us the possibility of a future where we can side-step such follies, by avoiding these very decision making practices. And that is very very important too.However, I think there is one more angle to be considered here.Consider Tuchman's emphatic statement:“Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as ‘the most flagrant of all passions.’ ” This however, introduces another aspect to the 'folly' we address. It is possible that these 'leaders' were in fact trapped in a competitive spiral - any leader who did not pursue these 'follies' would have been scorned and lost his job - precisely because those were widely held to be the correct things to do. This sort of decision making is in fact quite common - leaders always follow the popular 'wisdom' and usually it turns out to be right. But there are times in history when this normal course of action fails.There are times when the circumstances are too inter-dependent or too much at the edge-of-the-cliff that no-one, not even common-sense, could have anticipated the fall that was coming by taking the steps that should have been matter-of-course at any other point. These are the points when good practices suddenly seem like Follies.This is why we have to consider the possibility that these were not just 'follies' arising from the closeted and exclusive nature of these leaders, but from a confluence of pressures that left them little wiggle room - and most importantly, that this is more or less always the case with leaders - their decisions are not always their own. Just as in the modern business world - where the financial sector, market signals and impulses make business leaders slaves to the quarterly bottom lines, irrespective of whether that bottom line is congruent with a company’s, let alone society’s, longer-term well-being.So the March of Folly could well be as unstoppable as it sounds to those leaders as well, especially in the short term when history rushed in on them.This is not (of course!) to say that these leaders were not culpable for their decisions, or even, god forbid, to excuse their 'stupid' advisors and Yes-Men. It is however dangerous to assume the other extreme position - that if only 'common-sense' prevailed, much evil could have been avoided. No. That sort of thinking only allows us to make the same mistakes again, precisely because common-sense would allow it!
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About Author

  • Barbara W. Tuchman Post author

    Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner She became best known for The Guns of August 1962 , a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.

One thought on “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

  • Babs is one crafty, talented instructor and this ranks highly among the BEST history books I ve had the pleasure of reading You should be reading it right now Seriously, I mean it This is the second gem by Barbara Tuchman that I ve tackled, after the stellar The Guns of August , and the impressiveness of her work has led to my developing rather intense, and possibly inappropriate, feelings for her I m smitten You see, Babs writes history in such a colorful, engaging manner that you don t notice [...]


  • I thought The March of Folly would be a good read to balance out the optimism of The Wisdom of Crowds Turned out to be a great hunch.Why Indeed, Tuchman s book does in fact emphasize that very optimism Tuchman s Follies are committed not by the common people but by closeted leaders, lacking in common sense and cut off from ground realities Do I need to mention the Yes Men that surround them Tuchman takes up a panoramic view of human history and exposes these decisions, and wonders with us how mu [...]


  • A highly readable account of four instances of human folly over the last 2800 years These include the Trojans s unaccountable bringing of the Trojan horse into Troy the transgressions of the Renaissance Popes which brought on the Reformation the loss by Britain of the American colonies and America s own pointless war in Vietnam The last section reminds me very much of Neil Sheehan s A Bright Shining Lie, which was written several years later than Tuchman s narrative Her book is vivid, clear, unf [...]




  • Tuchman s The March of Folly is spotty First of all, too much attention is paid to Troy, about which nothing is known, historically speaking All that section does is provide a simile or two for what follows Also, she actually is stronger in another classical case not mentioned in the title or in most descriptions of the book, viz that of King Rehoboam of Israel Second, the account of the involvements of France and the United States in VietNam is of a journalistic quality not in keeping with the [...]


  • About 8 years ago when I read this book I would have given it 4 stars It gets a 5 today simply because it is much pertinent to read it now Barbara Tuchman is one of the great writers of history She remembers the first rule of history Tell a story In this one she tells several and keeps your attention better The theme is imaginative and appropriate It is also not a very long book so you can easily read it in a week Barbara Tuchman has a way of viewing history as few can Instead of falling back o [...]


  • A book which informed my entire world view, and still does Tuchman posits the existance of folly, or the pursuit of public policy contrary to self interest in other words, why nations keep shooting themselves in the foot She uses the Trojans taking the Greek horse inside the walls of Troy as her templatee feasible alternative that of destroying the Horse is always open Capys the Elder advised it before Laocoon s warning, and Cassandra afterward Notwithstanding the frequent references in the epic [...]


  • The March of Folly is an unfortunate title Or maybe not so unfortunate Because, after all, what is folly Barbara Tuchman gives us several examples of the human animal at its worst but parading at its best From Ancient Troy right up through Vietnam can a sequel including Chechnia, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan be far behind , we have proved ourselves to be little better than the apes If there s a difference, it s only in the splendor of our rebarbative behavior Kings, Popes, Ministe [...]



  • Barbara Tuchman was a journalist before becoming a history author, and despite The March of Folly being a book about certain historical incidents, it is a work of journalism than history It is an investigation into the process by which governments embark on self destructive courses folly , despite recognition of the problem, and alternative courses being available As such, it is of a screed against certain practices, rather than a real attempt at balanced or impartial history.The good news is [...]


  • Barbara Tuchman is a first rate writer and historian whose books I have much enjoyed For some years now I have been meaning to get a copy of The March of Folly, since it is a book which greatly appeals to me in its concept To look at the history of modern man since about 1,000 BC and take examples of real foolishness on the part of a number of key governments, and try to see why they so acted, strikes me as a wonderful idea for a book However, I can now say, somewhat reluctantly, that The March [...]


  • I always enjoy Barbara Tuchman s ability to write compelling and accessible history be it the oubreak of WWI or the life of a french aristorcrat in the 14th Century, add to that a job which allows me to experience folly in all its glory, I had sky high expectations of the book.The premise was so promising, noted historian takes a four egregious disatsers the trojan horse, the papal actions in the lead up to Luther, the loss of the american colonies and the Vietnam war to understand what led to t [...]


  • When I was in the 4th grade I found a book that my Mom had to read for college in the back of a cupboard That book was Barbara W Tuchman s A Distant Mirror , and I do believe that is what led me to all the other history books I ve enjoyed in the years since The March of Folly is a study of, in the authors words, pursuit of policy contrary to self interest, with four main examples The Trojan horse, The Renaissance popes, the British loss of America, and America in Vietnam I particularly enjoyed t [...]




  • I d love to know what Barbara Tuchman, who wrote this in 1984, would think of the current U.S political situation.From the epilogue In America, where the electoral process is drowning in commercial techniques of fund raising and image making, we may have completed a circle back to a selection process as unconcerned with qualifications as that which made Darius King of Persia.And what was that, you might ask When he and six fellow conspirators, as recorded by Herodotus, overthrew the reigning des [...]


  • A fascinating attempt by Tuchman to explain or at least illustrate why governments choose the wrong path even when they know it s the wrong path She begins with the story of the Trojan Horse to illustrate the first written example of governmental folly leading to disaster.The next three examples are of the Renaissance Popes, the British handling of the American Revolution and the American actions before and during the Vietnamese War.The popes, in spite of criticism from many clerics and kings co [...]


  • Good topic, but a little dry, fairly dense, and not as good as The Guns of August The author looks at the causes of four historical folly events the Trojan Horse, 6 corrupt Renaissance Popes leading to the Reformation and a sack of Rome , the lead up to the American revolution primarily from the British side , and finally French and American involvement in Vietnam and SE Asia.These follies are chosen because viable alternatives were available and popularly supported, and the decisions were taken [...]


  • I found the section on Troy extremely interesting, the section on the Popes not very interesting, and the introduction I found OK Tuchman s thesis re folly was a new viewpoint for me, so I m pleased that I read as much as I did There seemed to be an awful lot of facts in each chapter So I decided not to read the sections on the American War of Independence, and on Vietnam.


  • In this book Tuchman takes a step beyond the traditional historian s story telling role to provide color commentary about a specific subset of examples of misgovernment that she classifies as folly Not all examples of misgovernment can be classified as folly as explained in the following quotation Misgovernment is of four kinds, often in combination They are 1 tyranny or oppression , 2 excessive ambition , 3 incompetence or decadence , 4 folly or perversity This books is concerned with the last [...]


  • Excellent, excellent examination of the tendency for political policies to continue down damaging pathways though multiple experts advise against it, which Tuchman describes as folly Her description of decadent popes directly encouraging the Protestant Reformation and the resulting loss of Roman power is fun, lively, and intellectually rigorous She falters a bit while explaining the British loss of the American colonies as a result of folly She would have been wise to shave at least 20 30 from t [...]



  • Barbara Tuchman teaches us all about why the stupid people in power do the stupid things they do Inviting giant wooden horses inside the walls Provoking the Protestant Reformation Losing the American Colonies Bogging a superpower down in a brushfire war in a backwater country of no strategic significanceis one needs an update for the new century of follies, but alas Tuchman is no longer with us.


  • In 2002 Elder Neal A Maxwell titled Encircled in the Arms of His Love As part of his talk, he briefly discussed the Founding Fathers and subsequently quoted Barbara W Tuchman from her book The March of Folly It would be invaluable if we could know what produced this burst of talent from a base of only two and a half million inhabitants As part of my quest to catalogue as many books quoted at General Conference as possible, I added the book to the list and shortly thereafter ordered it for myself [...]


  • After reading The Guns of August I had very high expectations for The March of Folly My expectations were perhaps too high as this book left me wanting Unlike The Guns of August which takes a narrative form The March of Folly reads like a thesis with carefully selected evidence presented to support it While I found her arguments well reasoned I could not shake the feeling that much of the evidence was carefully selected to prove her points while counter evidence was left out.The March of Folly [...]


  • Man, talk about phoning it in.Years ago I read Barbara Tuchman s famous Guns of August and thought it was great So I d give this one a shot Big mistake.She s just slumming it here not trying very hard The theme is times in history when a nation engaged in folly self defeating behavior That s a pretty broad theme that in encapsulate tons of examples She focuses on four items that don t really have much to do w each other, but she felt like talking about Well, really three things she spends just o [...]


  • Insightful, particularly for a history noob like myself, Barb s writing is full of relevant advice, reflected in the mistakes of the past Although written in the 80s, the book remains valuable and interesting, and I always felt like I was in well researched, objectively neutral hands when reading I came away feeling like I had learned quite a lot I felt like I could better underrstand the pitfalls of bad government decision making and how to avoid making the same mistakes if I was ever in a situ [...]



  • The March of Folly was written by Barbara Tuchman author of Guns of August The book, as the title implies, discusses various case studies throughout history in which governments defied reason and pursued actions that were to their detriment The main examples that Tuchman discusses are 1 The Trojan Horse2 The Renaissance Popes and the lead up to the Reformation 3 The British Lose America 4 America s Involvement in Vietnam Below are the items from the book that I found interesting Folly sometimes [...]


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