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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (January 30, 1912 – February 6, 1989) was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for her top-selling book The Guns of August, a history of the prelude and first month of World War I which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

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.


Tuchman was the daughter of the banker Maurice Wertheim, the first cousin of NY district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau and granddaughter of Henry Morgenthau Sr., Woodrow Wilson's Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She received her BA from Radcliffe College in 1933.

She married Lester R. Tuchman (b. 1904, d. 1997), an internist, medical researcher and professor of clinical medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicinemarker, in 1939; they had three daughters.

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 of The Nation and an American correspondent of the New Statesman in London, with Far East News Desk and Office of War Information (1934-45).

Tuchman was a trustee of Radcliffe College and a lecturer at Harvard Universitymarker, University of California, and the U.S.marker Naval War Collegemarker. A tower of Currier House, a Harvard Collegemarker residential dormitory, was named in her honor.

Tuchman's Law

The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold.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.


She twice won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, first for The Guns of August and again for Stilwell and the American Experience in China. In 1980 the National Endowment for the Humanities 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."

Partial List of Works


  1. New York Times: Lester Tuchman is dead at 93
  2. Tuchman, Barbara A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century Alfred A. Knopf New York 1978 ISBN 0394400267
  3. Jefferson Lecturers at NEH Website (retrieved January 22, 2009).

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