Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (January 30, 1912 – February 6, 1989) was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for The Guns of August, 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.
Watch an interview with Barbara Tuchman, conducted by journalist Bill Moyers on the PBS show Bill Moyers Journal, free from pbs.org. Tuchman was the author of books that aspired to be more popular than the established classics of the field. Inventing the Middle Ages by Norman Cantor, a history of medieval historians, describes her work in context.
Tuchman was the daughter of the banker Maurice Wertheim and granddaughter of Henry Morgenthau Sr., Woodrow Wilson's Ambassador to Turkey. 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 Medicine, 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 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.
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.