The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman

This was a deliciously written book about the turn of the century, an era little remarked upon by most historians. The era throughout seems to be one of marked class antagonism, although if there is a theme to this book, it is that the oppressed and toiling masses are no wiser or more virtuous than the elites who rule over them. The book leads up to what looks like a victory for labor and socialism, only to crash on the rocks of the First World War. The story is illuminated by profiles of remarkable personalities on both Left and Right, statesmen, rabble-rousers, and men of letters, who form a kind of gentlemen’s club above the fray of the times. As with most history, the story of the Common Man is lost in this discussion of distinguished individuals who claim to speak for him. Yet this is a remarkable book that fills in a crucial gap in my ongoing studies of Western Civilization.

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