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The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (Library Edition)

Barbara Wertheim Tuchman

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In The March of Folly, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman tackles the pervasive presence of folly in governments through 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 the Renaissance popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain's George III, and the United States' persistent folly in Vietnam. The March of Folly brings the people, places, and events of history magnificently alive for today's reader.

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Barbara Tuchman defines folly as "Pursuit of Policy Contrary to Self-Interest." In THE MARCH OF FOLLY, Tuchman examines 4 conflicts: The Trojan Horse, The Protestant Secession, The American Revolution, and The American War in Vietnam. In each example an alternative course of action was available, the actions were endorsed by a group, not just an individual leader, and the actions were perceived as counter productive in their own time. Many individuals are guilty of folly (Tuchman also calls this woodenheadedness), but when governments persist in folly, their actions can adversely affect thousands, even millions of lives. Folly is a child of power. "The power to command frequently causes failure to think."(p.32). THE MARCH OF FOLLY may not be as well known as A DISTANT MIRROR and THE GUNS OF AUGUST, but it is my favorite of her works. I heartily recommend it to any Tuchman fans who have not yet discovered it.

Randy Hickernell
Ballantine sales rep

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Twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Barbara Tuchman now tackles the pervasive presence of folly in governments through the ages. Defining folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interersts, 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 the Renaissance Popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain's George III, and the United States' persistent folly in Vietnam. THE MARCH OF FOLLY brings the people, places, and events of history magnificently alive for today's reader.

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