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The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by…

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984)

by Barbara W. Tuchman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Mirror of the Past (2)

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Recently added byprivate library, oparaxenos, eastlake_uk, AEnders, Jansi12, MarinusFDT, brikis98, StofvS, meehanpj
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    Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit by Garry Wills (rakerman)
    rakerman: I was interested to read the section on the Renaissance Popes as it reminded me of Garry Wills book Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit.

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Another infuriating book, especially the chapter on Vietnam. Callous powerful men sitting in luxurious boardrooms and making ill-considered decisions that led to the needless deaths and injuries of millions of people. The Vietnam War was a futile war in a worthless cause. ( )
  mafinokc | Oct 30, 2015 |
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, Ministers, Generals … it’s all the same. And the tragedy? Invariably, the loss of so many young lives to no real purpose other than to serve the interests of ambition, pride, ignorance, stubbornness — in short, of vanity.

Yes, vanitas, vanitatis. It’s all right there in Ecclesiastes, and not much has changed. We are a prideful, belligerent, deceitful, artful, malignant, umbragious — a word I learned in reading this book—species. In short, we’re prone to folly.

And who pays the ultimate price of that folly? Our youth.

I cannot remember being so disheartened by a book since I read, at a young and impressionable age, A History of Torture — or more recently, Martha Gellhorn’s The Face of War. If you want to continue believing that “all is best in the best of all possible worlds,” don’t read this book. If you want to continue believing that we are governed by people who know what’s best for us, don’t read this book. If you want to believe that the march of history is inevitable, don’t read this book.

Ignore my suggestions at your own risk. But if you don’t, be prepared to undertake a life of activism — and don’t expect it to be a happy life. To buck folly is to question our very essence. And our essence would appear — if Ms. Tuchman’s major premise is to be believed — to be tragically farcical. That, or farcically tragic. The case of the former President Lyndon B. Johnson in one of this book’s final chapters could easily rival that of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Brooklyn, NY

( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
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 Bright Shining Lie, which was written several years later than Tuchman's narrative. Her book is vivid, clear, unfussy, with just the right density of diction. It never flags. Highly recommended. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
An important lesson about human nature, especially human nature in groups: they don't always act in their own self-interest. Such as a war in Iraq... ( )
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
Here Folly is defined by Ms. Tuchman as a pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest and must meet three criteria: it must have been seen as counter-productive at the time; a feasible alternative must have been available; and it must have been action by a group rather than an individual that extended beyond one political lifetime, for example, a succession of office holders. She uses four historical periods to illustrate "folly': the Trojan War, the Renaissance Popes in the period before the Reformation, the events precipitating the American Revolution, and the escalating involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam.

While the whole book was interesting, the Renaissance era was the hardest for me to follow because I wasn't very familiar with the people and events the author was covering. The section on the British loosing its colonies was the most enjoyable and the one on Vietnam the most maddening since I lived through it and while I knew it was a stupid war at the time, she had amassed a lot of details that I wasn't aware of. This book was very detailed and would work best for those who want all the facts rather than a brief overview. Also be aware that "Folly" was published in 1984 so an accounting of the Vietnam War written today migh
1 vote hailelib | Dec 16, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara W. Tuchmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tromp, Bartmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"And I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same motifs already heard will not be sounding still...put to use by reasonable men to reasonable ends, or by madmen to nonsense and disaster." -- Joseph Campbell, Forward to The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, 2969
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A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by government of policies contrary to their own interests.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345308239, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:44 -0400)

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Examines the irrationalities of governments through analysis of four crises of history--the fall of Troy, the Renaissance popes' provocation of the Protestant Reformation, Britain's loss of the American colonies, and America's involvement in Vietnam.

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