Barbara W. Tuchman? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The popular historian Barbara W. Tuchman crafted one or both of the following cautionary adages:
- War is the unfolding of miscalculations.
- History is the unfolding of miscalculations.
Sometimes the final word is singular. Would you please help me unravel this mystery?
Quote Investigator: In 1971 Tuchman published “Stilwell and the American Experience in China: 1911-45”. She discussed the strategies adopted by Chiang Kai-shek who was the leader of the Kuomintang of China. His overall plans did not succeed, and he retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after suffering defeat on the mainland. Tuchman wrote the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
History is the unfolding of miscalculations, and Chiang had made several.
QI has been unable to find solid evidence that Tuchman used the variant expression with “war” instead of “history” although the 1973 citation given further below ascribed the variant to her.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading
- 1971, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 by Barbara W. Tuchman (Barbara Wertheim Tuchman), Chapter 6: Vinegar Joe, Quote Page 132, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩