See on Barbara Tuchman

Carolyn See’s warm tribute to Barbara Tuchman misses an important point: The Ph.D. Establishment in history departments throughout the world (yes!) has little in common with a successful writer of history, whatever the writer’s gender.

In areas of research that have been combed over for many decades--and sometimes centuries--the method matters more than the content, let alone the readability. Such theories as revisionist, deconstructionist, semiotic, psychoanalytic, etc. have replaced the old-fashioned realist, Marxist or even royalist approaches to history. Historiography has become a subject unto itself and is taught in most graduate schools in the United States.

It is indeed sad that such a chasm exists but the two “sides” can only meet at Armageddon. Or perhaps afterward. And since we surely don’t want that, Ms. See, we’ll have to accept the sorry fact that the Barbara Tuchmans of this world--of which there are never enough--will go unrecognized by those who consider themselves “professional” historians.

But here is some comfort: I seem to remember that Vice President Quayle read “The Guns of August.” And he liked what he read . . . and probably understood it too.



Culver City