The Guns Of August

I’ve probably read Barbara Tuchman’s book of the same name about half a dozen times, maybe more.  It’s a massive read, I think;  not for the faint-hearted and certainly a difficult one for the non-military-history reader.

TGOA is magnificent as a military textbook alone, but what Tuchman brings to the party is an exhaustive set of the biographies of the principal characters so that we can understand not just what they did, but in many cases why they did it.

And I know that Tuchman was a tired old New York Lefty, but not in this work.

Anyway, I happened on this EwwwChoob video which follows the book faithfully, albeit cutting a few parts out (because otherwise it would run for not 100 minutes, but for three days — about as long as it takes to read Tuchman’s volume).

And it has lots and lots of original footage, none of that tiresome reenactment nonsense.  Enjoy.

Afterthought:  Tuchman’s prequel to The Guns Of August, A Proud Tower, will change your ideas of history completely, and for the better.  It did mine, at any event.

Also:  link fixed.


  1. Sometime I wish that I bought an AK back when you got a rifle, bayonet, sling, oil bottle and three magazines for $269. I did settle for an SKS, so I at least had something to shoot commie ammo.

  2. Read most of Tuchmans work. She’s occasionally got some good insights and from a certain standpoint she’s not wrong. But as someone who’s read a lot of WW1 scholarship, I find TGOA mediocre at best. Tuchman was writing it at a time when a lot of resources from France and Germany, as well as Imperial Russia and the Balkans wasn’t accessible. Tuchman tends fo follow the conventional English interpretation of events, and the thesis put forth by Fischer. Both of which I find either heavily self serving or self loathing. Niall Ferguson and some more recent scholars do a much better job than Tuchman, but it may be because they have access to better archives and less emotional attachment.

    1. would you please provide some specific sources re “Niall Ferguson and some more recent scholars”

      1. I will have to look through my list to get authors and titles. It’s not gonna be today is what I’m saying. But sure.

      2. Boron. My libraries in a bit of disarray right now because of a remodel. But here’s my collection of WW1 books I found insightful. Some of them are audiobook only, which is kind of cheating but no different than a university lecture. I dont have a lot of primary source material here other than a few memoirs (which I tend to steer clear of), because I’m effectively mono-lingual.

        The Pity of War (Niall Ferguson)
        Pandoras Box (Jorn Leonhardt) -Excellent and very comprehensive. But its definitely a nerd book.
        The War that ended Peace (Margaret Macmillan)
        The long Shadow (David Reynolds)
        First World War:Still no end in sight (Frank Furedi)
        Storm of Steel (Ernst Junger)
        Goodbye to all that (Robert Graves)
        The Sleepwalkers & Iron Kingdom (Christopher Clark)
        Dreadnought (Robert Massie)
        George, Nicolas, and Wilhelm (Miranda Carter)
        Mr Wilsons War (John Dos Passos–Not new but insightful into the American entry)
        Anything by Pritt Buttar has been excellent so far (I’ve made it through 2, (Collision of Empires, Germany Ascendant) have 2 more to go) Eastern Front.
        For God and Kaiser (Richard Basset) Austria-Hungary.
        Myth of the Great War (John Mosier–controversial but makes some very interesting arguements).

        I have others on specific battles like Passchendale or Verdun or the Somme. Attended too many university lectures to list and still have a lot of handout material back before the Internets.

        I have also read the standards like Guns of August, and All’s Quiet. Which when I was growing up was pretty much the extent of WW1 coverage we did.

        If you want a really fun one get the audio book “Last of the Doughboys” its an oral history of some of the last surviving WW1 vets in the US.

        All of the above provided from my “have read” pile. I have about 1/2 dozen on the “Still to be read” pile.

    2. It seems a little harsh to criticise her work for not using sources she didn’t have access to at the time of writing.

  3. I bought both books last year from a used bookshop that closed due to covid. A boxed hard cover set with beautiful paper. I finished TGOA before Christmas and concur with you.

    Time to start on A Proud Tower I guess.

      1. Yes. It was also a coffee shop and small gig music venue. It had been in business for over 40 years and was one of my favourite hangouts. Destroyed be a greedy landlord who wouldn’t cut his tenants any slack when trade plummeted during lockdown.

        The deathe penalty would be too good for that mongrel.

        1. Which begs the question: was the landlord able to quickly fill the empty property, or did he end up shafted also? One could hope it’s still collecting flys, instead of rent.

  4. Required reading in 10th grade (oh so very long ago). I liked it; have re-read it a number of times. Maybe not the best account, maybe it is. Doesn’t matter – far better than what 10th graders get these days.

    WWI. Isn’t that when the Japanese bombed Gettysburg?

    Gramps was a bomber pilot over France. Good tales. Wish I hadn’t been so young when he told them.

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