Barbara Wertheim Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Best known as a skillful popularizer of history, Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (TUHK-muhn) was a member of a distinguished family. Her maternal grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., was ambassador to Turkey and later Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson. Her uncle, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., served as secretary of the Treasury under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her father, Maurice Wertheim, was an international banker, philanthropist, art collector, and sportsman.

In the 1920’s Tuchman spent many summers traveling with her parents in Europe. In 1929 she entered Radcliffe College. Following graduation, she accompanied her grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., to the World Economic Conference in London. Tuchman began working for the Institute of Pacific Relations in 1933. In 1935 she was sent by the institute to work in Tokyo and returned later in the same year to the United States, where she began working for The Nation. Tuchman traveled to Spain for The Nation in 1937 as a correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War. In 1940 she married Lester R. Tuchman, a physician. During World War II she worked as an editor for the Office of War Information preparing material on the Far East for broadcast in Europe.

As a homemaker and mother of three girls, Tuchman put her career on hold for many years. Joking with a journalist, she referred to herself as a “Park Avenue matron.” She mentioned that it was difficult to find the time and place to write, a problem that she later solved by working in a cabin without a telephone at her country home at Cos Cob in southern Connecticut. Tuchman often said that she was glad she was unencumbered by the Ph.D. She believed that if she had continued in academic work her talents for narrative history would have been “stifled.” Despite the lack of a graduate degree, Tuchman served as president of the Society of American Historians from 1970 to 1973.

Tuchman’s first three best-sellers focus on the World War I...

(The entire section is 810 words.)