This book provides an analysis for historical mistakes. Barbara Tuchman masterfully analyzes several famous moments in world history (cough cough Western history) to analyze what she refers to as folly or my personal favorite “woodenheadedness”.
The idea here is that the causes for the folly might be myriad or diverse, but they fall under a few clear guidelines….as much perpetuated by a group than by an individual, there must have been reasonable and known alternatives….and there must have been fair warning that these were indeed folly, ie the decisions pursued should have been called out prior to making them.
The main sections of this book are the fall of Troy (folly of Trojans to accept the Horse into its midst), the American Revolution (folly of England to overtax American colonies out of spiteful and punitive reasons), the Protestant rise (folly of the Vatican to refuse to clean house of corruption), and Vietnam War (folly of England, France, and of course US in using Vietnam as a staging ground for anti-Communist agenda).
In each analysis, Tuchman eviscerates the various reasoning for these folly whether its the legendary hubris/mistakes of the Trojans, the racism and misunderstanding of Americans in Vietnam, the lust for power in the Vatican, or the pettiness of the British, willing to tax America to death even though the subsequent embargoes cost more.
In addition, Tuchman provides micro-analyses of Moctezuma, Jeroboam, and others in this book.
Overall, we are and always have been in a state of folly. So either take comfort in the fact that everything under the sun etc etc or just realize we’re not ever getting out of this life alive.