Zimmerman Telegram

Tuchman, W. Barbara. The Zimmerman Telegram. New York: Viking Press, 1958.

I can only imagine how popular this book must have been in its day. The First Great War was not a distant memory at the time of its publication. In fact, the events of World War I were probably still fresh in everyone’s mind having just survived the Second World War. I know The Zimmerman Telegram was required reading for at least one political science course at my college.

Probably the most compelling thing about Tuchman’s writing is her ability to make even well-known history as compelling whodunnit mystery. Written as smoothly as a novel The Zimmerman Telegram recounts the events leading up to the United State’s involvement in World War I starting with a telegraph written by Arthur Zimmerman to Imperial German Minister in Mexico Von Eckhardt. This telegram was  proposing a partnership between Germany, Mexico and Japan to form an allegiance against the U.S. Intercepted by the British, it is important to point out that the U.S. was reluctant to join the war until provoked by this telegram.

The line that summed it all up for me (and was ironically enough on the first page),”Mute and passive on the paper, they gave forth no hint that a key to the war’s deadlock lay concealed in their irregular jumble” (p 3).

Disclaimer: I wasn’t supposed to read this until 2013 but I felt so bad about abandoning A Distant Mirror that I wanted to read something else by Tuchman before the month was over.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barbara Tuchman: Too Good To Miss” (p 225).



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