Summary of “History as a Mirror”

Summer Reading

This essay, by Barbara Tuchman, focused on the belief that while the history of the
world continues to evolve the basic behaviors and problems of the human race remain the
same. She uses many examples to demonstrate this point, such as how people have acted
self-indulgently in times of great trouble throughout different points in history. Many
specific parallels are also drawn, including a comparison between the twentieth century
U.S. government system and the 13th century Roman Catholic hierarchy. One of the main
points that Tuchman makes is that though the twentieth century has been quite
tumultuous, history predicts that better times lay ahead. She points out that the 13th
century was quite similar to the 20th in the amount of calamity that occurred but the
human race did recover and the Renaissance followed soon after. While this essay
suggests that the human race has grown predictable in its basic behavior throughout
history, it also points out that humanity has shown a great ability to survive difficult
periods of history and we can expect human civilization to continue strong beyond the
foreseeable future.