Profiles in Folly: History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong

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Using the same engrossing anecdotal format that proved so popular in Profiles in Audacity, bestselling author Alan Axelrod turns to the dark side of audacious decision-making and explores history's most tragic errors. While Axelrod looks at the hopelessly dumb and the overtly evil, the main focus is on smart people who had the best of intentions--but whose plans went disastrously wrong. The 35 compelling, often poignant stories include: the sailing of the Titanic; Edward Bernays's 1929 campaign to recruit ...
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New York (2008) Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 1402747683. New book with DJ in as new condition. Not a remainder.; 8vo 8"-9" tall; 368 pages.

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Overview


Using the same engrossing anecdotal format that proved so popular in Profiles in Audacity, bestselling author Alan Axelrod turns to the dark side of audacious decision-making and explores history's most tragic errors. While Axelrod looks at the hopelessly dumb and the overtly evil, the main focus is on smart people who had the best of intentions--but whose plans went disastrously wrong. The 35 compelling, often poignant stories include: the sailing of the Titanic; Edward Bernays's 1929 campaign to recruit women smokers; Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis; Ken Lay's deception with Enron; and even the choice to create a “New Coke.” These are cautionary tales--albeit with exquisite twists ranging from acerbic to horrific. New in paperback.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Prolific author Axelrod (Elizabeth I, CEO, The Real History of World War II) has an engaging writing style and a good eye for telling incidents, making his 35 "cautionary tales" of bad decisions (and their deciders) illuminating and interesting. Covering a swath of history from 1250 B.C. to 2005, Axelrod begins with the Trojan Horse ("The Decision to Let Danger In") and ends with President Bush and Hurricane Katrina ("The Decision to Stop Short of Leadership"). Axelrod ends each story with an admonition; the Trojan War illustrates "wars whose cost vastly outweighs the original cause and the potential gain," and Katrina exposes the President as "a man content to vacation in the eye of a storm." This is popular, broad brush-stroke history, and Axelrod's opinions sometimes overreach, but the book is entertaining and occasionally surprising (as in the Japanese preparation for the assault on Peal Harbor). Axelrod helpfully includes a list of recommended reading for each incident covered.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Prolific author Axelrod follows up his Profiles in Audacity: Great Decisions and How They Were Made with this study of 35 of the greatest mistakes in history. The work is divided thematically into six parts (e.g., "Decision To Gamble and Hope," Decision To Manipulate"), each containing vignettes designed, as Axelrod says, to "pique interest, satisfy curiosity [and] teach." The topics span the course of history as well as the globe and include a mixture of the usual suspects, with some perhaps less predictable. For example, there is "New Coke," as well as Watergate, the Iraq War, the Romanovs and Rasputin, the Dreyfus affair, and Ford's Edsel. Often a writer on leadership and management, Axelrod looks at these events as resulting from decisions made by particular people, so he takes into account personalities and character flaws while focusing less on the broader historical context. He warns readers that he makes no claim to being objective in analyzing the events. The result is less a history book than a look backward at leadership and decision making. Still, the book serves as a good introduction to a broad range of historical events. Importantly, Axelrod has included a list of further readings. Recommended for high school and public libraries.
—Lisa A. Ennis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402747687
  • Publisher: Sterling Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/6/2008
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Axelrod is the author of more than 60 books on subjects covering history, business, and management, including the bestselling Profiles in Audacity, the CEO series, and the Real History series. He has appeared on MSNBC, the Discovery Channel, CNN, Fox, and numerous radio news and talk programs, including NPR. Axelrod and his work have been featured in BusinessWeek, Fortune, Men's Health, Cosmopolitan, and many newspapers, including USA Today.
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Table of Contents


Author's Note: A Word Before We Begin     viii
The Decision to Gamble and Hope
The Trojans and the Trojan Horse (ca. 1250 bc)     3
George Armstrong Custer and the Little Bighorn (1876)     9
Andre Maginot and His Line (1930-40)     19
Unsinkability and the Titanic (1912)     25
Isoroku Yamamoto and Pearl Harbor (1941)     35
NASA and the Space Shuttles (1986, 2003)     49
The Decision to Manipulate
William McKinley, the USS Maine, and the Spanish-American War (1898)     67
Captain Alfred Dreyfus and the Honor of France (1894-1906)     80
Edward Bernays and the Campaign to Recruit Women Smokers (1929)     88
Richard M. Nixon and Watergate (1973)     100
Metropolitan Edison and Three Mile Island (1979)     109
Ken Lay and Enron (2001)     118
Dick Cheney and the Iraq War (2003)     125
The Decision to Leap (Without Looking)
King George III and the American Revolution (1775-83)     137
The "War Hawks" and the War of 1812 (1812)     151
John C. Calhoun and Nullification (1832)     160
Russell, Majors, and Waddell and the Pony Express (1860)     167
Count Leopold von Berchtold and His Ultimatum (1914)     174
The Decision to Retreat
Chief Justice Roger B.Taney and Dred Scott (1857)     187
Thomas Edison and the Fight Against Alternating Current (1893)     193
The Wright Brothers and the Wing Warping Lawsuits (1910-14)     200
Alfred P. Sloan and Planned Obsolescence (1920)     207
Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler (1938)     212
The British Empire and Gandhi (1942)     219
The Decision to Destroy
Governor Willem Kieft and the "Slaughter of the Innocents" (1643)     229
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and the Alamo (1836)     236
Patriotism and Poison Gas (1914-18)     251
Roberto Goizueta and the "New Coke" (1985)     257
The Decision to Drift
James Buchanan and Secession (1860)     267
George Gordon Meade and Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of the Crater (1864)     276
Rasputin and the Russian Royals (1916)     294
Ford Motor Company and the Edsel (1957)     303
John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs (1961)     313
Tonkin Gulf, Persian Gulf (1964, 2003)     320
George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina (2005)     331
Further Reading     343
Index     349
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