Read Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan Richard Holbrooke Online


'Without question, Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. Brimming with lucid analysis, elegant character sketches, and geopolitical pathos, it is essential reading.'Between January and July 1919, after "the war to end all wars," men and women fr'Without question, Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. Brimming with lucid analysis, elegant character sketches, and geopolitical pathos, it is essential reading.'Between January and July 1919, after "the war to end all wars," men and women from around the world converged on Paris to shape the peace. Center stage, for the first time in history, was an American president, Woodrow Wilson, who with his Fourteen Points seemed to promise to so many people the fulfillment of their dreams. Stern, intransigent, impatient when it came to security concerns and wildly idealistic in his dream of a League of Nations that would resolve all future conflict peacefully, Wilson is only one of the larger-than-life characters who fill the pages of this extraordinary book. David Lloyd George, the gregarious and wily British prime minister, brought Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes. Lawrence of Arabia joined the Arab delegation. Ho Chi Minh, a kitchen assistant at the Ritz, submitted a petition for an independent Vietnam.For six months, Paris was effectively the center of the world as the peacemakers carved up bankrupt empires and created new countries. This book brings to life the personalities, ideals, and prejudices of the men who shaped the settlement. They pushed Russia to the sidelines, alienated China, and dismissed the Arabs. They struggled with the problems of Kosovo, of the Kurds, and of a homeland for the Jews.The peacemakers, so it has been said, failed dismally; above all they failed to prevent another war. Margaret MacMillan argues that they have unfairly been made the scapegoats for the mistakes of those who came later. She refutes received ideas about the path from Versailles to World War II and debunks the widely accepted notion that reparations imposed on the Germans were in large part responsible for the Second World War.A landmark work of narrative history, Paris 1919 is the first full-scale treatment of the Peace Conference in more than twenty-five years. It offers a scintillating view of those dramatic and fateful days when much of the modern world was sketched out, when countries were created--Iraq, Yugoslavia, Israel--whose troubles haunt us still.Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize...

Title : Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
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ISBN : 9780375760525
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 570 Pages
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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World Reviews

  • Trevor
    2019-04-24 01:00

    Do you know what I hate? I hate it when I find out that something I have known for years and years is not actually true. As a case in point, take the Treaty of Versailles. I hadn’t really thought about it all that much, but if asked I would have said that it would have most likely come out of a peace conference and that peace conference would have been held at Versailles. I know, I can be terribly literal at times. I also would have guessed that the conference might have lasted a few days, maybe a week – maybe two weeks, tops.What peace conference lasts for six months and has virtually all of the leaders of all of the major powers in the world attending for the whole time?I was a little concerned when this started and said that the US, unlike other powers of the day, had no interest in taking anything from anyone else and was purely an unequivocal force for good. You might be able to say something like that at the end of a series of lectures, but saying it at the start simply takes away any hope of objectivity. The odd thing was that I didn’t really come away feeling that the US had been an unequivocal force for good – in fact, Woodrow Wilson comes across as a partisan fool. I had no idea the US was not in the League of Nations and that this could largely be attributed to Wilson despising Republicans so much as to alienate those who might have supported such a move.MacMillan has set herself a huge task here – and that is to look at this peace conference (The Paris Peace Conference) at the end of the First World War and to show how all too many of the problems facing the world today had their origins at this time. The problems she outlines are perennials like the Israel and Palestinian question, Iraq, Communism in China and Russia, nation states in Central Europe and the rarely harmonious Balkans. All of these can trace either their origins or at least some horrible push along their fatal path from this time.One of the consequences she doesn’t agree with is that this Peace Conference, and the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in particular, were the cause of the Second World War – typical, really, as this was about the only consequence I thought I knew. The lecture on German reparations is fascinating. I had always just thought it was received wisdom that the sheer onerousness of the reparations was what inevitably led to Hitler and Co. But MacMillan challenges this view and I think rather successfully. She points out that the Germans at the time sought to make the ‘reparations’ sound much worse than they actually were. Also, she points out something else I didn’t know – that Germany didn’t actually make many payments. I really do need to read more about this period – but if Germany was not making any reparation payments it might be going a little far to say that they caused an onerous burden on them that brought about the next war.I had thought that everyone knew why the First World War began – but apparently this is a question that is vigorously debated and is therefore highly controversial and inconclusive. If that is the case then it does seem a little bit of a stretch to make Germany the monster in the whole affair.I also didn’t know Italy was quite so powerful at the time and knew little or nothing about Greece and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. To be honest, I feel like someone who thought they knew quite a bit about a period of history and suddenly have discovered that I know next to nothing about it.The Australian Prime Minister of the time – Billy Hughes – also rates more than one mention. A traitor to the Labor Party and a racist pig; it is hard not to loath him, and he comes out of this series of lectures particularly loathsome. This review makes me sound quite ignorant, and that is probably fair, although at least I did know New Zealand is on this side of Australia – which is more than could be said for the British Prime Minister at the time. My ignorance would seem to be of much less moment.This was a time when many seeds were being planted. At the time it was probably impossible to know quite how these seeds would develop (or the monsters some would turn into). All the same, what becomes clear is that racism played a remarkable role in world affairs at the time and that the victims of racism generally were more than able to spot when and how they are being patronised. Their response over the years has been the cause of much trouble. This is a lesson that we have repeatedly failed to learn– compare and contrast with Iraq (let’s just have it as one country – it will be easier to administer that way), Yugoslavia (ditto) or China (let’s chop it into lots of bits ruled by foreigners, it will be easier to administer that way). The US policy of National Determination as the core belief to direct the way forward was much more likely to be applied in Europe – where at least the people had the good sense to be white – than in China, India, Indochina, Africa – where the people couldn’t even get that right.It is too easy to believe that what is now has always been – but it is important to remember that many of the nation states in Europe are remarkably recent and that people did not necessarily immediately rush to become citizens. Nationalism is one of the things I dislike most in the world. With so many nations coming into being at the time (Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Soviet Russia) and so many others being less than a hundred years old (Italy and Germany), and others disappearing (Austro-Hungarian Empire, Tzarist Russia, Soviet Hungary), it does seem strange to me that nationalism would have taken such a tight hold on the world quite so quickly. But then, people do like to belong.The myth is that after the First World War there were reparations and this brought about the Second World War which ended with the Marshall Plan where everyone was treated fairly and therefore peace and love reigned supreme. In fact, it seems neither of these might be true, as after the Second World War, according to Wikipedia, “John Gimbel comes to the conclusion, in his book Science Technology and Reparations: Exploitation and Plunder in Postwar Germany, that the "intellectual reparations" taken by the U.S. and the UK amounted to close to US$10 billion, equivalent to around US$100 billion in 2006 terms.”This is a wonderful introduction to this period and something that has whetted my appetite for more.If there is one criticism it is a general one with the Modern Scholar lectures – and that is the stupid idea of saying stuff like, “Following the lecture a student asked …” This is so clearly false and set up. I’ve been to lots of lectures and am yet to hear a coherent and germaine question asked following any of them. If they are going to pretend there are students asking questions following the lectures they should at least make it realistic and ask something about Global Warming or Quantum Theory perhaps.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-05-03 20:01

    Onvan : Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World - Nevisande : Margaret MacMillan - ISBN : 375760520 - ISBN13 : 9780375760525 - Dar 570 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2001

  • Kelly
    2019-05-07 03:16

    This review originally appeared on my blog, Shoulda Coulda Woulda Books.Paris 1919 focuses on the peace conference that took place at the end of the First World War (known as the Great War, then, since they mercifully didn’t know yet that it would need a number). After all was quiet on the western front in November 1918, the Allies sent representatives to Paris to negotiate the peace terms for the defeated enemy nations and clean up the aftermath of the war. Dozens of nations showed up at the conference that famously started with Wilson’s declarations that all decisions of the conference should be “open covenants openly arrived at,” and ended with all of the decisions being made behind closed doors, solely by the Big Three: Lloyd George of Britain, Wilson of America and Clemenceau of France.And there was a hot mess of things for them to sort out. Let’s list just a few of them, shall we?: Two enemy empires that had been clinging to life for decades had collapsed (The Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary), and their constituent parts were either occupied, lawless, or being de facto claimed by various pop-up governments of various radical persuasions. Germany was poor, beaten, waiting in ill-concealed panic for their punishment to be decided on (apparently there was quite a desperate last-ditch Dionysian/nihilist orgy of a party going on throughout the country). Russia was absent from the proceedings, consumed by civil war, its communist ideas already spreading across the continent. There were arguments to be sorted out in the Far East between Japan and China, and a Middle East that everyone was just starting to covet now that it became clear that this oil thing was going to be a big deal. Not to mention that the governments of all the Big Three had vengeful and unhappy publics and oppositions at home who could dissolve their governments at any time if they didn't like how things were going.Macmillan takes us through all of these problems thematically, each chapter dealing with one of these regions of the globe where the war had created some sort of chaos that needed to be dealt with. Overall, the content is very good. It combines description of the ebb and flow of diplomatic negotiations with often colorful analysis of the people involved, and shows us all the possibilities of what could have been in each situation and then slowly narrowing it down to why what actually happened ultimately came to pass. We get the standard coverage of the Fourteen Points and The Treaty of Versailles. (Presented, as always, as basically “Big Fat Liars” and the “Big Fat Failure”.) In short: here's the glowing place we supposedly started with all these grand promises and pure words about self-determination, and here’s how it really went. Vengeance and anger and destruction and backdoor deals and the gift to Hitlerian propaganda of the “war guilt” clause. Here’s some ominous music and some pictures of young Hitler holding rallies and the Nazi symbol rising over Nuremberg and it’s all their fault. Macmillan does this part dutifully. Her major deviation from the standard text is that she believes interwar politicians to be ultimately responsible for World War II and, “the Treaty of Versailles is not to blame” for Hitler. Which of course is true in a banal sort of way, but I found to be a rather bland conclusion. The sort of thing that sports announcers say when somebody misses a crucial catch at the end of the game, and then they remind us that it was a team effort that got them in that position to begin with. True, and in many ways, very kind, but come on now- that missed catch sure as hell helped to seal the deal.But there were fascinating parts, and they were, in short, everything else. First of all, I loved reading about the other little wars and simmering resentments that the Conference helped ignite. I was fascinated to hear about the sad tale of the little country of Albania, its line-on-a-map birth and the hapless German prince who was put in charge of it before the war and the laughably terrible way its fate was sorted out later. How a local Italian right-winger seized control of the port of Fiume and helped to make it an unlikely symbol of Italian nationalism, even helping to bring down the government rather than hand it over to Yugoslavia or Bulgaria. When boats of functionaries and soldiers from the western democracies watched from their boats and did nothing as Ataturk’s Turkish nationalist army burned and looted the town of Smyrna, with Greeks leaping into the sea and drowning to avoid the flames. It was these brushfires and aftereffects that fascinated me, not only because many of them were the obvious foundations for later troubles that were to surface throughout the twentieth century, but because they were so unintentional and accidental. They were the clearest proof that the men who had put themselves in charge of fixing the world with at least outward “self-determination” principles knew absolutely nothing about the politics or identify frameworks of the people they were dealing with (and sometimes disregarded it even when they were told- Wilson sent out an inquiry commission into Ottoman lands whose report on Arabian peoples’ desire for independence was illuminating- and entirely ignored). It was fascinating to see the particularly ineffective and insincere mixture of self-interest, political compromise and good intentions (not to mention fait accompli conditions on the ground) that characterized the settlements- no one seemed to be able to pick an organizing principle that worked and stick with it (aside from perhaps the nakedly power grabby Italians or the one note "whatever you want as long as we kick Germany in the balls" French). The second important thing that came to light, especially if you read a lot of chapters straight in a row, was my frustration with Wilson. Of all the major figures at the conference, he put both himself and the reputation of America in the toughest spot. With his Fourteen Points he raised the hopes of people around the world- open covenants openly arrived at, settlements for some of the most difficult regions, disarmament to minimum levels, free trade, and of course, the most popular one, self-determination. Of course, the most difficult thing to sort out was always what “self determination” meant.(For whom? To what degree? What is a legitimate basis for asking for “self-determination”? How do we determine that someone “belongs” to a group and should be placed with them? What if we can’t?). Wilson himself could not answer these questions. But you really get a sense of how many people Wilson disappointed with failure to follow through with his Fourteen Points. Chapter after chapter after chapter of countries and governments who came to the conference counting on America to save them, to give them a country, to protect them from their neighbors, free them from colonial oppression, and country after country, future leader after future leader, found themselves walking out of the conference feeling personally betrayed by the promises that they felt Wilson had made and broken. He held out hope to a lot of people who needed it and then seemed to slowly crush it as he got a crash course in the realities of international politics and the imprecision of his own language. This is the beginning end of the global currency of the idea of American exceptionalism, as far as I’m concerned, we just haven’t gotten the message, about a century later.Finally, I greatly enjoyed the time out that Macmillan took to humanize the conference participants, and the effort that she made to understand (most of) their perspectives. My favorite part in history books tends to be when historians make me hear their voices like they’re in the room with me. David King, of one of my favorite history books, Vienna 1814, is a master of this. Macmillan also definitely has her moments. One of my favorite chapters is the one about the midwinter break of the conference, which she lets herself have a little fun with the extracurricular amusements going on around the official events. She also does some pretty devastating character sketches of various conference attendees, showing herself a fine student of the great British diplomatic histories that have this talent (Cooper’s Talleyrand is my other favorite that does this). There were some great stories about the Big Three arguing with each other, Lloyd George and Wilson’s delegations forming a little insular group among their English-speaking selves, and there were great stories about people who would later be famous making an appearance at the conference (a young Foster Dulles, for example, and Churchill and FDR also were both there at various points, Keynes was also there begging for easier economic terms for the Germans, something that ultimately made him quite famous at home and helped to secure some German sympathizers in the UK), and of course the sort of off-color stuff you never expect to hear and always do about the heroes of history books (TE Lawrence throwing toilet paper rolls down the stairs at Lloyd George and joking about bombing Paris with Prince Feisal, Clemenceau showing Lloyd George’s daughter pornographic pictures after a party, the offhand way both the British and French insulted the Italians all the time- “The Italians,” wrote Balfour wearily, “must somehow be mollified, and the only question is how to mollify them at the smallest cost to mankind.”).But there were some elements that still fell short for me: First, the book’s organization. The thematic nature of it will be useful to professors, but I suspect that I was far from the only reader who might have liked a more chronological approach, showing just how chaotic the conference was. I don’t think we got a really good sense of how much was going on at once, and therefore how many of these decisions were made unbelievably quickly or off-hand, as well as how many of these decisions were interlocked with each other. We needed to see more about how power worked. Secondly, there were some poor editing issues. Macmillan’s style became haphazard at times, and she would toss in an anecdote where it made no sense, and had difficulty with transitions and segues. This needed one more pass with an editor who could make things flow like the amazing, page-turning story this should have been.Finally, of course, please remember that Macmillan has her biases. She is Lloyd George’s great-granddaughter. She can sometimes unconsciously start talking in the language of the peacemakers (her cringe-worthy and frequently repeated claim of countries “awakening to their national identity” is one that stands out), and like any historian, she has her favorites and her people she dislikes (Wilson and the Italians were particular targets of contempt). Harold Nicolson is a major source for her- remember he was a British delegate with his own biases (much as I am fascinated by that whole family). So remember not to swallow this whole.But ultimately, if you’ve any interest in European history, World War I, any of the major players, or just how the world got so screwed up today, this isn’t a bad place to start. It is a huge subject that Macmillan does her best to tell with as much color and detail as possible while still covering the breadth of topics she needs to get to. She provides us with explicit links to the future, showing us how we got from 1919 to the disasters of… well every other decade. I can’t think of another book that sets you up with a foundation for understanding so much about the politics of Europe and provides you with so many different avenues to explore further, depending on your interest. Which is exactly what a stellar generalist history should do. I’m glad I revisited this and I can see myself pulling it down from the bookshelves to read particular chapters here and there to refresh my mind. It’s an impressive project and, in the end, well worth the owning, and for me, the second chance I gave it.

  • Matt
    2019-05-21 23:58

    I think it was Churchill who said that the most fascinating aspects of World War I – from a historical perspective – was its beginning and end. The start: the shocking assassination of an unloved heir of a creaky empire, shot in a Balkan backwater and somehow touching off a world war. The end: the peace to end all war, monarchies toppled, empires disintegrated, lines redrawn. Certainly, the majority of war-literature resides in these bookend events. I actually found my way to Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, about the Treaty of Versailles that concluded World War I, while reading The War that Ended Peace, her more-recent volume about the years leading up to the Sarajevo assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Both of MacMillan’s World War I entries are excellent books, with the broad strokes of history complemented by precise, human-sized details and wonderful portraitures of the participants. Paris 1919 covers the six months of the Paris Peace Talks that followed the Armistice. The talks were dominated by the victorious Allies, especially the Big Three of Great Britain (represented by Prime Minister David Lloyd George), France (represented by Premier Georges Clemenceau), and the United States (represented by President Woodrow Wilson). Perhaps the best word to describe this half-year process is complicated. As in reach-for-the-bottle-opener-because-this-is-a-wine-night kind of complicated. Any attempt of mine to summarize the results of the Treaty of Versailles would ultimately fail, an undoubtedly have you reaching for wine yourself. The geographical changes alone are mind boggling. Germany was stripped of its gains from the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, lost Alsace-Lorraine, and had to cede parts of Upper Silesia. They also had to recognize the newly-independent nations of Czechoslovakia and Poland. This is a lot of reshuffling, and that’s only a small part of the worldwide redistricting. Trying to keep it all straight requires familiarity with the many different maps, from many different time-periods. (In other parts of the world, the death of the Ottoman Empire saw the remaking of the Middle East, including the creation of Iraq).Most people are at least a bit familiar with the German-centric portions of Versailles. They know about the stab-in-the-back myth, the restrictions on military buildup, and on the reparations payments. (Much has been made of the payments, but MacMillan comes down on the side that says the reparations weren’t nearly as onerous as contemporary German propaganda, or John Maynard Keynes, would have you believe). Paris 1919 spends a great deal of time on Germany, for obvious reasons, but its purview goes far beyond that one nation. Methodically, region by region, MacMillan covers the reach and ramifications of the eventual Treaty of Versailles. She has chapters devoted to Russia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czechs and Slovaks, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Japan, China, Greece, Palestine, and Turkey. Each one of those nations had its own negotiator, with his own set of priorities, priorities that inevitably came into sharp conflict with those of his neighbor. All the wrangling, horse-trading, and chicanery is head spinning. It also is very reductive. The men involved in these processes were not always (or even often) great men of talent and foresight. More often, they were fueled by greed or grudges, by a desire for power. Sometimes they pouted. Literally pouted. History was used as a cudgel, though that history itself was often in dispute. Countries sought to use Versailles to heal the slights of centuries past. Inevitably it was the commoner who suffered while the kings moved their pieces. Every decision in Paris, large or small, affected thousands of people. MacMillan’s thoroughness and completeness are laudable. It comes, however, at the cost of some clarity. She writes with an on-the-ground perspective that, for long stretches, eschews a broad overview of what’s going on. Often, I found myself in the conundrum of being unable to see the forest for the trees. That is, I’d be in the midst of a dense and detailed chapter, and by the end of it, I would be a bit unsure of what’d been accomplished. As in The War that Ended Peace, MacMillan is at her best when tethering her story to strong personalities. The driving forces in Paris were the leaders of the victorious triumvirate of America, Great Britain, and France: Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau. Of these three, Wilson looms largest. A complex, contradictory man: Wilson remains puzzling in a way that Lloyd George and Clemenceau…do not. What is one to make of a leader who drew on the most noble language of the Bible yet was so ruthless with those who crossed him? Who loved democracy but despised most of his fellow politicians? Who wanted to serve humanity but had so few personal relationships? Was he, as Teddy Roosevelt thought, “as insincere and cold-blooded an opportunist as we have ever had in the Presidency?” Or was he, as Baker believed, one of those rare idealists like Calvin and Cromwell, “who from time to time have appeared upon the earth & for a moment, in burst of strange power, have temporarily lifted erring mankind to a higher pitch of contentment than it was quite equal to?”Wilson wanted power and he wanted to do great works. What brought the two sides of his character together was his ability, self-deception perhaps, to frame his decisions so that they became not merely necessary, but morally right. Just as American neutrality in the first years of the war had been right for Americans, and indeed for humanity, so the United States’ eventual entry into war became a crusade, against human greed and folly, against Germany and for justice, peace and civilization. This conviction, however, without which he could never have attempted what he did in Paris, made Wilson intolerant of differences and blind to the legitimate concerns of others. Those who opposed him were not just wrong but wicked…There are many reasons to dislike Wilson. He was a prejudiced man with serious race problems, and his notion of “self-determination”, which sounds so noble and just, was never meant to apply to non-whites. At the same time, the notions underlying the League of Nations and his Fourteen Points were breathtakingly ambitious, a rare historical moment when a leader at a particular point in time tried to change the fabric of the universe. It inspired people from around the world. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in the Hall of Mirrors on June 28, 1919 – the anniversary of Princip’s assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which touched off the whole mess – is rightly remembered for its failures (both actual and perceived, the perception being as important as the reality). The geographical reorganizations, the indemnities, and the indignities touched off a parade of horribles that lasted into the next century. It sowed World War II, Vietnam, wars in the Balkans, and perennial Middle Eastern instability. It separated people who should’ve been together, and crammed together those who should’ve been separate. No one, of course, set out to accomplish a near-total disaster. MacMillan’s excellent, elegantly written book does a masterful job of showing just how bad can be good intentions.

  • Lizzy
    2019-04-26 00:58

    “The delegates to the peace conference after World War I "tried to impose a rational order on an irrational world.” In Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan scrutinizes the crucial months when the winners of the First World War sat together and determined what the penalty would be for those who dared to lose the war. The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to have settled the First World War, it further represented a dream that it could end all wars. Far from it, as you learn from reading Paris 1919 and about WWII. Winners set together and determined what penalties losers would have to pay. There were many feelings behind each leader representing the victorious countries, resentments prevailed and motivations were not always praiseworthy or for the best to guarantee peace in Europe in the foreseable future. Thus, it helped to create the conditions that would lead to the Second World War. I read Paris 1919 after having finished the excellent The War That Ended Peace: The Road To 1914 (which examines the years leading to the the beginning of WWI). I enjoyed both because in them MacMillan's field of study: the conditions for war and its consequences. More, it was intriguing to read about the role that winners and losers played, or were allowed to play, in its resolution. And how it helped shape the future.One more for my all-time-favorites list! Recommended for history enthusiasts.

  • Connie
    2019-05-17 22:05

    If I was going to use one word to describe Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919" it would be "detailed". She includes a multitude of backstories about the delegates and the obstacles they must surmount at the Peace Conference after World War I. The three most important participants were Georges Clemenceau who wanted to protect France from future attacks from Germany, the idealistic Woodrow Wilson who pushed for his Fourteen Points including a League of Nations, and David Lloyd George who was concerned with the interests of the large British Empire and its naval power. Thousands more joined them in Paris to hammer out agreements, redraw national boundaries, and impose reparations.Wilson's idea of self-determination raised the hopes of groups in many countries, but it was impossible to implement. The Ottoman Empire and the Balkans especially are composed of a mix of ethnic groups. Self-determination was ignored when dividing the spoils in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.MacMillan divides the book into chapters about individual countries, and wrote detailed accounts of the day-to-day decisions regarding them. While a casual reader would probably prefer a little less detail, a historian would value it. Her research is to be admired, and it gives a real understanding of the various perspectives and the compromises reached. Unfortunately, some compromises resulted in national borders that had no good ethnic or geographical reasons. MacMillan does point out artificial boundaries set up at the Peace Conference that led to more unrest in the future, such as the fighting that is still going on in the Middle East. She does not blame the Treaty of Versailles for Hitler's rise to power, although she felt he used it as propaganda. She feels that the Treaty of Versailles was not responsible for Hitler's wish to expand the boundaries of Germany, and to destroy the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Overall, the book will give the reader a deeper understanding of the world in 1919. "Paris 1919" also showed the root of some of the animosities that exist today.

  • Madeline
    2019-05-21 21:14

    "Each of the Big Three at the Peace Conference brought something of his own country to the negotiations: Wilson the United States' benevolence, a confident assurance that the American way was the best, and an uneasy suspicion that the Europeans might fail to see this; Clemenceau France's profound patriotism, its relief at the victory and its perpetual apprehension of a revived Germany; and Lloyd George Britain's vast web of colonies and its mighty navy. Each man represented great interests, but each was also an individual. Their failings and their strengths, their fatigue and their illnesses, their likes and dislikes were also to shape the peace settlements."This book functions almost as a sequel to David King's (brilliant) account of the Congress of Vienna, Vienna 1814. The similarities between the two conferences (one following the defeat of Napoleon, the other following the end of World War One) are even acknowledged by the conference attendees themselves: the Congress of Vienna was used as a model when planning the conference in 1919, with the statesmen agreeing that they wouldn't make the same mistakes their predecessors made. This meant looking at the endless parade of parties that made up the Congress of Vienna, shaking their heads, and saying, "Well, we certainly won't be having any of THAT nonsense!", much to my disappointment. (Although there's a funny bit about the peacemakers ensuring that all trash was thoroughly shredded, because at the Congress of Vienna there had been a problem with confidential memos being fished out of wastebaskets) Not that there weren't parties during the Paris peace conference; one just gets the impression that the people involved were more focused more on Serious Political Stuff and less on fighting over mistresses. Boo, I say, but whatever.The book is organized very well - rather than going in strictly chronological order, MacMillan divides the conference into countries. One chapter will be about Russia, the next about Yugoslavia, then Austria, etc. This clear separation of topics, combined with the fact that the chapters are rarely more than thirty pages each, makes it easy to dip in and out of this book and never get lost. It's a good, solid history of a complicated and influential period in time, and MacMillan gets bonus points for arguing (pretty successfully) that the Treaty of Versailles was not to blame for Hitler's rise to power in Germany following the end of World War One.Why three stars, then? The problem is that I had read Vienna 1814 before this, and Paris 1919 pales in comparison. King's book succeeded because he focused on the people making the treaties, and spent time showing them as people, not statesmen: the book was full of delightful stories about the peacemakers sleeping around and squabbling amongst themselves, and it was great because it made the reader see that the people making this world-altering decisions were people, warts and all, instead of names in a textbook. MacMillan's book focuses on the policies, not the people making them, and this is to the detriment of the book. The best she can offer us is this passage:"The Four bickered, shouted, and swore at each other, but they also, even Orlando, teased each other, told jokes, and commiserated. They pored over the maps and even crawled together over Wilson's huge map of Europe, which had to be unrolled on the floor. Lloyd George and Wilson talked about going to church; Clemenceau said he had never been in a church in his life. They compared notes on what upset them. Clemenceau told the others that he was never kept awake by abuse but had trouble sleeping when he felt he had made a fool of himself. Wilson and Lloyd George both knew exactly what he meant. The others listened politely to Wilson's homespun Southern jokes and ventured their own. ...Toward the end of their meetings, Clemenceau asked Lloyd George, 'How do you like Wilson?' Lloyd George replied, 'I like him and I like him very much better now than I did at the beginning.' 'So do I,' said Clemenceau. They shared the loneliness of power, and they understood one another as no one else could."That's about as human as the "Big Three" ever get. The rest of the time, they're just wooden figures being moved around, and you never really get to see them on a human level. Not that we really need to see them like this - the book succeeds as well-written and easily accessible history even if the people involved remain on their pedestals. But after the masterful way the historical figures were portrayed in Vienna 1814, I could help feeling a little disappointed at how hollow the peacemakers remained in this book.

  • David
    2019-04-27 22:49

    When reviewing a book, it is generally considered good form to review the whole book, not just one chapter or even one page. So, before my descent into bad reviewing form, I'd like to say that this is a fine book about the Versailles Peace Conference, written by a grand-daughter of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. When she tells you that French Prime Minister George Clemenceau during the conference once attempted to interest a young, newly-married daughter of DLG in a bunch of dirty postcards, you can be pretty sure she got it from a reliable source. Most continental European countries receive attention in separate chapters. Interested as I am in things Bulgarian, I read Chapter 11 with special attention, especially the following about then-Prime Minister Alexander Stamboliski:In June 1923, there was a coup; Stamboliski was killed by Macedonian conspirators who first cut off the hand which had signed the antiterrorist agreement with Yugoslavia.Desperate as usual for material in my next Bulgarian conversation class, I mentioned this event (only average gruesome by Balkan standards) to my teacher. Not true, she said, the writer must be thinking of Stefan Stambolov (died 1895), a man who shared the following qualities with Stamboliski: was Bulgarian, was Prime Minister a long time ago, died violently for political reasons, was killed by Macedonians, had the same initial seven letters in his surname. I decided to investigate whether MacMillan made a factual error in the above sentence. (Spoiler: Probably not.) The footnote associated with the paragraph directed me to Crown of Thorns: The Reign of King Boris III of Bulgaria 1918-1943 by Stephane Groueff and A Concise History of Bulgaria by R. J. Crampton. Groueff mentions the allegation about the hand, and other allegations of torture, but then saysSo many political groups wanted to use Stambolisky's [sic] assassination to accuse other factions or to justify future revenge that the complete truth has been obscured. But no matter the differences in the cruel details, the fact remains that Stambolisky was killed in the most abominable way.Well observed, but inconclusive about the hand. I proceeded to Crampton, pgs. 96 – 98, as mentioned in the footnote. I found that these pages refer to the life and death of Stefan Stambolov. Aha! I thought. Gotcha! Then my long-suffering wife, whose dust I eat in the area of being a Balkan history geek, recalled a photograph of Stambolov lying in his coffin with his severed hands in a glass jar beside it. Double gotcha!Rather than rushing to publish a libelous screed accusing MacMillan of shoddy research, I felt the need to look into this further. (This is an example of why my career as a journalist went nowhere.) My next stop was History of the Balkans: Twentieth Century by Barbara Jelavich, generally considered to be the gold standard of English-language histories of the region, and also cited by MacMillan as a source elsewhere. This turns out to be the source of the story about Stamboliski's hand. MacMillan can only be accused of erroneous footnoting. Jelavich says that Stamboliskiwas captured by a [Macedonian] band and tortured. His right hand, which signed the Treaty of Nis, was cut off, and he was stabbed sixty times.What was Jelavich's source? The book has no footnotes, only a bibliography, which includes many obscure old histories which even hard-core Balkan history geeks do not have on hand. So, the trail grows cold. Given the esteem in which the Jelavich book is generally held, I'm willing to take her word for it. (Also, the fact that two separate Bulgarian Prime Ministers, within the space of 30 years, had their hands cut off before they were killed doesn't strike me as in the least bit odd or revolting, which probably means I've been in the Balkans too long.)However, the case is far from closed. Hugh Seton-Watson, in Eastern Europe Between the Wars 1918 – 1941 says that Stamboliski...was then taken by some Macedonian terrorists, who led him back to his home, where they mutilated and tortured him, made him dig his own grave and finally finished him off.Assuming that Seton-Watson meant to convey that the final grisly activities took place one after another in the order he described, this would tend to indicate that Stamboliski did not have his hand cut off before dying. Even Macedonian terrorists are not short-sighted enough to cut off a man's hand first and demand he dig his own grave second. In summary, the tale of Stamboliski's hand is a colorful story, illustrative of the cruel and violent nature of Balkan politics. There was enough evidence for a responsible historian to guess that it might be true, so it went into the narrative. If anecdotes are repeated often enough in this way, they become history.

  • Arminius
    2019-04-28 22:52

    I rank this book as one of my favorites because it explained the restitution in which Germany unfairly had to pay. The author explained thoroughly the reason for WWI. The reason was because there was a system of competing alliances. The Serbians were aligned with Russia but under Austrian control. Austria was aligned with Germany and France aligned with Russia. When Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austrian throne, was killed in 1914 by a Serbian separatist the Austrians cracked down on the Serbians.This caused Russia to come to Serbia's aid. When Russia attacked Austria Germany was forced to aid Austria and attacked Russia. The French came to aid of Russia. England joined Russia and France primarily to defeat Germany in order to abolish it's Navy. Germany's Navy at the time was poised to surpass England's Navy.By 1917 the war had wound down to just England vs. Germany. Germany was about to win but England induced President Wilson into American support. American fresh troops were able to defeat Germany and win the war.The Treaty of Versailles was the treaty that ended the war and a very bad treaty it was. It dismantled the Austrian and Ottoman empires. It gave Syria and Lebanon to France and Iraq and Palestine to England. The Germans had to give over Alsace and Lorraine to France. Poland was given the German territories of West Prussia and Posen. Large portions of Schleswig to Denmark. The port of Danzig was placed under the control of the League of Nations. As a result of these changes, East Prussia was cut off from the rest of Germany by what became known as the "Polish Corridor". Germany also had to accept responsibility for the war and pay an unrealistic 6.6 billion in reparation payments. Germany was not allowed to negotiate in the treaty either. In addition, a bus boy by the name of Ho Chi Min asked to be heard regarding the freedom of his home country Vietnam. He was rebuked by the Conference so he turned to the Soviet Union for help instead. As a result Vietnam became a Communist Country. Furthermore, the independent country of Tyrol was ceded to Austria and Italy.Also, The Chinese as a member of the winning side had requested a restoration of its territory that was previously under German control. The Allies however rejected China’s request and transferred Germany’s former Chinese colonies to Japan. China became anti -west as a result.This blatantly unfair treaty fostered a huge resentment with the German people, as well, which afterwards allowed a vengeful, charismatic, nationalistic,megalomaniac to rise and seek revenge.

  • John
    2019-05-22 23:57

    One of the two best diplomatic histories I've ever read, second only to David Fromkin's The Peace to End All Peace (also, and probably not altogether coincidently, about the arrogance of the Great Powers and the outcome of WWI). The largely tragic ramifications of the Treaty of Versailles are of course well know, but MacMillan does a masterful job of laying out the process by which the treaty was formed, exploring the complexities -- geographic, political, ethnic -- that faced the victors in redrawing the map of Europe, and providing vivid portraits of the major players (Wilson's coldness, arrogance, and high-minded naivete; Clemenceau's vengeful streak and love of argument; Lloyd George's cheerful subordination of ideals Right and Wrong to his own political instincts). The major narrative is quite compelling, the minor vignettes that attend it are often fascinating (I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that Ho Chi Minh was there), and I even learned a thing or two about my own family history (I'd never known there was a region of Eastern Europe called Galicia that thought of itself as a cohesive and autonomous entity -- in spite of the fact that my grandparents came from there). A terrific book, and one I plan on re-reading in the not-too-distant future.

  • Macoco G.M.
    2019-05-06 22:15

    Muy buen libro, aunque a veces peca de ser demasiado exhaustivo con los datos, pero te da una inmejorable visión del Tratado de Versalles, de cómo se formó por primera vez un gobierno universal con Inglaterra, Francia, EEUU a la cabeza, de cómo EEUU intentó a través de Wilson impulsar nuevas formas en la diplomacia dando importancia a la autodeterminación y a la decisión de las minorías, y de cómo al final sus intenciones chocaron con los miedos y resentimientos franceses que impusieron una condiciones bastante humillantes a Alemania, dejando a miles de comunidades alemanas como minorías en otros estados y dejando que toda la culpa de la Gran Guerra recayera en ella, cuando después se ha demostrado que eso no fue del todo cierto.Leyendo este libro tienes en tus manos los porqués de la II Guerra Mundial.

  • Matt
    2019-05-20 23:53

    What a fantastic read! I learned so much from MacMillan's intricate account of the time after the Great War. She relies on many historical facts and documents to weave an extremely detailed explanation of how the world was re-draw and the grave errors the BIG FOUR made and how those decisions are still reverberating today.I knew little of the fallout of the Great War, save that there was a Treaty of Versailles. I knew the German reaction led to the fuelling of animosity and, eventually, the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. That said, while the largest portion of the Paris Conference, there were so many other decisions that led to major catastrophes we are only seeing now. The Middle East was doled out like the spoils of a poker game, decided and bid on by the Big Four, but forgetting history or ethnicity. The Ottoman Empire, as well as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were picked apart, leaving a carcass unrecognisable by geography or ethnicity. Like putting bees in a jar and hope they will learn to be amicable.MacMillan pulls no punches in her book. None of the Big Four are safe from her harsh criticism at one point or another. She lays out her facts (I am not naive enough to think that she is not writing from her own angle) and then lets the reader see the fallout. Telling not only of the presentations by delegations, but also the inner fighting between the US, UK, France, and Italy, MacMillan shows how decisions were not simply agreed upon over a bottle or two of wine. Peering into the lives of these four men and their apparent infallibility, we see just how human they are. While hindsight is always 20/20, I can see the glaring errors that have come from these decisions in the winter and spring of 1919. Shattered states that I grew up seeing dissolve were born in the geographic biology labs of Paris in 1919. Imagine such a Conference now and how truly impossible it would be. Six months with the major leaders sitting down, mostly uninterrupted, and hashing something out as thoroughly and intricately as the re-organisation of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I cannot fathom this ever happening again.Splendid job, Ms. MacMillan. Great to see a Canadian present such a fabulous piece of historical literature. Kudos and much praise.

  • Sandra
    2019-04-30 21:57

    My issue with Margaret MacMillan's books is that, while exhaustively researched and meant to entertain while educating, they always come down to her playing on our gossipy and gleeful natures. With such a riot of information and colorful personalities, most people don't seem to notice, or mind, the tendency of meanness towards not only historical figures but entire nations. Yes, she only ever quotes other's opinions and observations, but there are ways and ways to present a person, let alone a whole group of people, in a manner that paints them with some depth (behind their ridiculous or primitive properties), that's not ridiculing them, or coming down to a single (often demeaning) statement about them. This is something more noticeable with non-Western nations and politicians - she does not spare the Westerners, but there is always an underlying note of fondness for them and their refinement (we are talking here about Western upper class, of course - their unwashed masses aren't  featured much), maybe not as obvious as her veiled disdan for all other primitives, such as Russians and, well, anyone non-Western. It is too bad, as I do find her book a trove of information.

  • Whitebeard Books
    2019-05-06 03:09

    So many incredible things happened during this time period. I recall as a student being told that one should learn from history so we don't repeat mistakes. The current politicians and those pretending to be really need to read this tomb and take to heart the lesson that if holds.

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    2019-05-21 21:52

    I rarely give out five stars--that's deliberate--but this is so illuminating on a complex topic without being dry, I think it deserves full marks. The book treats of "six months that changed the world"--the Paris Peace Conference that produced the Treaty of Versailles. I was taught in high school that the vindictive terms of that treaty were ruinous to Germany and at the root of Hitler's rise and the outbreak of World War II. It was a view popularized by John Maynard Keynes (who was involved in the peace process--as was Winston Churchill. There were some interesting and unexpected players in this story.) MacMillan makes the case it was by no means so simple. That among other things, that especially since the terms were never really enforced, you can't really blame the treaty for what would happen over the next decades. I think what really astonished me about the peace conference though was just how many fingers were in how many pies. Yes, some developments such as establishment of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were fait accomplis by the time the conference started, but it was largely this conference, and especially the "Big Three" of France, Britain, and the United States who drew the borders. And not just of Europe, but in Africa and the Middle East as well, and we're still dealing with the messy after effects. To take one example, Iraq was created from three different provinces of the recently defunct Ottoman Empire and drawn to suit colonial ambitions of the British and French--not along historical lines or reasons of ethnic cohesion. Roots not just of World War II, but Greek/Turkish, Jewish/Arab, Bosnia/Serb, Chinese/Japanese conflicts can be traced back here. It's all very complicated, and it's a very, very long book (around 600 pages) but part of what makes it digestible is that MacMillan breaks it up regionally, following say the personalities of the newly emerging Yugoslavia and following up on its ultimate fate and how it was affected by those six months in 1919.I think it also escapes being dry due to how well drawn are the various personalities involved. MacMillan deals with many of the leaders from the newly emerging states, but her primary focus is on the leaders of the Big Three: Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Clemenceau of France and Lloyd George of Britain. Wilson seemed from the portrait painted here a dangerous mix of naive and stubborn. His precious League of Nations became an idee fixe that overrode all other issues. If there was a problem with the deals emerging, it seems Wilson would wave it away with the idea the League of Nations would fix it. At the same time, his stubborn inflexibility, his dogmatism and partisanship doomed the acceptance of the League and the Treaty back in the United States. And those very ideals, particularly "self-determination" as enunciated in his 14 Points, raised unrealistic expectations and caused bitter disappointment. Clemenceau comes across as vengeful and vindictive towards the Germans. At the same time, given what MacMillan detailed of France's losses in the war, and its geography that didn't put a channel, let alone an ocean, between it and Germany, Clemenceau's determination to keep Germany weak is understandable. I got less of a fix on Lloyd George. Some called him "vacillating" and "unprincipled" according to MacMillan. He seemed the opposite of Wilson--much more pragmatic. But without the kind of guiding principles or clear goals of Wilson or Clemenceau, he did seem more indecisive. He seemed all over the map--oftentimes quite literally.I think there's really no more fascinating time than the outbreak of World War I and it's immediate aftermath. I can't think of a period of more stark, abrupt change. The end of the war marks the real end of the 19th century, whatever the dates. Visual and performing arts, literature, music made radical breaks--you can even see it in modes of dress. MacMillan illuminates an important part of what shaped that era.

  • Jill Hutchinson
    2019-05-07 02:50

    I took this book to the beach, which was a mistake. This is not a history to read while surrounded by conversation and general mayhem!!! I finished it when I returned from vacation in the quiet of my home. This history of the Versailles Treaty takes concentration and reflection as it outlines, in detail, the machinations of France, Britain, Italy (sporadic at best) and the United States, as they struggled to author a treaty which was impossible to create.Countries and colonies were moved like chess pieces on a world map in an attempt to keep power concentrated with the major players, without regard to the citizens and ethnic groups of the defeated nations. Wilson's main concerns were the League of Nations and his Fourteen Points which skewed the negotiations. Clemenceau wanted revenge for the loss of life, property and honor. Orlando of Italy wanted ports on the Adriatic Sea, and the Welsh Wizard, David Lloyd George, wanted to keep the British Empire intact and protected.Did this treaty contribute to the rise of the Nazi party and the Second World War? You make the call. Regardless of what you believe about that issue, this book will lay bare the internal (and infernal) workings of the infamous treaty. I highly recommend it.

  • Loring Wirbel
    2019-05-21 21:12

    (This is a companion review to David Andelman's "A Shattered Peace," on my bookshelf.)In reviewing the more recent "A Shattered Peace", I said that Andelman relied too much on sizzle, while Macmillan went for the steak. Since Margaret MacMillan is the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, one might expect that a comprehensive book like this would rely on personalities of the Big Four, and that it might be overly-sympathetic to Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau. She does indeed rely on many personal anecdotes, but her exhaustive research and her focus on small, neglected nations in the aftermath off WW1 insures that this book is much, much more. And her conclusion, like that of Andelman, is much more in line with the 21st-century new revisionists that tend to take Wilson and Lloyd George down a peg. She is not afraid to say that Wilson not only was too stuffy and Calvinist to "sell" the League of Nations appropriately to the US Senate, but also that his decisions on structuring the peace treaty were unfair to many small nations. Both she and Andelman are useful foils to Wilson cultists, in concluding that Woodrow Wilson was a rather embarrassing and sad figure in history.She also is not afraid to chide her great-grandfather, for being a blustering, warmongering occasional imperialist, particularly in regard to Turkey.She studies regions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in detail, and comes to conclusions that are fair and comprehensive. The only minor quibble I have was her method of taking one region at a time sequentially (which Andelman also does to a certain extent), this taking events out of chronology - we hear about the conclusion of Turkish independence in the mid-1920s, for example, before hearing about Germany signing the peace treaty. Still, if her book had taken a strict chronological stream, it might have been much more confusing, given the chaos surrounding Versailles in 1919.Those seeking a single comprehensive book on Versailles in 1919 can do no better than Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919."

  • Schaden
    2019-05-21 20:06

    Margaret MacMillan has done a decent job in identifying and cataloging the events that occurred through out Europe in 1919. However, she falls into the same pit that is evidenced by many European historians who write for the average audience. Her research is impeccable, but there is little analysis as to how these events actually changed the world other than the occasional one liner. The events are not really tied together by an idea as much as just giving events in a timeline. Perhaps this is not actually Ms. MacMillan's fault as much as the publisher who changed the title from "The Peacemakers" to "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World." Perhaps this same flaw is responsible for my next criticism of this book. The viewpoints of this book are mostly those of the 4 powers that decided the provisions of The Treaty of Versailles. The most glaring error is the omission of the German point-of-view and the German response to the treaty, other than anger.

  • Max
    2019-04-27 21:19

    Paris 1919 reviews the worldwide geopolitical situation in the aftermath of WWI. From Western Europe to Central Europe, the Balkans and Russia, from the Near East to the Far East, endless conflicts and national aspirations are examined through the lens of The Paris Peace Conference. The war and its resolution set the foundation for the rest of the century. Paris 1919 immensely improved my understanding of not just this period, but all of twentieth century history.Detailing the meetings, infighting and prognostications of politicians and statesmen can make for some dry reading. Macmillan digs into the personality quirks and personal behaviors of the participants to maintain interest. One of the difficulties Macmillan faces is that unlike many popular histories, the Paris Peace Conference with its diverse scenarios does not readily lend itself to a novel-like storyline.The reader clearly feels Macmillan’s personal judgments, right or wrong, in her depictions of the world’s leaders. Her characterization of the irascible and witty Clemenceau is kindly and not without charm. Woodrow Wilson comes off as naïve and arrogant and Lloyd George as a wily pragmatist, the ever-present politician. Wilson pontificates on his 14 points and puts forth The League of Nations and self-determination as the answers to the world’s problems. Lloyd George and other world’s leaders use Wilson’s proclaimed right of self-determination as cover to advance their own countries’ ambitions. Wilson’s principles become the currency of doublespeak. The fairness of Wilson’s doctrine is undercut by the impossibility of determining what defines a group entitled to self-determination. Is it ethnicity, religion, language, community, economic interdependence, common history? The new nations formed after WWI invariably cut across many of these boundaries creating instability. Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau dictate national boundaries based on the presentations of diplomats they like, their own nation’s interest or simple prejudice. Further undermining the fairness of their decisions is the established and accepted racism of the time. Non-European peoples were considered inferior and less than capable of providing for their own futures by the Western European and US powers. Wilson’s self-determination theme also feeds rising nationalism as old empires disappear or fall into decline. Sadly that nationalism frequently ends up turning into further subjugation of the weak and vulnerable.Macmillan portrays the peace treaty and new arbitrary national boundaries as the outcome of negotiations by ill prepared self-serving politicians who could not see the impact of their decisions on a rapidly changing world. The French are driven by fear of Germany and their perceived necessity to dismantle it, disable it or at least divide it up. Germany remained intact and the French fear turned out to be well founded. The British want to maintain and extend their empire and ensure that Germany is strong enough to make its reparation payments and absorb British trade. The French, Italians and Japanese are similarly concerned with empire building, trade and keeping their competitors at bay. Wilson is always the professor with his vision of a world at peace driven by his League where everyone works for the common good. All are afraid of the Bolsheviks but clueless as to what to do about them.I took exception to Macmillan’s choice of words regarding Germany’s behavior in the war. She writes, “Germany had invaded neutral Belgium, and German troops, to the horror of Allied and American opinion, had behaved badly. (Not all the atrocity stories were wartime propaganda).” The Germans went far beyond just “bad behavior” with a policy of extreme brutality to civilians, propaganda notwithstanding. Belgian civilians were systematically used as hostages and thousands were killed in mass executions by German soldiers. Entire towns were burned down and tens of thousands expelled from their homes. One hundred thousand Belgians were packed into boxcars and shipped off to forced labor in Germany. These atrocities did pale in comparison to Turkish genocide of the Armenians in the war, but in WWI the Germans set a precedent with their “bad behavior” that Hitler would later extoll as virtuous and increase exponentially in WWII.Was the Versailles treaty responsible for WWII? The author says no and I agree. My take is that the Germans would not have been satisfied with any treaty the allies could have offered because they believed that they did not start the war nor did they lose it. They felt that they were defending themselves against Slavic aggression and France being aligned with Russia had to be taken out. Belgium, being in the way, had to be taken out too. The war ended without allied armies entering Germany. The vast destruction of the war took place in France and Belgium. Germans did not feel that the allies had defeated them but that they had been undermined from within. Jews, communists and liberals would become convenient scapegoats. Germany maintained its strong nationalism. Its industry and military were steadily rebuilt in spite of the treaty. Nothing had been settled. Add in a world-wide depression and Hitler to stir the stew and we have WWII. Probably only a breakup of Germany as the French wanted would have prevented WWII.Paris 1919 is a great resource and very rewarding but does require effort to get that reward. A solid knowledge of geography is a huge help. Be ready to consult the maps. Highly recommended for those who want a deeper understanding of all of twentieth century history including why Germany was fertile ground for National Socialism, why Asia was ripe for Japanese exploitation and why places like Kosovo and Iraq ended up becoming familiar names.

  • sologdin
    2019-05-08 20:57

    Tophats outfox other tophats at six-month soiree. (Most cover designs for this have the Big Three in friggin’ tophats!)Same vibe here as with Yergin’s The Prize: presentation of personalities during epochal events. It’s not exactly a defect, and, for the novice (I.e., me) it’s good to have snappy biographical vignettes on all of the human capital of the conference (not just Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, but also Balfour, Curzon, Pilsudski, Ataturk, Venizelos, Benes, and so on). Portrait of Lloyd George is comical, striking a point somewhere between a charming douche and a douchey charmer.Good set of before-and-after-and-after-again maps to show the transformations. Approaches the various sets of overlapping negotiations on a regional basis, after an opening that sets the stage in Paris and handles the League negotiation. Passes thereafter to the Balkans, the various central European states, Germany proper, Anatolia. Careful to detail the positions of the major Allies on each question, which always included imperialist demands, wherein self-determination is usually a rule that applies to the other guys’ claims. Spectre of Bolshevism haunts every negotiation, and every state argued that its demands should be met so that it could be in a position to defend itself against internal and external bolshevists. Good stuff. It’d be an exaggeration to state that the conference was solely or primarily concerned with fighting the Leninists--but it’s definitely there. (McMillan does annoyingly present the Allied intervention into the Russian civil war as a goof.) There is nevertheless virtually nothing about the Soviet Union.Some good hard data. We all of course remember the 1M or so Armenians killed by the Turks during the war--but apparently a similar number of Kurds died, too. What a fucking mess. Details the conflicting promises in Palestine nicely. It looks as though every border adjustment caused a border war, and we should regard WWI as including, after the armistice, a series of overlapping belligerences specific to certain states or regions. It is very difficult to keep in the mind all at once, and could benefit from a nice chart or interactive map or something. Am inclined not to trust author’s presentation generally, however. Though she notes that the US was merely an “associate” of the Allies, and wanted its war lending repaid, the text does not get into this with any rigor. We know from Hudson’s Super Imperialism that US war lending is a central component of what transpired during and after the war. Author here kinda brushes it under the rug.Was not impressed, to be honest, with the presentation of the actual treaty terms. Probably there should be a legal supplement that includes all of the agreements.Anyway, recommended.

  • Tamara
    2019-04-28 19:00

    This is pretty good - well written, structured, no noticeable weird ideological quirks, good balance of anecdotes and data, etc, etc. On the other hand, the book seems to be more concerned with what's important than what is interesting, at least for my particular interests. There's a great deal about the, well, really big important decisions and failures and successes, focusing on Poland, Austro-Hungary, Ottomans, Germany, etc, and some about the League of Nations and all that.I think the point is to follow through the diplomatic and political wrangling behind the decisions, but often there's also a great deal of general information which is already staggeringly well known, in a general sort of way. (Germany was made to sign a treaty it was unhappy with. The Ottoman empire got dismembered, etc, etc.) So sometimes I had the sense of the book being more of a collection of essays about "stuff that happened after WW1", (albeit a lively and interesting one) with the conference itself being more of a common touchstone than about the conference. This seems like a bit of a shame, because there seems to have been a ton of weirdness going on around the edges that is only mentioned in passing, for the sake of colorful scene setting. There were dozens of countries and delegations there, trying to achieve any number of things. Most of them, presumably, failed (or history would bother to remember them,) but I still would have liked to know a lot more about it. It's not just because I like knowing about the weird stuff (c'mon, who doesn't like the weird stuff?) but because it seems like it would give more of an insight into the context and praxis of that point in history. From here, those decisions all seem so ephemeral, that what I really wanted from the book was more of an understanding ot the logic of the moment, what people(s) seemed to have thought was achievable, or at least worth making a noise about, because I already know how it ended.

  • Eric Althoff
    2019-05-01 02:01

    A fascinating history lesson for buffs or novices alike, "Paris 1919" recounts--in always interesting but sometimes overly exposed detail--the Paris Peace Conference and how it shaped the broken European landscape (and indeed, much of the world) after The War to End All Wars. By turns fascinating and flustering--knowing what we know now--MacMillan skillfully creates a narrative from cold, hard facts and brings the personalities of the American, French, British and various other politicos who tried the best that they knew how to make the world safe for democracy after the world's greatest armed conflict up to that time. MacMillan's prose is compelling, vacillating between coldly factual and then charmingly revealing of these often larger-than-life personalities who shaped the new Europe. Hindsight being what it is, the reader can see what Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George could not: that the reparation terms imposed upon Germany festered anger, setting the stage for Hitler and WWII only 20 years later; that their carving up of the Middle East would lead to ongoing conflict that continues today; that arbitrarily tossing together European peoples of different ethnicities and credos into new countries would lead to continuous strife throughout much of the rest of the century.I particularly enjoyed some of the little-known factoids MacMillan includes, such as that a young Ho Chi Minh lobbied to be a member of the French delegation but was denied a visa, and that the future first president of North Korea was also present. Again, such minor details only increase our appreciation for the seemingly impossible work of 1919 combined with our apprehension knowing that an even more horrendous war was only a quarter-century down the road.A must for history buffs and a fascinating (though at times slow) read for amateur knowledge-hounds.

  • Murray
    2019-04-25 23:15

    Margaret Macmillan is a master storyteller and a methodical historian. Paris 1919 is a wide-ranging and detailed account of many nations and personalities at pains to achieve statehood, strategic goals, abusive gains, and compensation following the Great War. My experience of reading Paris 1919 was a little back-and-forth. At first I found it intriguing, albeit deeply biographical as it introduced the Peace Conference and the Big 3. But then it became a bit dull and repetitive; addressing the concerns of Central European and Balkan nations. Finally, the second half was exhilarating in its sweeping historical account of the conflicts of the Mediterranean nations, Asia, and the Middle East. These three distinct experiences confused my evaluation of this book, but ultimately I would recommend it as a solid work of general history and biography that requires, at times, a little perseverance.

  • Ali
    2019-04-25 01:52

    This is a very detailed history of Versailles treaty, sometimes even excessive and unnecessary details like what negotiators were doing in their spare time, their residence in Paris, ... .Versailles treaty is notorious for imposing harsh terms on Germany and therefore causing World War II. Author doesn't agree with this claim and I doubt that any serious historian would. Of course Big Four (U.S. (Wilson), Britain (Lloyd George), France (Clemenceau) and Italy (Orlando)) made many bad decisions but I think the worst one was about Middle East; creating Iraq and what they did to Palestine.This book may be long and sometimes boring but it's definitely important and worth the effort since decisions made in Paris shaped the modern world and its struggles for years to come.

  • Neil Fox
    2019-04-23 18:53

    The Paris conference of 1919 and its attendant Treaty of Versailles have been acrimonously vilified in the popular imagination by everyone from John Maynard Keynes to Adolf Hitler, and are held responsible for the rise of Fascism in the 1930's and being in effect the direct cause of World War 2. Had the conference achieved a different and fairer outcome, the historical wisdom goes, the World would have been spared the horrors of a second, far more destructive, Global conflict and the subsequent Cold War, the consequences of which still shape Geopolitics today. In other words the Paris conference occupies a vital place in World history as the bridgehead between the 2 wars and how the 20th Century unfolded thereafter.I have always found this reasoning flawed, as, refreshingly, does author Margaret MacMillan. People tend to forget that the treaty of Frankfurt of 1871 which established the new order in Continental Europe after the Franco-Prussian war, could also be interpreted as being hugely contributory to the forces which unleashed the First World War, and yet the spotlight is never turned on the unfairness of that treaty in apportioning blame for 1914.Macmillans' boldly revisionist account of the 1919 Paris peace conference deconstructs some of the asumptions and myths and injects a refreshing re-telling of some of the events of those heady days in January- June 1919. She presents strong argumentation that the peace conference itself wasn't to blame for the tragic events that unfolded in the subsequent years. Firstly, Europe's economies were simply too weak after WW1 to recover before the 1930's. Second, the conference held no sway over events in Russia and the consolidation of power by the Bolsheviks - they were simply ignored and excluded. And the direction that those events in Russia took ultimately gave major cause to the outbreak of WW2. Thirdly, the creation of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Poland were all fait accompli before the conference ever sat down to meet. Fourthly, revolutionary forces were already burning their way through Europe that would see their climax in the rise of Fascism and then ultimately in the great clash of the 20th Century, the War between Fascism and Communism. The treaty of Versailles did not emasculate Germany economically and militarily as has been claimed. On the contrary, it never came close to being anything like properly enforced by a weakening France, distracted Britain and absent America in the 1920's - witness the ease with which Germany eventually re-armed and re-occupied the Rhineland. Even the treaty's most vilified onerous provision, the War Reparations, were actually considerably less than those imposed by a Victorious Germany on France following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. The treaty, especially its symbolic and much-despised War Guilt clause, was merely seized upon, providing a focal point, a bête noir, an excuse for the actions of Hitler and the Nazis.There is even a certain argument, if you want to be really controversially revisionist, that the Paris Peace conference was actually more successful than has ever been acknowledged. It did after all, succeed in preventing a resumption of the War in Europe. Europe was actually a much more dangerous place in 1919 than people today realize. Despite the war fatigue, resumption of fighting was not entirely unthinkable had the Powers been ultimately unsuccessful in concluding key agreements. A massive Allied army under Foch stood ready to be assembled to strike deep into the the heart of Germany, whilst the German Nationalists and elements of the Prussian military who were far from being militarily defeated in 1918 stood ready to withdraw into the hinterland of East Prussia and conduct a vigorous defense.Macmillan's work is scholarly, intricate and detailed. She sketches fascinating pen portraits of the assembled actors in Paris - the soldiers, statesmen, idealists, intellectuals , adventurers and plain chancers and conmen. Some of these are darlingly revisionist; President Wilson, whom history tends to remember as the benevolent grandfather of the 14 points, League of Nations and the champion of self-determination, is instead found to be rather mean-spirited and pettily spiteful. Other characters are as we always knew them; Clemenceau and the French entourage are vindictive, greedy, paranoid and intransigent; the Briitish are as perfidious and scheming as one would expect, the Italians as melodramatic and headstrong, the Greeks as tragi-comic, the South Slavs as principled, bitter and divided, and the Japanese as inscrutable.The state of the Middle East today is also commonly traced back to the mistakes and the greedy and unprincipled carve-up of former Ottoman territory in Paris 1919. The fact here is that while the Peace conference did woefully fail to tackle the unfolding chaos in the Arab World and Middle East as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, it was merely one in a catalogue of disastrous agreements, pacts (eg : Sykes-Picot) and treaties among the greedy ignorant European Imperialist powers who were behaving, in this part of the World at least, in a fashion that belonged more to the Mid19th Century than to the brave New World of the League of Nations and the Principles of self determination. The dysfunctional failed states of today's Iraq and Syria as well as the eternal Arab-Israeli conflict have their roots in what happened in the early 20th Century, but in the unprincipled land-grabs and jockeying for influence and oil by the British and French as the Americans looked haplessly on, rather than in any specific failing of the Paris peace conference. Macmillan's book can only scratch the surface on this complicated area, the definitive and unsurpassed account on it still remains Fromkin's A Peace to end all Peace.History is always contemporary in the sense that events of the past are viewed throught the prism of the present. The Paris peace conference, which carried noble intentions but was ultimately flawed being rooted as it was in the dimming traditions of 19th Century diplomacy, has been afforded a much larger share of the blame for the rise of Hitler, the horrors of WW2 and the enduring Cold War legacy as well as the legacy for the Middle East, than it merits. Europe's economies were simply too damaged and democracy too weak; there was no Marshall aid forthcoming to rebuild as after WW2 from a U.S. That was yet to emerge as an economic powerhouse. A more progressive and just outcome could certainly have buffered against the coming storm, but not stopped it in its path.

  • MBJ
    2019-05-23 21:59

    In addition to being a superb and very readable account of events that transpired in 1919 and their aftermath, Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World" is a book with purpose. She sets out to debunk, I believe successfully, the long-embraced view that Germany was a victim of a vindictive peace. Without ignoring the political difficulties that the Western powers faced and the failure of their efforts, MacMillan places blame squarely where it belongs; at the feet of Adolf Hitler. Hitler's propaganda war made the fragile Treaty of Versailles an easy target for his own demagoguery. MacMillan traces the theory of German victimization back to arguments first made by John Maynard Keynes at the time of the Paris peacemaking process. The Western powers, according to Keynes, placed such a crushing financial burden on Germany that the defeated state and its people were doomed to failure. Yet as MacMillan points out, Germany ended up paying a fraction of what had been required, and all payments were suspended as early as 1932. The Treaty of Versailles was never vigorously enforced, and Germany had more ability to wiggle out of obligations than has historically been espoused. But perhaps most significantly, the catastrophic intervening depression between the two wars set much of the world into an economic tailspin. Germany was no exception. As a major explanation for what went wrong in 1919, MacMillan focuses on the rise of nationalism that was spreading around the world like wildfire. The Western powers struggled to draw borders in areas overflowing with nationalistic fervor that defied attempts to contain peoples and sentiments within neatly drawn lines. As if all this was not enough, the three major Western powers had to contend with the tatters of four major collapsed empires: Germany, Austria – Hungary, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. The complexities of the task might well have relegated to failure any attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together. Nationalism had been on the rise since the mid-19th century, and the outbreak of WWI only fueled its flames. The peacemakers were faced with the impossible task of trying to impose order on an irrational world that almost defied resolution.MacMillan aptly describes the personal dynamics that complicated the peacemaking process. Woodrow Wilson brought his myopic brand of idealism from a largely isolationist United States. His was a country still on the rise with more limited power than it would have by the time it entered WWII. Wilson was often at odds with France's Georges Clemenceau, representing a country that had already suffered a humiliating defeat to Germany some 50 years earlier. Clemenceau's realpolitik was therefore comprehensible. Meantime, David Lloyd George (who was Macmillan's great-grandfather) struggled to defend a British Empire on the wane. The three Western leaders were, indeed, an unusual trio with both overlapping, but woefully competing agendas. MacMillian certainly acknowledges that the peacemaking process was severely flawed. From the beginning, Wilson's ill-defined 14 points, while well-intentioned, greatly complicated the task by fortifying countless nationalist groups clamoring for self-determination. The world was becoming almost hopelessly fractured by voices of competing claims to territory. One of the major failures of the Paris peacemaking process was to forge a fair and more lasting resolution between China and the rising power of Japan. China, rightfully so, felt betrayed by the Western powers, and particularly by Wilson, when the formerly German-occupied Shantung region of China was ceded to Japan. And Japan was not much happier with the Western powers for their failure to recognize its principle of international racial equality, contributing to the rise of Japanese nationalism. Again, Wilson was viewed as the ultimate sell-out on this point.MacMillan describes Paris to have been the "center of the world government" for the first six months of 1919. And indeed it was. In addition to the main players, it was populated with such colorful and disparate figures as T.E. Lawrence, doffed in Arabian robes, and Ho Chi Minh, at the time a dishwasher in a Parisian kitchen. MacMillan writes eloquently about the French capital in 1919 as a city of culture, fashion, and intellectual thought. While the peace conference is the centerpiece of MacMillan's book, she does not ignore how the table of Paris is exquisitely set around it. In addition to presenting a comprehensive narrative of the events and forces propelling the world inexorably towards the second world conflagration of the twentieth century, MacMillan succeeds in bringing to life the dynamic personalities, and their respective entourages, who struggled in vain to forge a peace purportedly to end all wars

  • Dayla
    2019-05-17 03:19

    It is somewhat ironic that I finished this book on 9/11, the same day of remembrance for those fellow US citizens who were killed in an attack carried out by middle easterners, of whom most citizens knew nothing about. "Why, we don't even know these people!" we said. "What did we do?" we asked. After reading this book, one realizes that under the leadership of our 27th president, Woodrow Wilson, the middle east was moved around geographically and kicked around metaphorically--creating several uneasy alliances, including Iraq's triumvirate and the Ottoman Empire blowing up into fragmented pieces with nary one sacred caliphate left to help them understand what was happening. The author, Ms. MacMillan, provides many reasons for the eventual outcome of WW1, but the most succinct is written by another reviewer: "There was a system of competing alliances. The Serbians were aligned with Russia but under Austrian control. Austria was aligned with Germany and France aligned with Russia. When Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austrian throne, was killed in 1914 by a Serbian separatist the Austrians cracked down on the Serbians.This caused Russia to come to Serbia's aid. When Russia attacked Austria Germany was forced to aid Austria and attacked Russia. The French came to the aid of Russia. England joined Russia and France primarily to defeat Germany in order to abolish it's Navy. Germany's Navy at the time was poised to surpass England's Navy.Three years after it started, the war had wound down to just England vs. Germany. Germany was about to win but England induced President Wilson into American support. America's fresh troops were able to defeat Germany and win the war."USA! USA! USA!Paris, 1919, concludes with the signing of The Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI. It is quite surprising to find out that it dealt with a rearranging of the entire world. The Treaty:1) dismantled the Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires2) gives Syria and Lebanon to France3) reconstitutes three peoples of the Mesopotamian area into Iraq 4) gives Iraq and Palestine to England5) forces the Germans to give Alsace and Lorraine to France6) gives Poland the German territories of West Prussia and Posen7) gives large portions of Schleswig (part of Germany) to Denmark 8) places the port of Danzig under the control of the League of Nations9) forces Germany to accept responsibility for war and pay an 6.6 billion10) cedes independent country of Tyrol to Austria and Italy11) refuses the Chinese' request for a restoration of its territory that was previously under German control and instead cedes it to Japan (China was on the winning side of WWI, but it made no difference.) During the negotiations, a bus boy by the name of Ho Chi Min asked to be heard regarding the freedom of his home country Vietnam. He was rebuked by the Conference, so he turned to the Soviet Union instead. Here are some other interesting facts:1) The only woman in with the press was the great American muckraker Ida Tarbell (see Doris K Goodwin's book, "The Bully Pulpit.")2) Before the Supreme Council (SC) met in Paris, Poland had been re-created, Finland and the Baltic States were on their way to independence; and Czechoslovakia had been pieced together. 3) Serbia joined with Croatia and Slovenia, possibly named Yugoslavia4)Hoover, the relief administrator, warned the Allies that some 200 million people in the enemy countries face famine, and in 1919, he reminded the Europeans that the US had done enough, and it was time for them to do something.5) In 1917, Russia finally cracked under the strain of the last 8 months, where it had gone from an autocracy, a liberal democracy, to a revolutionary dictatorship--the Bolsheviks. 6) As Russia collapsed, the Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Daghestan took up their independence.7) In 1919, the Portuguese president was assassinated; and in Bavaria and Hungary, communist governments took power (remember in Budapest the House of Horrors where they were soft on communism and hard on the Nazis?)8) Churchill said, "Civilization is being completely extinguished over gigantic areas, while Bolsheviks hop and caper like ferocious baboons amid the ruins of cities and the corpses of their victims. 9) Farmers without land, workers without jobs, ordinary men and women without hope, all were fodder for visionaries promising the earth.10) The governing party in Russia did not become like Swedish Social Democrats. Lenin had established a system of terrible and unfettered opwoer which gave Stalin free rein for his paranoid fantasies.

  • Will
    2019-05-23 23:01

    I wanted to find out more about Europe after WW1 and in the inter-war years, so this seemed like a good place to start.We talk about the 1914-18 war, the “Armistice” that ended it and the subsequent “Treaty of Versailles”. But I had not really appreciated that there was a full six months between the end of the war and the treaty finally being signed in May 1919. And I had not really understood that the treaty involved so such more than just the assessment of reparations to be taken from Germany; there were so many competing and contradictory claims by virtually every other European country as well as China and Japan, the carving-up of what remained of the Turkish empire, the spoils of the African colonies and of course divvying-up of the Middle East.Nothing on that scale had ever been attempted before, and Wilson, Lloyd-George and Clemenceau, (the leaders of the US, Britain and France who were the main players), had no conception of how complex and time-consuming it was to become. Their initial hopelessly ambitious scheme, further complicated by Wilson’s vision of setting up a League of Nations at the same time, was to have a preliminary set of meetings of the “key players” to set out the general terms and have the League hammer out the details of the claims before holding negotiations with Germany.What actually happened was predictable in hindsight: the “lesser” nations were having none of that, and bitter infighting broke out immediately. In the end there never was time for more than the initial meetings, nor for setting up the League. Despite that, it was stunning to learn that there was so much horse-trading right up to the last minute, that nobody actually read the final treaty in its entirety before it was handed to the Germans to sign. And it was simply handed to them; there was to be no discussion. Later when L-G and Wilson did have time to review the treaty with Germany, the feeling was that it was much more punitive than they had intended.McMillan gives a real sense of what it must have been like to be in the Versailles sessions and what the human cost was, in particular to the three leaders, with plenty of detail about the forceful arguing and emotions that ran so high during those months. At the time, in England and France anyway, the popular sentiment was to “hang the Kaiser” and “squeeze the Germans till they bled”, so it was understandable that the negotiators found it difficult to make the terms more reasonable. Later, that sentiment had mostly been replaced by a realization that it was to nobody’s benefit if Germany was destroyed economically, but by then it was too late.*She makes the point that far too much time passed between November, when Germany sued for peace and when the treaty was actually signed. In that time she says that Germany had apparently “forgotten” what desperate straits the country had been in; in addition, the Allies had never actually marched into Berlin as victors so the Germans had not got a sense of having lost; rather, they had come to feel that a ceasefire had simply been proclaimed without any blame being assigned. So, the terms of the agreement were met with outrage, and not just because the Germans had been led to believe they would be negotiable in some way.There is a lot of sense to this argument, but it rather undermines her position that the terms of the Treaty were not ultimately that harsh (because only a fraction of the reparations were ever taken) and that they were not (as is widely supposed) the direct cause of the rise of Nazism and the catastrophe of WW2. However, I’m not a historian so I can’t really assess the strength of her arguments, (particularly after reading just one book on the subject since the 5th Form) but I am motivated now to read more about the post-1919 world. Overall, Paris 1919 was pretty good, although a bit too much like a textbook, and for me not quite in the class of Sleepwalkers or Postwar, two of the books that set me off on this quest.*(Contrast that with the post-WW2 era when much more care was taken not to punish the German people too much. Throughout the fifties, my parents were appalled that Germany continued to “get off so lightly” but much as I hate to admit it, as events turned out it was the right thing to do.)

  • Erin
    2019-04-27 23:17

    Even if I wasn’t predisposed to an enjoyment of WWI history, I suspect I’d have enjoyed Margaret MacMillian’s (epic 500 page) account of the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles in Paris 1919. Elegant sentences and a keen sense of characterization make this history intensely readable. A decision to withhold judgment on the particular historical characters lends it credibility, in that no one person or country is blamed; rather, the combined effect of a complicated and contingent set of treaties, weak characters (either too ambitious or too reticent), illnesses, and miscommunications, resulted in a treaty that, as MacMillan argues, cannot on its own be blamed for anything (re: not for WWII), but must be recognized in historical hindsight (and by many at the time) as an abject failure in a project of promoting peace.I particularly enjoyed the characterization of the members of the Supreme Council (aptly named, I suppose): Wilson, Clemenceau, Orlando and Lloyd George. Each received ample introduction, which allowed the later discussion of their mistakes, and subsequent political downfalls, to read as poignant. The measured attention to the contradictory enforcement of “self-determination” as dependent on political and economic expedients for those with political power, and the arrogance and self-righteousness of the policy makers, came with an appropriate connection to circumstances in the present that resonated, without badgering.The organization of the book is excellent. Characters, countries and their different aims and outcomes, geographic determinations and overlaps, unfold according to geography, but also read as seamlessly plotted, such that a subsequent chapter relies on necessary information introduced in a former. That said, there are a few occasions where I wondered whether an editor might have missed a line where information is given twice — perhaps a later section written independently without regard for the chapter that came earlier? or perhaps a purposeful reminder to the reader of what appears to be a rather insignificant point? I’m not sure, and it probably doesn’t matter, as these infrequent repetitions take nothing away from the well crafted plot.If you’re at all interested in imperialism, border-making, diplomacy, or Europe in the inter-war period I cannot recommend this book enough. Should you find European history to be the least engaging, you will be - without overstatement, I think - riveted at many points by this account. Perchance you dislike history books, Europeans, witty asides, and sarcastic comments about historical attire and comportment, you best look elsewhere.

  • Michael
    2019-05-10 23:15

    I must confess that I’m not quite certain what to say about this book, in part because I’m not quite sure what the book actually is. It is written by a PhD in history, and is even listed on her Wikipedia page as her “most successful” (in what sense?) publication, yet it does not appear to contain original research or a clear thesis. It is engagingly readable and full of “facts” rather than analysis, thus appears to be intended for a popular audience, yet its length, bibliography, and footnotes, appear to be designed for specialists. The cover tells me that it was a “New York Times Bestseller,” yet it seems to be largely forgotten after fourteen years (maybe that’s not so unusual). I’d guess that it was meant for a non-scholarly audience, and that it did catch on for a while, but that MacMillan has been busy with other types of research since then.As the 100th anniversary of World War One proceeds for the next five years or so, no doubt public interest will wax and wane, and it’s likely that by 2019, this book may see something of a renaissance. Because of its highly accessible, factual, nature, and lack of explicit interpretation, it may once again be “successful” in appealing to many readers. It does contain a good deal of more subtle judgment, especially regarding the politics behind the Treaty of Versailles, which may or may not continue to match the narrative the public wants to hear. It’s likely that someone will come up with something more “relevant” to a post-9/11 world’s view of Versailles, and that will supplant this volume as the go-to book for non-scholarly readers.In fairness, the book is an interesting read (I don’t think I’ve ever read the whole thing, but I’ve enjoyed the parts I did look at) and gives readers a lot to chew on in terms of why peace so often leads to war. It focuses on personalities like Wilson and Clemenceau that few readers know well today, and who are fascinating in their own rights. It is broken down largely by country, which reminds us how many players had stakes in the outcome of the First World War, and will introduce American readers at least to countries like Bulgaria that they rarely give a second thought to (if they’ve heard of them at all). In terms of facts, it seems to be well-researched and accurate, which is more than one can say of many popular history texts. In all, if you’re interested in a detailed look at the Paris Peace Conference, this is it. For scholarly analysis, you’ll have to look elsewhere.