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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World [Hardcover]

Margaret MacMillan , Richard Holbrooke
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 29 2002
Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize

Winner of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize

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.

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Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is a colourful, epic history of the momentous days after World War I that saw U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the other Allied leaders reshape the world. Wilson arrived in France to referee the Paris Peace Conference only a month after the war's end, sailing into a French port past an avenue of British, U.S., and French battleships. The world, horrified by the millions of war deaths, was desperate for peace and embraced Wilson's call for a League of Nations and self-determination for all peoples. Enthusiastic European crowds greeted the U.S. president and posters bearing his face lined the streets.

It was a conference unlike any other in history: attendees redrew borders, rewrote international relations, and tried--unsuccessfully--to contain German militarism. It unfolded in the midst of massive social upheaval as Europeans awoke to widespread hunger and the inequalities of their age. In the pressure cooker of Paris, this bubbling stew of social and political forces boiled over, and many of Wilson's dreams were dashed. The world lives with the legacy of these few months. Not only did the conference produce a new map of Europe and the Middle East, it led to the infamous Versailles Treaty, often blamed for provoking World War II. MacMillan, a University of Toronto history professor, argues that the Allied leaders did their best, and to blame World War II on them is to absolve Hitler and his appeasers. MacMillan could perhaps be accused of bias: her great-grandfather was British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, one of the main political players in 1919. However, her book has been acclaimed by historians and has won Britain's richest nonfiction award. Complete with backroom intrigue, personal drama, and vivid characters, Paris 1919 is a vital contribution to our understanding of the last century and the current one. --Alex Roslin

From Publishers Weekly

A joke circulating in Paris early in 1919 held that the peacemaking Council of Four, representing Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy, was busy preparing a "just and lasting war." Six months of parleying concluded on June 28 with Germany's coerced agreement to a treaty no Allied statesman had fully read, according to MacMillan, a history professor at the University of Toronto, in this vivid account. Although President Wilson had insisted on a League of Nations, even his own Senate would vote the league down and refuse the treaty. As a rush to make expedient settlements replaced initial negotiating inertia, appeals by many nationalities for Wilsonian self-determination would be overwhelmed by rhetoric justifying national avarice. The Italians, who hadn't won a battle, and the French, who'd been saved from catastrophe, were the greediest, says MacMillan; the Japanese plucked Pacific islands that had been German and a colony in China known for German beer. The austere and unlikable Wilson got nothing; returning home, he suffered a debilitating stroke. The council's other members horse-traded for spoils, as did Greece, Poland and the new Yugoslavia. There was, Wilson declared, "disgust with the old order of things," but in most decisions the old order in fact prevailed, and corrosive problems, like Bolshevism, were shelved. Hitler would blame Versailles for more ills than it created, but the signatories often could not enforce their writ. MacMillan's lucid prose brings her participants to colorful and quotable life, and the grand sweep of her narrative encompasses all the continents the peacemakers vainly carved up. 16 pages of photos, maps.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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ON DECEMBER 4, 1918, the George Washington sailed out of New York with the American delegation to the Peace Conference on board. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This should be required high school History... Sept. 29 2003
I so badly want to give this book 5-stars, simply because of the great research, presentation, and 'inside' notes and documents which were consulted in order to give a comprehensive look at the conference. One of the problems with the book (mentioned, I believe, by another reviewer) is the lack of maps. Yes, at the beginning we get a few overall maps at different points in chronological time - but there should be a map or two at the start of every chapter. So complicated was this process of re-drawing nearly the whole of Europe, Asia, the Mid-East, etc., and so diverse and complex were the nationalities vying for a piece of it, that one loses track of who had what (if anything) before the war, and who wants how much afterward. Maps would help greatly in following this most important process. Nothing less than a pivotal point in World history whose reverberations still shake our globe nearly a full Century later, this book shows just how shaky and confused the victors were (let alone those who 'lost') as well as the naivety of Wilson, specifically, and of his "Fourteen Points". A great, if sometimes confusing and difficult read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919. An apology. April 16 2003
This book is highly interesting due to the rich detail in which the author relates the history of the peace-making after World War I. Much to the reader's joy she devotes a lot of attention to the settlements in the non-European parts of the world, in what is a lively treatment of the issues in 1919 and the subsequent events.
What in my opinion is the major shortcoming of the book, is that the purpose it has been written for becomes so apparent all along. The book should be termed "Paris 1919. An apology". Highly critical on all other settlements (the farther away from Europe, the more critical the author allows herself to be: see Turkey, Palestine, China), she asserts that "Versailles is not to blame".
Indeed, the author too easily jumps to conclusions. The most widely cited conclusion of her book is that the reparations forced upon Germany are not to blame for the rise of Hitler and WW II. Indeed events of 1919 never can be fully the reason for subsequent events say in 1933 or 1939. But it would be interesting to learn how much these events in 1919 were responsible for later developments. This would require a detailed study of the period 1919 to 1939 and one can only wonder how an author writing about a few months of peace negotiations in 1919 could ever come to a sensible conclusion about this issue! It is appalling to see that the author is even being applauded for this "research".
In fact, the only supportive argument the author offers, is that Germany until 1932 only had paid a comparatively small amount of its reparations - as if any debtor would relish about the (small) amount paid so far instead of the (much larger) sum outstanding! The facts are never presented by the author, only her conclusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skillful rendering of a crucial year Jan. 21 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Margaret MacMillan has created a well written account of a crucial year that shaped the world, and set the stage for the rest of the 20th century.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book demonstrates why I am in awe of historians. The scope of research and the way MacMillan pulls it together coherently are remarkable.
Political leaders were more honest about the warlike nature of nations a hundred years ago. Before the human and financial enormities of the Great War, leaders and citizens assumed that wars were what countries did. It was how they grew and gained influence. In Paris, MacMillan reveals, some wanted to change that. But they didn't.
Perhaps they couldn't have. My impression from the book is that, while Woodrow Wilson in particular wanted (at least in theory) an end to war, and an end to the old land-grabbing power-mongering that led to it, nearly everyone at the Paris Peace Conference (including Wilson himself) was looking out for their own countries' interests, even if those countries didn't exist yet. It took an even more horrible conflict 20 years later, as well as the Cold War, to bring peace to Europe, and even that dissolved in the Balkans and elsewhere in the 1990s.
MacMillan shows that the Peace Conference delegates tried very, very hard. Often they were working at cross-purposes, and the results were, in the end, almost total failure. But they did not know it at the time. Maybe we never do.
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By Marc Ranger TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For those who, like me, thought that The Treaty of Versailles was about all there was to the Paris 1919 Peace Conference, this is a book for you. Margaret Macmillan presents a complete but complex picture of the work and achievements of the Big Three (Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau) whose work was to draw a new World out of the destruction of the old.

The list of country who tried to gain territory, influence and power is endless. Greece, Italy, Yougoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Japan and so on all tried to "pull the blanket" on their side. Even states that were defeated, like Turkey or Hungary, had huge demands.

Negociating with all those beggars, who shamelessly exaggerated in order to gain something or steal from their neighboring country must have been a physical and emotional ordeal for the Peacemakers. I often wonder, reading the book, how in the world Lloyd George and Wilson were able to get through all this. The temptation to leave Paris must have been almost overwhelming.

After going through those exhausting negociations, the Peacemaker had to still deal with Germany. The chapter recalling what those poor German representatives had to endure in order to sign the Treaty in the Hall of Mirrors is worth the time you'll invest in reading the whole of the book all by itself.

I will of course recommend this fine book for any lover of political or sociological history, but be warn, it will take more than a single reading to digest it all.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very well written book on the politics during the 6 months...
I' ve only finished a little over 50% of this book. It is excellent reading. I love historical documents but it takes me a long time to finish a book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bernadette Daigle
4.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919
A great reference book if you want to understand the tensions and conflicts that have occurred and are still on-going. Well researched and wide ranging.
Published 13 months ago by jack smith
2.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner Written
Reeks with eugenics - only Brits and Amers have it, evryone else is primitive and stupid, according to this writer. I am sorryi paid for it.
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight and understanding
Paris 1919 recounts the history of the Treaty of Versailles and the manner in which different ideas, so critical to 20th century thought, were born politically: The League of... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2011 by SnowPharoah
5.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World
MacMillan explains in very readable terms how the Allies re-organized the world after the First World War. Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2010 by meb
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written an researched... but clearly biased.
As another reviewer has written, John Maynard Keynes' work already covers much of the attempts at defending the result of the 1919 conference. Read more
Published on March 23 2010 by Ian
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading
An engaging, colourful diplomatic history of the key decisions deciding the fate of millions and sowing seeds of conflict from Palestine to Vietnam. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2009 by Adam Woelders
5.0 out of 5 stars dragon's teeth
Hindsight is valuable in history and Ms. MacMillan's work, coming now, puts more perspective on the Paris conference and the effects that haunt us to this day. Ms. Read more
Published on July 16 2004 by Robert D. Harmon
3.0 out of 5 stars Furstrating
Perhaps my expectations were too high for this book but I was disappointed. There wasn't the level of serious analysis that I expected, but on the otherhand the format of the book... Read more
Published on June 29 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
just wish she had carried on and explained why the British Govt. didn't support the Hasemites against the Saud's in the civil war in Arabia in the 20's
Published on June 26 2004 by Mr J. S. Smith
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