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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This should be required high school History...
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...
Published on Sept. 29 2003 by douglasnegley

versus
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919. An apology.
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...
Published on April 16 2003 by M. Burger


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely Significant - Strange Conlusion, March 9 2003
By 
David M. Sapadin (Naperville, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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Paris 1919, by Margaret Macmillan, ought to be required reading for anyone alive in 2003. A previous reviewer entitled his "An overlooked historical event of importance," which, in my opinion, is a rather large understatement. The Balkan Wars of the 1990's (and most recently the assasination of the Serbian Prime Minister) were/are a continuation of the conflicts that the "band-aid" called The Treaty of Versailles tried to fix. So is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So too was the fundamentalist revolution in Iran in the early 1980's (remember The Ayotollah?) that propelled Ronald Reagan into power. And don't forget Iraq! The country of Iraq was created by the treaty...another "can of worms" held in check under the point of a gun, just like Yugoslavia. (Yugoslavia was conceived at Versailles and it didn't work either). Arab nationalism ignored, Kurdish nationalism never addressed, American idealism vs. isolationism, British Imperialism, French Colonialism and the other two extremes of timidity and paranoia (you think this is new?) jump out at you from the pages of this book. Oh yes - did I leave out Bolshevism? - that's in here too! (It wasn't created by Versailles, but it certainly affected the decision-making.)
This is history the way it ought to be written. The subject of each chapter is a major field of study, yet each superbly written so that anyone with even a cursory understanding of world history can follow it. Best of all, each chapter is concluded with a time-line right up to the present making it easy to trace how today's world (and our lives) have been, and are continuing to be, influenced by what took place in Paris - in 1919.
Macmillan's conclusion is, in my opinion, a little odd. She goes easy on the peacemakers, claiming that they did their best. I agree with her on that. But I disagree with her claim that WWII would have happened anyway, Versailles or no Versailles. Macmillan contends Hitler would have wanted living space, and would have exterminated the Jews no matter what. But she downplays that without Versailles, and most importantly how the treaty was perceived by the Germans (as humiliation), not how it was actually adminstered or not administered, was what created the collective state of mind in Germany which allowed a Hitler to easily come to power.
The best that can be said for The Treaty of Versailles is that it was a "learning experience," a series of (at best) under-thought-out solutions, or (at worst) momentous mistakes made by a small, powerful group of well-intentioned humans - with emphasis on the word "humans." For human they were, as this book unabashedly reveals.
What we learned from Versailles was how NOT to make a peace. The US did learn from those mistakes - graphically illustrated by its adoption of the Marshall Plan after WWII, its entry into the UN, and its rebuilding of Japan.
What is happening in the World today...Arab nationalism in the form of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, the Balkans, Iraq, Israel & The Palestinians are all leftovers from the fall of the Ottoman Empire after WWI and the Treaty of Versailles. The cultural, religious, and political conflicts are still being played out on the world stage after, in many cases, years of suppression amid the bi-lateral nuclear standoff known as the Cold War.
We did much better after WWII in regards to Europe and Japan. Let's hope we do better now in regards to the Middle East. To illustrate how difficult the peacemaker's job was in 1919, one only has to look at the complexities of today beause they haven't changed much. There needs to be an Israel. There needs to be something other than the oppressive ruling families in the Arab kingdoms. There needs to be someplace for the Kurds. The Arab countries need to join the 21st century. Cultures that have clashed for thousands of years need to live in close proximity to each other - and somehow get along without threatening the entire world.
So how many of you out there think we should go blasting our way into Iraq as a start toward addressing all these complexities? By a show of hands, I see its about even. Which only goes to prove that hindsight is easy, and I commend Margaret Macmillan for presenting a different point of view about the value of the work done by the peacemakers in 1919. (The previously held prevailing wisdom was that they were a collection of bumbling idealists and failures). But even though I agree with her that Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George may have done the best they could given the enormity of the changes taking place in the world in which they were living and that it all was new, I remain convinced that if Versailles had reflected the actual outcome of WWI (it was, more or less, a tie) then three or four years of diplomacy (rather than 6 months) would have, could have, and should have, prevented WWII. The world could have learned by 1919 the lesson of the Treaty of Austria. (Leniency does not breed the humiliation that breeds contempt, that breeds war.) Now it is up to us, those who have inherited Versailles,as Macmillan accurately points out, to pick up the baton and create situations in which the world can work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Superbly Written Narrative, but Lacking in Clear Judgments, July 18 2003
By 
As a literary portrayal of the Paris Conference, this book can't be beat. Its nearly five hundred pages of text are not only well-written, but scholarly, comprehensive, and sometimes even entertaining. MacMillan focuses on the numerous personalities of the conference and arranges the book around the various issues they handled there. Most of the time, this is done on a country by country basis, although some issues - such as those surrounding the peace terms for Germany - are covered thematically.
My only major complaint with the book is its judgments on the conference. While MacMillan clearly shows that the major players failed to deliver a workable peace on numerous issues, she plainly has a soft spot for the whole enterprise and defends it against most criticism, including the most common one: that its failings would lead directly to World War 2. She also defends the peace conference against its most famous critic, John Maynard Keynes, and his argument that the economic terms against Germany were too harsh.
Unfortunately, MacMillan's defense of the Paris conference is not up to the same standards as her narrative skills in describing it. I read Keynes' "The Economic Consequences of the Peace" soon after finishing this book and was surprised to see the famous economist's main arguments were still convincing. MacMillan really doesn't even touch on Keynes' points in any detail, but brushes them aside with an argument that Keynes already anticipated in his book. (See my review of "The Economic Consequences of the Peace" for details.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why no Pulitzer?, April 29 2003
By 
Eros Faust "erosfaust" (Jacksonville, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
If it was mine to give, I'd award Margaret MacMillan, PhD of the University of Toronto the Pulitzer Prize in history for Paris 1919.
You almost can't understand Hitler's rhetoric, his appeal to Germans, Austrians, German speaking Czechs, the residents of Alsace-Lorraine, the Poles, and the roots of WWII without understanding what happened at Versailles in 1919. You can't understand Versailles without understanding the underlying perplexities of language, religion, nationality, and economic worth that made dividing up Germany, Hungary, and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire so difficult a task.
What I admire about Ms. MacMillan's book is that she assumes little reader's knowledge, and most Americans know only a little about Western Europe and almost nothing about Central Europe, Eastern Europe, or the Balkans. She explains the tensions in those regions in understandable terms. Once she explains it, many of the important territorial claims make sense. German claims on Poland, Danzig and the Polish corridor, and Czechoslovakia suddenly have some logic to them. Once you see, from her perspective, what Wilson promised and what Clemenceau actually delivered, you understand the intense feeling of the Germans against France, and Wilson's failings as a statesman and leader. You may understand why French seizure of the Rhineland was such a betrayal to the Germans and why Wilson's Fourteen Points, and particularly his emphasis on self-determination, made it so difficult for America to condemn the "unification" (Anshluss) with Austria.
This is a wonderfully researched book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and heartily recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blockbuster, March 12 2003
By 
David H. Schmick (Salisbury, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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If a book could in anyway advertise itself for a time this one would be the book that should do so. There are just so simply so many links between the age this book describes and our own. We find outselves now at the end of the Cold War with so many shifting alliances none of which relates to the reality of our times. And that is simply where Clemenceau, Wilson, and Lloyd George found themselves.
Trying to deal with a fractured world and confronting threats from all directions, these people tried to reconfigure the world.
Messes in the Balkans, a question concerning Turkey, the end of empires, an expectent Japan and China, a divided and subdivided Africa and the German question all confronted them and in the wings awaited the League of Nations. Sound familiar? We are simply reliving their failures to confront problems we face today.
Their failures are our problems even today. And the breakup of the Soviet Empire has simply added to the equation. So if you are interested in where we are today I would commend this book to you. All of our problems today are problems not really solved by the powers that met in 1919.
Lastly the division of the Middle East during this time revisits us daily.
So I would commend this great book to anyone who wishes to ascertain the root causes of the problems we face today. Ms. MacMillan has served it all up on an easy platter to take in. When you pick up the book it looks like a real long challenge, but it is quick reading and she is an excellent author.
I rated this one 5 stars, but it is more valuable than that. It is the foundation of our current history and offers us a look at where our current challenges have evolved from. A great work and thanks to the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Political Basis of the Modern World, Feb. 27 2003
By 
Go out and get this book immediately and read it: it supplies the framework for the reconfiguration of Europe and the Far East that makes it possible to understand the alignments of the modern world and the problems we face. The wrangling and the greed of the greater and smaller powers in 1919 gives you an insight into the confusion that follows the end of a world war.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating look behind the scenes, Feb. 24 2003
By 
John Anderson (Bar Harbor, ME USA) - See all my reviews
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This is a remarkably intereresting, well-written, and timely book about a critical period in recent history. Anyone interested in "how we got to where we are" in international politics would be well-advised to dig into this highly readable yet scholarly examination of the process and personalities that came together (or in some cases FAILED to come together) in Paris during that critical period. As David Lloyd George's great grand-daughter Macmillan is in an interesting position vis a vis some of the key players at Versailles, yet while she does not disguise her interest in (and knowledge of) the real people in the photographs we get strikingly balanced portraits of most everyone without the vinidictive tittle-tattle & sniping that has marred several other recent history texts. Macmillan is able to convey both the grand sweep of history and the very human foibles of her subjects in a way that keeps one turning the pages late into the night and coming away with a real sense of what happened, what could have happened & what we might learn from what Churchill referred to all too prophetically as "Not Peace, this is Armistice for 20 years". One can only wish that the enthusiasts for the latest New World Order would read this book and ponder the fallibility of even the best of intentions
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Overview, Feb. 5 2003
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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This well written book is an informative overview of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and its associated treaties. This is an immense subject. As the author points out, for the period of the Paris Peace Conference, the primary conferees were essentially a world government. WWI largely destroyed the pre-existing world order and the decisions of the Paris conference would be the foundation for subsequent international, regional, and national politics for much of the globe. Macmillan systematically covers the whole gamut of decisions made by the conferees. The terms of the settlement with Germany, the political boundaries of Eastern Europe, the structure of the Middle East, the disposition of German colonies, the formation of the League of Nations. This is a real virtue as many tend to associate the Paris conference solely with the Treaty of Versailles that dictated terms to Germany. Macmillan shows nicely the world wide scope of the decisions and how decisions at the conference proper led to the series of important treaties that were aimed at settling the crucial issues. These included, for example, the Trianon treaty that set the borders of Hungary and the Treaty of Sevres that attempted to dictate the borders of Turkey. Any of these individual topics can and have been the subjects of substantial monographs. David Fromkin, for example, dealt very well with Turkey and the Middle East in his book A Peace to End All Peace, which covers much of the same ground. The breadth of the Paris 1919 means precludes in depth examination of each important topic but Macmillan has done a very nice job of explaining and covering the key issues and decisions. An unavoidable drawback of the book is its organization. Topics are covered thematically rather than chronologically. This makes topical analysis much more concise but makes it difficult at times to see how issues related to each other. A strictly chronological approach, however, would probably be less informative and I feel Macmillan made the correct choice. Macmillan is particularly good on the personalities of the major decision makers, Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and in revealing the political tensions they faced in resolving issues. Macmillan is also very good in showing the underlying contradictions of the Paris Peace Conference. Wilson in particular had made national-ethnic aspirations a central issue but putting this into practice proved insuperably difficult in many situations, such as Eastern Europe, and rubbed against national interests in many others. Macmillan also does well in connecting decisions in Paris to some of our contemporary problems, such as the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Finally, she treats the failings of the Paris conference, particularly with respect to Germany, in a clear and careful fashion. While not sparing the mistakes of the treaty makers, she undercuts the common notion that the Versailles treaty was a vigorously punitive measure that was responsible in large part for WWII. Following considerable modern scholarship, she presents the treaty as more moderate than thought commonly and suggests that Germany was treated too leniently in some ways.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading to Understand World War I and Later., Dec 14 2002
I read this book because of the review I saw in the New York Times Book Review. I found by reading Paris 1919, I was able to make certain events that happened later in history fall into place for me. World War II, the crisis in the Middle East, just to name a couple.
Without going into great detail (read the book), Professor Macmillan gave all of the explanations for what happened in those six months and the personalities who made it happen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading in Bed, March 17 2004
By 
Randall L. Wilson "Randy Wilson" (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
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"Paris 1919" took me quickly to unconsciousness. But reading it before bedtime meant I didn't finish it for nearly two months! I'm not saying it was bad but it wasn't a page-turner. I thought it would be more about the dynamics of the Conference itself rather than about the parties involved and all the geopolitical considerations. The book lacks an overarching narrative that would have helped bring the Conference alive. What I was hoping for was more of how the personalities of the leaders; Wilson, George and Clemenceau along with the national interests they represented played themselves out on this international stage.
Instead the events at the conference came to a screeching halt every time a new country petitioned the Conference for more territory. Ms. Macmillan then provided the backstory on the country's history and the leader appearing at the conference. Often this was interesting but not gripping and I felt that the larger story and personalities got lost in the details. I got a good understanding of the political dynamics of various regions both going back and forward in time. The book made me interested in learning more about specific aspects of issues raised at the Conference such as the German presence on the Shantung peninsula and about the Turkish leader Ataturk. What I didn't get was a strong sense of the historic conference itself nor the larger themes that came out of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Conference that Made the 21st Century World, May 15 2003
By 
Lauren S. Kahn (McLean, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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World War I ended with an inconclusive result. Basically the Germans lost because they were exhausted. France was in ruins. Germany was never invaded.
The "Big Four" sat around the conference table to divvy up Europe and the Near East and we have lived with the results ever since.
This book details the events that took place in Paris in 1919. Woodrow Wilson, who was already ill, was obsessed with his 14 points. However, those points did not always fit what the big powers saw as their national interest. Compromises were made and we are still living with the results--for example the borders in the Middle East which often have more to do with the French and the British than they do to where the ethnic groups actually live. Think about Iraq: It's a mishmosh of groups. Then there is Turkey, whose borders resulted from events on the ground (as in Ataturk).
This is a well written book that will interest any history nut. It should appeal to a larger audience, however, due to the current interest in events in the Middle East and the continuing turmoil in the Balkans. After all, it was the turmoil in the Balkans that began World War I. Somethings never change.
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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Richard Holbrooke (Paperback - Sept. 9 2003)
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