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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed yet never boring, well written
I've rarely found an author who can take such a complex series of parallel stories and weave them together into a coherent whole. Her writing reminds me of Sir Winston Churchill's, both in 'History of the English Speaking People' and 'The Second World War'. Hers is a rare gift indeed.
It's easy to look at the legacy of the Paris Peace Talks and proclaim them the...
Published on Feb. 28 2003 by Terence P Hutt

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading in Bed
"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...
Published on March 17 2004 by Randall L. Wilson


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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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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
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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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919. An apology., April 16 2003
By 
M. Burger - See all my reviews
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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. Indeed every study of this issue shows the devastating impact on German public opinion, as the reparations were constantly present due to endless negotiations - 24 conferences alone until 1924 - and new plans for repayment. E.g. the plan of 1929 still asked for yearly instalments that would have continued until 1988 (!). One can imagine what would happen to Iraqi oil reserves in the next 70 years - i.e. until 2073 - if the Big Three had a say.
The peacemakers in Paris in 1919 were a failure. Contrary to the hopes and inspirations of all the people of their age (victorious and defeated alike), they failed to establish new principles for peacemaking choosing to follow Wilson's principles where they fit the victors and to ignore them where they might have fit the defeated.
There are two sets of piece treaties: the "just treaties", those that enforce the will of the victors according to certain, broadly fair principles and those that are imposed largely against the will of the defeated and which subsequently have to be kept with force.
The "just peace" was not achieved, indeed there were not even negotiations with the defeated nations (producing calamities such as this, where Wilson only finds out after having agreed to the Czechoslovak borders that some 3 million Germans were also living there, indeed even more numerous than the name-giving ethnic Slovaks! "Why Masaryk - the Czech president - has not told me", Wilson famously asked).
So the peace had to be a forced one, one that needed to be kept with force. The author actually mourns that Germany was not more severely defeated in 1918 and expresses regret that the allies have not marched upon Berlin. With the same reason she might asked herself who actually won the first World War? Was it really France, which on its own would have been defeated in 1914 already? Or in other words: Why at all should US-soldiers fight for France having coal mines in the Saar area?
No new world order was established in Paris in 1919, instead the principle that the stronger nation imposes its will on others was once again confirmed. A discussion of the peacemakers of Paris 1919 should also include a reference to these other peacemakers (or "appeasers" as they now are called), those of 1938. Applying exactly the same principles as their fellows in 1919 Chamberlain & Co. gave away what was "just" in terms of the then prevailing equilibrium of power: E.g: exactly those 3 million Germans of the Sudetenland about which Wilson only learned so late in 1919.
The Treaty of Versailles is indeed to blame. Like this other Treaty with the Turks at Sèvres it called for a revision. In the case of Turkey, due to the swift recovery of Turkish forces under Attatürk, the dictated Treaty of 1919 was never implemented and later on was substituted with a negotiated one, leaving Turkey intact in almost exactly its present borders. Unfortunately for Europe and for Germany especially, the person that - as Attatürk undid the Sèvres treaty - undertook to undo the Versailles treaty was Adolf Hitler.
The Versailles Treaty asked for its revision, through war (WWII) or negotiations, so out of line it was with the actual balance of power and broad principles of justice. This is its ultimate failure and it is for this that "Versailles" and the peacemakers of 1919 can be blamed. But certainly they cannot be blamed for Hitler and his mass murders - nobody actually ever did.
So the book is a must read due to the facts presented and the lively picture it draws of those critical months, but should be read with great care when it comes to the far-reaching conclusions, not supported neither by facts nor by subsequent history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, candid, and well written., Feb. 26 2003
By 
"forchewzee" (lake elsinore, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Magaret Macmillan, writes a candid account of the Paris Peace accords which followed World War I. But she choose to do so in a less critical way then her fellow historians. She has a positive outlook on the deliberations, but makes it well known that many things were left unadressed, causing turmoil throughout the world. The current situation in the Middle-East, the Palistenean-Israeli conflict, and unfinished business in Yugoslovia in the late 1990's, can be accredited to the poor diplomacy of the post-World War I era. Her writing is coherent, well-organized, and well-researched, making it worth all five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading, April 15 2015
By 
Vernon Quinsey (Kingston, ON) - See all my reviews
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This exceptionally informative and interesting book should be required reading for anyone who watches the news. I occasionally had the sense when reading this book that I finally understood the polictical geography of Europe and it was somewhat different than what I had imagined.

I think that people of my generation perceive the political map of the world as it existed in the years before the Second World War as the default or natural state of affairs--later changes appear to be derivative and somehow less natural. It seldom occurs to us that political boundaries in Europe have been in a continual state of flux throughout modern times. Many of the European political boundaries that existed in the thirties were drawn in the Treaty of Versailles that was negotiated (and sometimes dictated) at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. this book is about the conferernce and how it dealt with the shrinkage of Germany and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, among many other territorial changes in other parts of the world.

The portraits of the principal protagonists (Woodrow Wilson, Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Vittorio Orlando) are entertainingly drawn, and there are excellent cameo appearances by lesser and sometimes exotic figures from around the world. The descriptions of the many peronalities are very entertaining

Here, in no particular order, are some of the conclusions of this work. Wilson's 14 points elevated the tone of moral discourse, increased nationalist aspirations, and was fundamentally unworkable. The patchwork and intermixture of ethnic, linguistic, and religoius groups around the world usually meant that political boundaries could not be drawn without making some groups unhappy. Small countries behaved as selfishly, greedily, and insensitively as larger countries; the same was true for minorities. The major powers adopted a eurocentric view of the world. The Treaty of Versailles represtented compromises among the national self-interests of the victorious countries (weighted by the amount of blood and treasure lost in the war, the importance of the particular issue at hand to one of the four countries concerned, and the amount of the particular country's post-war military power). The French were justifiably afraid of a recovered Germany and everyone was afraid of the Bolsheviks. The English threw in their lot with the Americans. As the conference continued, the amount of influence of its decisions steadily declined with the demobilization of the armies - decisions were sometimes made that were unenforceable or easily reversed by the locals.

The conferees were certainly conscientious. Nevertheless, the complexity of the very many decisions that had to be made defied the limitations of the human intellect. Decisions were sometimes influenced by wishful thinking, ignorance of local conditions, the propaganda of particular groups, the personalities of particular leaders, shocking publicized incidents, and sheer mental exhaustion. In the end, the leaders behaved like policitical and bureaucratic leaders do everywhere when making complex decisions under extreme time pressure - according to an informal mixture of expediency, unexamined preconceptions, mutual social influence and satisfiscing.

For more of my reviews go to http://vernquinsey.weebly.com/
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5.0 out of 5 stars I often wonder how they were able or willing to remain in Paris., April 23 2014
By 
Marc Ranger "Baseball fan" (québec, canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Insight and understanding, Aug. 27 2011
By 
SnowPharoah "SnowPharoah" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Paperback)
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 Nations, The Balfour Declaration, The Self-Determination of peoples and nations. Events took place during this time that one can barely conceive: The US president (Woodrow Wilson) spending months on end in Europe to help broker a new peace and avoid what everyone conceived was possible - a new war; the Japanese and Chinese traveling thousands of miles by sea to meet with the peace party to attempt to become a more important player on the world scene - they were turned down. In sum, MacMillan delivers a fascinating book that reads like a novel recounting the different issues that had to be dealt with during this troubled time. Reading through this phenomenal work certainly helps gain insight into how WWII might have been sown during this time, but also how many different currently unresolved issues - from the Balkans to the Middle East - were dealt with.

Two elements: First, the writing is superb. This is an incredibly readable book. In some parts you forget you are reading through non-fiction. Second, MacMillan draws out very nicely the ambient context of 1919 - the tension in post war Europe, the anger on the part of the Germans for not having won a war they believed was theirs to win, the honest desire to broker a last peace in a fair way on the part of Lloyd George, Clemanceau and Wilson, the amazing social inequalities that were present within and between nations, and the demands of so, so many heads of state that were impossible to accommodate and that, in many cases, simply led to frustration that fed the beginning of the next conflict. After reading this book, I came away with a greater understanding for the difficulties that characterize our world and our basic inability, in the face of much honest effort, to live in peace. A 5 star without a doubt.
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5.0 out of 5 stars dragon's teeth, July 16 2004
By 
Robert D. Harmon "bobnbob3" (Mill Valley, CA) - See all my reviews
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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. MacMillan does assert that the Versailles Treaty - one of its products - should not bear sole blame for the catastrophe that came 20 years later (though she notes that Hitler found it a gold mine of propaganda).
However, a reader can find in her story that the Paris conference, and the resulting treaties, sowed dragon's teeth that would erupt year after year: the bloody 1922 war between Turkey and Greece; the mutual suspicions between Poland and the new republics around her that left them divided later; the bad blood between Rumania and her neighbors over her new borders; the creation of fragile nations and economies in Hungary and Austria that would be easy prey for fascism; the Italian populist fervor over Fiume and Trieste that contributed so much to the rise of Mussolini; the Sudetenland issue that would awake in the 1930s; the Allied mandates in Arab lands that would cause so much resentment later; the creation of amorphous nation-states that would implode in the 1990s - Rwanda, Burundi, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Iraq.
Ms. MacMillan does provide an epilogue to each decision, as well as a new look at Woodrow Wilson, the first U.S. president to travel outside the U.S. in his term, and whose 14 Points proved perhaps the greatest unrealized promise of the period.
For a conference founded on such post-war hope and good intentions, it certainly proved a road to hell. All in all, a worthwhile read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919 : Six Months That Changed the World, April 19 2004
By 
B. Viberg "Alex Rodriguez" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Paperback)
MacMillan (Univ. of Toronto) uses the deliberations surrounding the Treaty of Versailles (together with its adjuncts: Trianon, St. Germain, Neuilly, Sevres, and Lausanne) in several ways. First, she introduces readers to a stellar cast of characters: Lloyd George, the "Welsh wizard"; Clemenceau, the "French tiger"; Wilson, the "American professor"; as well as King Faisal, Lawrence of Arabia, Ataturk, Ho Chi Minh, and even Gandhi. Second, she clearly articulates the intricacies of the welt politik that led up to WW I. Third, she discusses many of the issues that were on the table in 1919 and are still present: Balkan ethnic politics, Europe's relationship with Turkey, Britain's involvement with Europe, tensions in the Middle East. But, most important, 1919 marks the advent of the US as a moralizing force that at once castigated Old World imperialisms while initiating its own self-appointed role as global arbiter of good and evil. Somewhat poignantly, MacMillan closes this study of the aftermath of the "war to end all wars" with two questions: "How can the irrational passions of nationalism or religion be contained before they do more damage? How can we outlaw war?" Well footnoted, referenced, and illustrated with clear maps and intriguing photographs.
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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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