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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World Paperback – Sep 9 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1 edition (Sept. 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760525
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #17,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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University of Toronto historian Margaret MacMillan failed at first to find a Canadian publisher for her account of the pivotal peace conference that followed the First World War and, some have said, laid the groundwork for the second, but when Paris 1919 won the Samuel Johnson Prize in the U.K., it returned home a bestseller and remained so for years. MacMillan, great-granddaughter of one of the conference's principals, David Lloyd George, has written a definitive history--authoritative, colourful, and engrossing--of the peace that failed.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book has so many things going for it. Outside of giving a detailed account of the Paris Peace Conference in the summer of 1919, I learned a great deal about the history of a number of European countries, their relevance toward the war and the Peace Conference (raise your hand if you knew that Armenia had something to do with World War I), as well as many of the key players' personalities and conflicts that they had to reconcile not only within themselves, but for their countries.
I was really taken aback by how many of the decisions by the Paris Peace Conference (ie. "The Big Three," after Japan and Italy were more or less muscled out, of the United States, Great Britain, and France) still resonate today. For example, the decision to move Israelis to Palestine (where there was supposedly, "more land than the Arabs could populate.") and how one diplomat characterized the move as a "great experiment." It is really incredible to think of the power the three heads of each country (Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau) had, not to mention the delicate and potentially dangerous risks they had to balance.
Macmillan does a wonderul job of making potentially dull material interesting. She writes of how the French, eager to bury the Germans no matter what the cost, made sure that the Germans' train ride to Paris (through the heart of Europe and her WWI battlefields and shattered towns) was ridiculously slow in order to allow the Germans to see what "they" had done to Europe. In addition, the French made sure the Germans' signing of the Treaty of Versailles was indeed a most humiliating experience.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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 result of arrogance and incompetence. But now I've read this book, I can see that at worst you can only blame Wilson for naivety and Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Sonnino for trying to get reasonable reparations for their countries. None of them seemed to really understand the threat of emerging Russian Communism. The assertion that the failure of the four to support China's territorial integrity contributed to the establishment of a communist China is a new one to me, and very interesting.
I love the detail in this book; the characters and interplay between the main four. I liked reading about the staid Balfour going to a riskee play, about the petitioners and the players behind the scenes. I particularly liked the descriptions of the interplay that arose when a country had multiple factions competing for legitimacy. That's the kind of insight you rarely get with history books.
This is not a history book any more that Watership Down is a wildlife book. It's much deeper, yet so well written that it reads like a story - a complex story with multiple themes, but a well-written one.
Thank you Ms. Macmillan - I wish I could afford to attend one of your history classes.
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Format: Hardcover
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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