Tag Archives: Paris 1919

Margaret MacMillan – The War That Ended Peace (2013)

The_War_That_Ended_Peace_EditorCopy_EditWhile her previous book, Paris 1919 dealt with the end of the First World War, her most recent looks at why war broke out in the first place. In her very detailed way, Margaret MacMillan walks the reader through all of the events that led up to the outbreak of war in order to answer one question, Why did the long peace not continue?

Building on the copious literature that already exists on this subject, Margaret MacMillan provides her own take on this question. She takes a rather hard stance, something unusual for historians, stating that the naval race is a key, if not the key factor in explaining the growing hostility between Britain and Germany. This is an interesting approach, and one which, I will admit, I had not given much thought to before.

The most interesting thing I found however was the long list of assassinations that occurred leading up to the First World War, and how while all of these had the potential to start a war, none of them did. This makes the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand both unremarkable and incredibly important at the same time. The panic around these assassinations or “terrorism” that occurred is also eerily familiar and proves that sometimes history does repeat itself.

MacMillan has also learned from Paris 1919, not to focus too much on individuals and personalities. She does still rely on prominent men to explain why some events played out the way they did, but she does not rely on them as heavily as she had done in previous writing.

I liked this book better than Paris 1919, although it is not for the faint of heart. At just over 600 pages, MacMillan has done her best to cover everything she can to explain the outbreak of hostilities. Those passionate about this time period will find her work enjoyable, while those looking for a lighter take on the subject might want to steer clear of this one.

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Margaret McMillan – Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World

200px-Paris1919bookcoverIn current scholarship, the end of the First World War and the Paris Peace Talks have rarely been treated as their own events. Rather they have been viewed together as merely a jumping off point to the outbreak of the Second World War. When the Paris Peace Talks are discussed they are remembered for one thing, their failure.

Margaret MacMillan devotes her entire work to an event that deserves the time. She spins a complicated story of competing people and ideas that all converged to try and make sure a war of this scale would never happen again. This is without a doubt the formative work on the subject and what’s better is that it is written to appeal to the average reader. Even while 600 pages may deem daunting, her narrative style or writing makes it easy to get lost in her story.

MacMillan does sometimes get bogged down in detail, especially in her discussions of the personalities involved. While there is no doubt that these people were important, and understanding them makes them more human and relatable, it wasn’t necessary to provide the reader with every single biographical detail of “The Big Three.”

What most impressed me was the attention paid to minority groups, leaders from India, Vietnam, and Korea, present at the conference. While recent scholarship has began to pay attention to effect of Wilsonian ideas in these countries, MacMillan is the first who weaves these “outsiders” into the fabric of the Conference.

I was incredibly impressed with this work and am looking forward to reading her most recent book The War that Ended the Peace.