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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A lively and thoughtful examination of the conference that ended the war to end all wars....Absorbing, balanced, and insightful narrative of a seminal event in modern history." Kirkus Reviews
"Without question, Margaret MacMillan?s Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. Brimming with lucid analysis, elegant character sketches, and geopolitical pathos, Paris 1919 is essential reading — the perfect follow-up to Barbara Tuchman?s magisterial Guns of August." Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center
"Compelling...exactly the sort of book I most like: written with pace and flavored with impudence based on solid scholarship; illuminating tangled subjects with irreverent pen portraits of the individuals concerned; and with a brilliant eye for quotations." Roy Jenkins, author of Churchill
"Margaret MacMillan's compelling portrait of the heroes and rascals of Versailles, with all their complex and contradictory human and political foibles, breathes life into the most urgent issues still before us. This brilliant and dramatic book rekindles hope in the grand defining themes that emerged as World War I ended: economic justice, human rights, and a league to ensure international amity." Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt
"It's easy to get into a war, but ending it is a more arduous matter. It was never more so than in 1919, at the Paris Conference....This is an enthralling book: detailed, fair, unfailingly lively. Professor MacMillan has that essential quality of the historian, a narrative gift." Allan Massie, The Daily Telegraph (London)
"MacMillan is brilliant at evoking the atmosphere of the conference....Everyone who was anyone — from Elinor Glyn to Marcel Proust — hung around on the fringes of the conference. MacMillan enlivens her narrative with very funny stories about the regions whose affairs the negotiators sought to settle." Richard Vinen, Financial Times
"Macmillan's scrupulously researched, very fluidly written and closely argued book forces us to reexamine our assumptions about the supposed myopia of Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Woodrow Wilson as they imposed their settlement on the defeated Central Powers and their allies....To blame Versailles for Hitler's war is to let both him and the appeasers off the hook." Andrew Roberts, The Sunday Telegraph (London)
New York Times Editors Choice
Winner of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize
Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize
Silver Medalist for the Arthur Ross Book Award
of the Council on Foreign Relations
Finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities—Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine, among them—born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn.
About the Author
Margaret MacMillan received her Ph.D. from Oxford University and is provost of Trinity College and professor of history at the University of Toronto. Her previous books include Women of the Raj and Canada and NATO. Published as Peacemakers in England, Paris 1919 was a bestseller chosen by Roy Jenkins as his favorite book of the year. It won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize and was a finalist for the Westminster Medal in Military Literature. MacMillan, the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, lives in Toronto.
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