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The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914by Margaret Macmillan
Synopses & Reviews
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • The Economist • The Christian Science Monitor • Bloomberg Businessweek • The Globe and Mail
From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I.
The century since the end of the Napoleonic wars had been the most peaceful era Europe had known since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the first years of the twentieth century, Europe believed it was marching to a golden, happy, and prosperous future. But instead, complex personalities and rivalries, colonialism and ethnic nationalisms, and shifting alliances helped to bring about the failure of the long peace and the outbreak of a war that transformed Europe and the world.
The War That Ended Peace brings vividly to life the military leaders, politicians, diplomats, bankers, and the extended, interrelated family of crowned heads across Europe who failed to stop the descent into war: in Germany, the mercurial Kaiser Wilhelm II and the chief of the German general staff, Von Moltke the Younger; in Austria-Hungary, Emperor Franz Joseph, a man who tried, through sheer hard work, to stave off the coming chaos in his empire; in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and his wife; in Britain, King Edward VII, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, and British admiral Jacky Fisher, the fierce advocate of naval reform who entered into the arms race with Germany that pushed the continent toward confrontation on land and sea.
There are the would-be peacemakers as well, among them prophets of the horrors of future wars whose warnings went unheeded: Alfred Nobel, who donated his fortune to the cause of international understanding, and Bertha von Suttner, a writer and activist who was the first woman awarded Nobel’s new Peace Prize. Here too we meet the urbane and cosmopolitan Count Harry Kessler, who noticed many of the early signs that something was stirring in Europe; the young Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and a rising figure in British politics; Madame Caillaux, who shot a man who might have been a force for peace; and more. With indelible portraits, MacMillan shows how the fateful decisions of a few powerful people changed the course of history.
Taut, suspenseful, and impossible to put down, The War That Ended Peace is also a wise cautionary reminder of how wars happen in spite of the near-universal desire to keep the peace. Destined to become a classic in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, The War That Ended Peace enriches our understanding of one of the defining periods and events of the twentieth century.
Praise for The War That Ended Peace
“Magnificent . . . The War That Ended Peace will certainly rank among the best books of the centennial crop.”—The Economist
“Superb.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Masterly . . . marvelous . . . Those looking to understand why World War I happened will have a hard time finding a better place to start.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“The debate over the war’s origins has raged for years. Ms. MacMillan’s explanation goes straight to the heart of political fallibility. . . . Elegantly written, with wonderful character sketches of the key players, this is a book to be treasured.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A magisterial 600-page panorama.”—Christopher Clark, London Review of Books
"Macmillan, professor of international history at Oxford, follows her Paris 1919 with another richly textured narrative about WWI, this time addressing the war's build-up. She asks, 'What made 1914 different?' and wonders why Europe 'walk over the cliff' given the continent's relatively longstanding peace. She begins by addressing Germany's misfortune in having 'a child for King'; Wilhelm II sought to secure Germany's — and his own — world power status by inaugurating a naval race with Britain. Britain responded by making 'unlikely friends' with France and Russia. Germany in turn cultivated relations with a near-moribund Austria-Hungary. Macmillan tells this familiar story with panache. A major contribution, however, is her presentation of its subtext, as Europe's claims to be the world's most advanced civilization 'were being challenged from without and undermined from within.' Exertions for peace were overshadowed by acceptance of war as 'a tool that could be used' against enemies made increasingly threatening by alliance systems. The nations' war plans shared a 'deeply rooted faith in the offensive' and a near-irrational belief in the possibility of a short war. Macmillan eloquently shows that 'turning out the lights' was not inevitable, but a consequence of years of decisions and reactions: a slow-motion train wreck few wanted but none could avoid. Agent: Christy Fletcher, C. Fletcher & Company LLC." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a gripping work of narrative nonfiction, a riveting story of Europe and the world in the years leading up to World War I. Master writer and historian Margaret MacMillan creates a fascinating portrait of the personalities and factors that pushed Europe over the brink into a catastrophic, world-changing conflagration.
The century since the end of the Napoleonic wars had been the most peaceful era Europe had known since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the first years of the twentieth century, Europe believed it was marching to a golden, happy, and prosperous future. But instead, the continent walked over a cliff into a war that killed millions, destroyed economies, tore apart empires, and fatally undermined Europe’s dominance of the world. With a sweeping narrative, vivid characters, and sharp insight, Margaret MacMillan powerfully evokes the decisions made, and the economic, social, political, and human tensions that determined the lead-up to the war. Colonial rivalries, ethnic nationalism, Germany’s rise to power, shifting alliances, and the belief in social Darwinism—that competition among nations was part of nature’s rule and that the strongest would rightfully emerge victorious—all exerted influence. Illuminating, absorbing, and beautifully written, The War That Ended Peace is a masterly work about the transformation of Europe, and the world.
About the Author
Margaret MacMillan received her PhD from Oxford University and is now a professor of international history at Oxford, where she is also the warden of St. Antony’s College. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; a senior fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto; and an honorary fellow of Trinity College, University of Toronto, and of St Hilda’s College, Oxford University. She sits on the boards of the Mosaic Institute and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and on the editorial boards of The International History Review and First World War Studies. She also sits on the advisory board of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and is a Trustee of the Rhodes Trust. Her previous books include Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History, Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World, Women of the Raj: The Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India, and Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice.
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