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Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations Hardcover – September 24, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521807869 ISBN-10: 0521807867 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (September 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521807867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521807869
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,307,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The tragic story of the League of Nations centers on the idealistic Woodrow Wilson, who conceived the League and offered it to the world, who developed its charter and bore the pains of its formulation at the Versailles Peace Conference that ended WWI, and who broke down in exhaustion when his own nation refused to grant ratification in the Senate. University of Wisconsin professor Cooper (The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt) does a splendid job of revealing what has come to be called "the League fight." As Cooper shows, Wilson faced an awesome challenge at Versailles among the European old-school diplomats who were determined to gain all they could for their own national interests. In the end, Wilson walked away without a generous peace agreement for the vanquished and instead pinned his hopes on what he saw as the one positive result of Versailles: the League. Cooper is especially strong in depicting senators Henry Cabot Lodge, William Borah and other conservative Republican isolationists who torpedoed ratification of the League in the U.S. with the help of many German-American voters unhappy with the draconian terms of peace forced on Germany by other aspects of the Treaty of Versailles. In the end, Cooper supplies a profoundly sad story of Wilson the man, his hopes for the world shattered just as much as his frail body was, rendered helpless by a stroke in the midst of his greatest political defeat. B&w photos.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The 1919-20 Senate debate over ratification of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations remains one of the most intense foreign policy debates in U.S. history. The idea of an international organization to repel aggression had been popular for most of the 1910s. Cooper (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison), who did extensive research in the archival papers of key players in the debate, here provides a new interpretation differing from that of standard works such as Thomas Bailey's Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal (1945) and Ralph Stone's Irreconcilables (1970). He attributes the defeat of the treaty to President Wilson's failure to court senators' support of the agreement and his failure to compromise at all with Senate opponents. At several critical junctures, the author claims, the President could have changed enough votes to ratify the agreement had he been willing to deal. The secrecy surrounding the President's stroke made his supporters unwilling to strike their own deal without approval. This fresh and well-documented assessment belongs in most academic libraries. Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Blinka on October 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Breaking the Heart of the World is the most complete study of Woodrow Wilson and the "League Fight" since Thomas Bailey's Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal and WW and the Lost Peace. Professor Cooper eloquently retells the events from Wilson's return from Paris to his infamous stroke, and finally toward his fall from grace. Cooper has read everything and includes everything that is important to the fight. No one knows Woodrow Wilson better. And what you take away from Breaking the Heart of the World is a better knowledge for why the United States did not join the League of Nations in addition to an understanding of Wilson's personality and immense intelligence and foresight. Indeed Wilson saw that need for a League of Nations. America was just not ready for an international league to enforce peace. World War Two would make this clear. Professor Cooper also presents an unbiased account of Wilson. Wilson has been lauded and excoriated by historians. Cooper avoids both and instead presents the matter critically.
Also recommended: The Warrior and the Priest (John Cooper's dual biography of Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt), Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Progressivism (Arthur Link's important volume in the New American Nation Series), Woodrow Wilson: Revolution War and Peace, by Arthur Link. These are all important books about Wilson and the Progressive era.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Blinka on October 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Professor Cooper's book is an essential volume in the study of an exceedingly important historical event: the failure of the United States to join the League of Nations. Cooper is incredibly unbiased in his approach neither totally defending Wilson nor constantly excoriating him. Breaking the Heart of the World extends deeply into the League debate and is a masterful example of historical research. There are so many players and therefore numerous sources to analyze in addition to the prodigious volumes of Wilson's own papers. Cooper has synthesized these and provided his audience with a rare and exceptional analysis of the events leading to the failure to join in an international League of Nations, followed by Wilson's repudiation, and more than a decade of international isolation.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Parks on November 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
First a confession. This is the first book I've read about the League Fight. I've only read this book once and plan to read it again, then offer a fuller review.

The reason for writing this review is to register my praise for John Cooper's work in this book. (This is also my first Cooper read.) His writing style conveys the discipline of one who's researched so deeply that he's had to withhold a great deal and share only that which tells his story. One almost gets the feeling that one is reading a first-hand account. Cooper's is an incisive style, full of depth. He doesn't rush to an end but his prose remains sharp throughout.

I heard that when this book was finally published that he was asked by his students as he entered class from which school of thought he wrote. His answer to them is adeptly illustrated in the text: he let the evidence carry the story. This said, the reader can find answers to questions about who, what, when, where, and how. The evidence that tells this story seems to limit Cooper from answering the question that I especially would like to have read, which is why. Why did the actors do what they did? This is the one reason I give this book four stars. For example, Cooper clearly explains that the Senators who opposed Wilson in the Fight were hardly nor simply Southern isolationists as commonly supposed since most of his strongest support came from these Senators. Then why did the presumably cosmopolitan Northeastern Senators oppose Wilson so trenchantly?

Cooper's effort at objectivity is evident throughout this book, but I got the sense that it also hamstrung him from making interpretive judgments, at least, as mentioned, from answering why these actors took their stances.
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More About the Author

John Milton Cooper, Jr., is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of Breaking the Heart of the World: Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations and The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, among other books. He was recently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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