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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World [Paperback]

by Margaret MacMillan, Richard Holbrooke, Casey Hampton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 9, 2003 0375760520 978-0375760525
National Bestseller

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.

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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World + The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 + The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Library Journal

In an ambitious narrative, MacMillan (history, University of Toronto) seeks to recover the original intent, constraints, and goals of the diplomats who sat down to hammer out a peace treaty in the aftermath of the Great War. In particular, she focuses on the "Big Three" Wilson (United States), Lloyd George (Great Britain), and Clemenceau (France) who dominated the critical first six months of the Paris Peace Conference. Viewing events through such a narrow lens can reduce diplomacy to the parochial concerns of individuals. But instead of falling into this trap, MacMillan uses the Big Three as a starting point for analyzing the agendas of the multitude of individuals who came to Versailles to achieve their largely nationalist aspirations. Following her analysis of the forces at work in Europe, MacMillan takes the reader on a tour de force of the postwar battlefields of Asia and the Middle East. Of particular interest is her sympathy for those who tried to make the postwar world more peaceful. Although their lofty ambitions fell prey to the passions of nationalism, this should not detract from their efforts. This book will help rehabilitate the peacemakers of 1919 and is recommended for all libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760525
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
201 of 219 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book about an extraordinary event February 6, 2003
Format:Hardcover
For the last couple of weeks, since finishing "Paris 1919", I have grappled with writing a review that would do justice to a book that is not only excellent reading, but also has the potential to reshape the way a reader views current events. Rather than wait longer for the writing muse who refuses to appear, I will take the more direct approach and simply write, "Buy this book and read it. It will afford you a greater understanding of international events unfolding in the world today."
Margaret Macmillan is an exceptional history writer: engaging, direct and interesting (sometimes even funny), but also a wide-ranging thinker who see and explains the vast sweep of history as well as the apparently minor ripples. She juggles the enormous cast of characters in the drama that unfolded in Paris, 1919 and explicate the myriad brought to the major players at the peace conference. Her knowledge of world history and her ability to explain it concisely are fully illustrated in her explanations of the various ethnic claims for land and self-rule individual; her ability to compare and contrast these claims is extraordinary.
She quickly reduces the Big Five to the Big Four, as the Four themselves did when they eliminated the Japanese representative from most of the debate and negotiation - he could barely follow the mostly English conversation anyway.
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149 of 168 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paris 1919. An apology. April 16, 2003
Format:Hardcover
This book is highly interesting due to the rich detail in which the author relates the history of the peace-making after World War I. Much to the reader's joy she devotes a lot of attention to the settlements in the non-European parts of the world, in what is a lively treatment of the issues in 1919 and the subsequent events.
What in my opinion is the major shortcoming of the book, is that the purpose it has been written for becomes so apparent all along. The book should be termed "Paris 1919. An apology". Highly critical on all other settlements (the farther away from Europe, the more critical the author allows herself to be: see Turkey, Palestine, China), she asserts that "Versailles is not to blame".
Indeed, the author too easily jumps to conclusions. The most widely cited conclusion of her book is that the reparations forced upon Germany are not to blame for the rise of Hitler and WW II. Indeed events of 1919 never can be fully the reason for subsequent events say in 1933 or 1939. But it would be interesting to learn how much these events in 1919 were responsible for later developments. This would require a detailed study of the period 1919 to 1939 and one can only wonder how an author writing about a few months of peace negotiations in 1919 could ever come to a sensible conclusion about this issue! It is appalling to see that the author is even being applauded for this "research".
In fact, the only supportive argument the author offers, is that Germany until 1932 only had paid a comparatively small amount of its reparations - as if any debtor would relish about the (small) amount paid so far instead of the (much larger) sum outstanding! The facts are never presented by the author, only her conclusions.
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112 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why war makes us hate our allies more than our enemies. December 23, 2002
Format:Hardcover
There's an old adage that posits that the real outcome of a war is to teach one to hate one's allies more than than opne's enemies. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret Olwen MacMillan and Richard Holbrooke outlines why this old adage exists. The book covers the 6 month period in mid 1919 where the victorious allies of WW I converged to carve up the spoils of war and how this exercise set the stage for most of the subsequent conflicts of the 20th century.
While the book focuses on the Big Three Personalities of this exercise--Wilson (United States), Lloyd George (Great Britain), and Clemenceau (France) who dominated the critical aspects of the Paris Peace Conference-this focus doesn't detract from providing an encompassing review of the entire process as well as a detailed analysis of the devastating results of the conference. It delineates all too clearly how the best intentions can be overwhelmed by both insatiable avarice as well as unencumbered and unchecked egos in conflict.
This is a timely book. As we are poised to invade Iraq and effect "regime change" it would be wise to look at a previous exercise in managing post war victory to be reminded of both the complexities as well as the risks involved in such an undertaking.
Although an expressly historical tome, this is a well written and fast paced read.
Probably the best historical work I read in 2002. Highly recommended.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I believe I was misled January 24, 2007
By Thomas
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I believe I was misled by other reviews into believing this book is something it was not. I wanted to clarify a little bit about this book.

First off what it was. This book IS an excellect collection of history involving the major players at the Paris peace conference. It also goes very in depth into the problems facing each of the delegations involved. How to deal with the Balkan states, Russia, Germany et cetera.

This book is MOST DEFINETLY NOT a book that debunks the myth of Versailles ushering in the Nazi era in Germany. She spends less than a page towards the end of the book dedicated to this subject. While it is true that Germany more or less forfeited on the reparations they were to pay, they were still saddled with the war guilt clause, loss of territory, etc. Margaret MacMillan claims that Hitler still would have sought conquest in the 30's and 40's despite the Versailles treaty's clauses. We could agree with this idea if we assume that Hitler could have still assumed power in a Germany less damaged by a more lenient peace. MacMillan's premise is flawed, and not only that, it's barely covered in this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I often wonder how they were able to get through it all...
For those who, like me, thought that The Treaty of Versailles was about all there was to the Paris 1919 Peace Conference, this is a book for you. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Marc Ranger
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Exhaustive, insightful and actually an intriguing read. That is all I have to say about that. End of statement. Bye.
Published 1 day ago by Brent Pena
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Extremely well-written, extensively researched, this book places the events of the Paris Peace Conference in context and highlights the human frailities which precluded a 'peace... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Mike Miller
3.0 out of 5 stars Suffers from the same malady as THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE
The author needs to decide whether she is writing a history book or her own biased commentary on the cause of World War I.
Published 3 days ago by Janine Chamorro
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
One of my favorite books, this really takes you (county by country) about the issues decided in Paris during 1919. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Jetpack
5.0 out of 5 stars history at its best.
A very readable and well studied history of the events and personalities. A very good description of the persons involved and their respective influences. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Ronald Green
5.0 out of 5 stars No one can understand today's geopolitical environment or why there...
This is a well-written book about a histroical tragedy that in turn, is the basis for thousands of novels and the loss of millions of lives.
Published 18 days ago by Ronald F. Cota
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very informative with good human feeling. Greatly enhanced my understanding of many current international issues. Well written, easy to follow.
Published 25 days ago by BW
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
Reading this book sets today's world in perspective; since the Paris Peace Conference, the world has been living its consequences. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Elliott Cohen
4.0 out of 5 stars good stuff
I enjoyed the book a lot. I would give it one star more if the authors moved on to describe on how (and why) the terms of the treaty were implemented or not (or how the terms were... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Michal Zieniewski
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