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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed account of pre-war diplomacy, crises and politics., October 24, 2013
This review is from: The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (Hardcover)
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After reading the Introduction, I must admit I was a bit worried about where the author was going with THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE. But, to my delight, I found it to be a highly detailed, in-depth look at the many intertwining threads of pre-war European politics, diplomacy and crises, presented in an unbiased narrative with a relevancy to today's world. While reading, it's easy to find commonalities and parallel courses of action between the declining, corrupted and indebted empires of the early 20th century and what one might conclude are declining, corrupted and indebted "empires" of the early 21st century.

Well-written and researched, with extensive notes and bibliography. A great use of first-person accounts, often multiple accounts by the various participants so one can contrast and compare, thereby drawing your own conclusions. Author Margaret MacMillan lends clarification and insight, yet never strays into the territory of letting her opinion be presented as fact.

If you're deeply intrigued by the First World War, then this book is a definite must read and a worthy addition to your library. My only caveat would be that this is NOT a book for casual reading nor for those who are not at least somewhat well versed in the subject. Readers falling into either of those two categories would probably be bored to tears and consider this book to be a tome.

According to the blurb, the finished edition should include photos, maps and illustrations, things the galley proof I read lacked. All could only make the book even more worthy of the FIVE STAR rating I have for THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE. I thoroughly enjoyed it, learned yet more about a favorite subject and enthusiastically recommend it!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 23, 2013 10:52:53 PM PST
Prose reader says:
I note of course the quotes you put around the 'empires' of the 21st century, but I question the term nonetheless, partly because we don't seem to be heading toward war, but secondly because...well, what and who could you mean? Is China an empire because of...what? Xinjiang and Tibet? Probably the strongest argument, but they're not indebted, and in a land of well over a billion there are 5 million Tibetans who'd like to be independent. Who else? The United States? Where is their sphere of influence? They do have a knack for empowering their strategic rivals when they withdraw from their latest intervention (as I recall, Iran is the strongest security player in Iraq, and China got most of the oil contracts...). I'll give you they and Russia are indebted, but it's hard to see Russia as much of an Empire given that their prize possessions are a pair of small usurped possessions in Georgia (which used to be a province of a region they utterly dominated).... And I don't see forces driving these three, or other conglomerates like the EU, which can barely be bothered to maintain a military, toward war... Eh. Just saying (questioning the parallel--people love to throw around that word, but it seems to have so little meaning at this point: 'empires' which have entirely consensual relationships with their allies, lose most of their wars and don't own much territory beyond core national borders. Semantic nonsense).

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2013 11:07:21 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 24, 2013 11:48:11 AM PST
P. Eisenman says:
The parallel is that political entities which find (or fear) themselves losing influence, control and/or relevancy on the world stage, be it 1913 or 2013, reach a point where they have, in their minds, nothing to lose and will try any means to maintain themselves in power--including shaking things up a bit--or rather allowing things to be shaken (put the blame on the OTHER guy!). Desperate men (in the non-gender specific traditional meaning of the word man) do desperate things, or worse (as in 1914), feel themselves being dragged along by fate and therefore make no attempts to stop catastrophe from overtaking the world. The old "we'll not get any stronger than we are today while our neighbors will and soon they'll be stronger than us, so why not roll the dice now?," philosophy.

One can look to any number of such governmental entities in the Western World who are becoming increasingly indebted, watching their economic and political influence wane (West vs. East), while all the time their internal bureaucracies are becoming increasingly corrupted and out of touch with their citizenry (exactly as in prewar Europe--was the dual monarchy any more out of touch with reality than is the U.S. Congress?). Couple that with intrigue, spying and mistrust even among supposed allies, and random "hot spots" of military action and it's easy to see great similarities (parallels!) between the world prior to August 1914 and the world of today.

"Empire" should not to be taken literally. A political entity can have a purely economic empire instead of a geographic one. Equally, economic/currency warfare can be just as devasting as military action. Either can lead to the exact same sorts of upheaval and change seen in 1918--both internally and internationally. And all one need do to find said parallels is open ones eyes and look about the world today!

Additionally, are the alliances of today really "consensual" or are they based on deceit and blackmail--"Do what we say or we'll pull your financial aid?" Are "Great Powers" struggling to cope with tiny forces which they expected to run roughshod over (the British couldn't handle the Afghan's 120 years ago either!)? And, while they might not be administering them directly (owning territory), they surely cultivate influence across the globe and strive to outwit and defeat their enemies in gaining access to water, minerals, food and other resources (economic colonies). The methods may have changed, but the purpose is the same--get what you need from wherever you can grab it before the other guy beats you to it, in order for you to remain atop the global heap of political power. Rational substitution of nations and places then with nations and places today and it's the same world situation. The battleship race may have been replaced by the race to beggar thy neighbor by devaluing your currency (QE), but the basic goal is the same as always--KEEP YOURSELF IN POWER regardless of the cost--to other nations or your own citizens. So, while I see your point, Prose, I'll have to stick to my opinion that there can be found substantial similarities and parallel courses of conduct between the geographic/political empires of 1914 and the economic/political empires of 2013. Will the outcome be the same? Only time will tell.
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P. Eisenman

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