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The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 29, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 471 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (Nov.)

From Booklist

Anytime something turns 100, the commemorations and look-backs are sure to come rolling in. Take WWI, which “celebrates” the 100th anniversary of its declaration come summer of 2014. Nevertheless, that war, as with most wars, was a long chain of events that culminated in disaster. MacMillan’s charting of those events comprises the bulk of this hefty text. She showcases how numerous royals, politicians, industrialists, colonial advocates, and military minds groped in the dark toward a showdown in which each nation’s respective valor could be tested. The trouble with a book like this is that everything can be lent a veneer of inevitability, but history rarely works in such a linear manner. But MacMillan, famous for her scholarship on the peace concluding WWI, avoids this trap. She shows, again and again, that events could have run in any number of different directions. What resulted was a blunder on the part of plenty of blood-stained hands all around that was far from inevitable. --James Orbesen

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006855X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068555
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (471 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By FictionFan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
As a Brit, studying the First World War at school in the seventies, memories of the Second World War were still fresh and bitter enough amongst parents and teachers that there was never really a question that the Germans were the 'bad guys' in both wars while we (the Brits, primarily, though a little bit of credit was occasionally given to the Allies) were the knights in shining armour. Enough time has passed since both wars now for a more rational view to be taken and this book by Margaret MacMillan is a well balanced, thoughtful and detailed account of the decades leading up to 1914.

MacMillan begins by giving an overview of the involved nations as they were at the turn of the century - their political structure, alliances and enmities, their culture and economic status. She then takes us in considerable depth through the twenty years or so preceding the war, concentrating on each nation in turn, and going further back into history when required. She introduces us to the main players: political, military and leading thinkers. She explains how and why the two main alliances developed that divided Europe and shows the fears of each nation feeling threatened or surrounded by potential enemies. And she shows how this led to an arms race, which each nation initially thought would act as a deterrence to war. Throughout she draws parallels to more recent history and current events, sometimes with frightening clarity.

In the mid-section, MacMillan discusses public opinion and cultural shifts, highlighting the parallel and divisive growth of militarism and pacifism and how the heads of government had to try to reconcile these factions.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Those familiar with Margaret MacMillan's previous works like "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed The World" and "Paris, 1919: Six Months That Changed The World" have come to expect detailed history married to highly readable prose and wonderful insight. MacMillan's latest work, "The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914" contains all of this in abundance. Having brilliantly explored the end of the 1914-1918 war in "Paris, 1919," MacMillan now turns her sights on the beginning of that war, which saw the breakdown of a European system stretching back nearly one hundred years. MacMillan's work largely succeeds through the historian's ability to understand and communicate the immediacy of the events and the horrors of the coming disaster. Particularly insightful is her look Wilhelm II's Germany, and the foreign policy of men like Britain's Sir Edward Grey. Like a great detective, MacMillan pieces together the clues of history and presents a narrative that is both understandable and relatable to today's headlines. If you are at all interested in just how Europe took the plunge into madness, death and destruction for four years you will profit greatly from this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What follows is not meant as a criticism of the book, which is an extraordinary piece of research, monumental in scope and deep in knowledge, making very clear why peace ended. The immersion of the author into the events and the level of details are astonishing. This review is meant to warn the reader of the efforts necessary to take full advantage of the book.

The major contribution of the work is the detailed and pertinent description of the main characters their weakness, follies, their basic humanity that helps to understand how we got there, which gives you a feel for why they made (failed to make) the decisions that ended peace. Terrifying thing is that things are not much different with our leaders. The details of the buildup, the plans, and the rivalries are masterfully described. So little is said about the internal situation of Serbia and on their leaders in the months before the war broke, like if it did not play a role in the conflict.

The major problem of the book is it excessive repetition that wears the reader down. How many times we need to be reminded that Russia had an alliance with France or that there was an arms race between the navies of Germany and Britain, or that Britain did not want to commit to anything, or that Russia was not ready for the war. It makes it look as if chapters were written by different hands that have not read each other. Granted, to edit these repetitions into a more coherent whole would be an almost impossible task in a volume of this magnitude, but it makes you wonder if the publication was rushed and there was no time for editing.

The books makes an extensive use of quotes from correspondence and conversations at the time, which gives you confidence that the analysis is done as if the outcome was not known, i.e.
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