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Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War

Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War [Kindle Edition]

Margaret Macmillan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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In the very first words of her prize-winning book, Peacemakers, Margaret Macmillan says, "In 1919 Paris was the capital of the world." In the aftermath of the First World War, the great and good of all nations were there to reshape the world. New nations sprang into existence during lunches in expensive Parisian hotels; borders that had lasted centuries were altered with the stroke of a pen; empires that had outlived their sell-by date were unceremoniously dismantled. Presiding over this wholesale remaking of the globe were Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau.

Margaret Macmillan's pen portraits of the Big Three, and of many of the other extraordinary delegates to the Peace Conference--from Lawrence of Arabia to the Polish pianist and politician Ignace Paderewski--are superb. Her own writing is engagingly witty and she has a knack for finding apposite and funny quotes to enhance it. This is one of the very few books on diplomacy and international relations that can make a reader laugh out loud. The liveliness and vigour of her writing rests on the solid foundation of her wide-ranging knowledge. The delegates presumed not only to solve the problems of war-ravaged Europe but were happy to turn their attentions to Africa, the Middle East and China. Margaret Macmillan seems equally comfortable discussing the intricacies of Balkan boundaries, the creation of new states like Czechoslovakia, war between Greece and Turkey, Zionist settlement in Palestine, Japanese ambitions in the Pacific and a host of other subjects. Above all she works hard to be fair to the participants in the conference.

We know that an even more terrible war was only 20 years in the future. They didn't and they were all working sincerely to create a world in which war would be impossible. Macmillan is rightly dismissive of the notion that the peace devised at Paris was so flawed that another war was inevitable. Her book not only does justice to the Paris Peace Conference but it's also massively readable. That's quite an achievement. --Nick Rennison


'A terrific piece of writing ... full of wonderful insights and portraits of the statesmen and women of the day'(listed among 'My Six Best Books' by Chris Patten)

(Chris Patten, Daily Express )

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read 2 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This book reads well and flows nicely, with plenty of lively quotations from Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Wilson and others, as well as some entertaining anecdotes, such as that concerning the Hungarian aristocrat hired by the Albanians whose main interest turned out to be in the tooth structure of dinosaurs. Very interesting, too, to read about the sheer insensitivity and arrogance of the German delegation after it arrived in Versailles to receive the peace terms. Inevitably, perhaps, it is stronger on some topics (Franco-German borders, Bolshevism, Poland) than others (the Balkans). But it does an excellent job in conveying the sense of a small group of statesmen battling against the odds not to let their instinctive mistrust of each other derail their task of reconstructing the world order. Measured against Wilson's 14 points, much of what they did was illogical or unjust. And there were serious miscalculations, such as the encouragement of Greek ambitions in Turkey. But could anyone have done it better?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
500 pages that deserve 5 stars. They cover the personalities of the peacemakers, and the two realities in the 1919 world: the one in Paris and the other on the ground. For one book to cover comfortably each facet in such detail surpassed my expectations. I now understand why Hungary lost the Banat, the Greek disaster in Smyrna and the importance of Ataturk, why Iraq includes so many Kurds, why Balfour was so influential in Palestine, how Japan got Shantung and the Chinese demonstrators turned to Communism, why Yap was fleetingly important, how Lebanon appeared, the time-bomb of German resentment over Upper Silesia, why the Slovaks never felt at one with the Czechs ... at least at that time the world still shrank from the expulsion of minorities and frowned on forcible assimilation. A slight disappointment was with the maps as they are cramped and few, as this was the time when so many borders appeared (on a whim sometimes) but have lasted right into this new century. The long war between capitalist West and communist East was just starting - and lingering German strength about to burst forth again. The off-hand treatment of non-European peoples also still haunts the West today. So much for an end to war and a just peace.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars caution 11 Sep 2002
By A Customer
An excellent and fascinating description of real politic in the days of big power hegemony. But buyers of the paperback edition should be aware that it does not contain the chapter notes , apparently by agreement between author and publisher. The result is a maddening frustration for the reader.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No way to run the world... 31 July 2006
Without duplicating the other reviews, a good read which for me highlighted the disconnect between the old world order of backroom deals and verbal agreements which sustained empires lead by a relatively small political class, and the new world of nationalism and unsustainable expectations in the name of "self determination".

What comes shining through is the virtual chaos of the big three when it came to making and trying to sustain policy, and the way in which the smaller / emerging nations and sub-nations were able to manipulate these very powerful men to achieve their ends - most often in contradiction of some other verbal agreement made the afternoon before.

Enough of the serious stuff - an enjoyable read which kept the interest in the subject right to the end
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They came to Paris to sort out Europe 7 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The victors of World War I had the best intentions to succeed but they left Europe in a bigger mess than before. That's the message I took home from reading Margaret MacMillan's book on the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

MacMillan does a fine job in covering all the aspects of the Paris conference, and although she naturally spends a lot of time on Britain, France and the US, she does mention all the other parties involved and the politics behind and between all of them. She then covers virtually every single nation, what they came to Paris for - territory-wise - and what deal they went home with. The effects of some of these `settlements' we still have to content with today, the recent civil war in Yugoslavia and the mess in the Middle East among them.

The other aspect I liked about the book is the clear and easy style in which it is written. This book is just excellent.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hall of Mirrors for Our Own Times 30 Dec 2003
By A Customer
This book offers an amazing insight into the post-war times of 1919 and our own. The complexity and hope in trying to find a lasting peace is wonderfully presented. The writing is rich in the description of the very human attempt to resolve conflict with all its anxieties and expectations. How little the challenges of war and peace, terrorism and assassination, idealism and pragmatism have changed since 1919. Margaret MacMillan's book is a must read for anyone even slightly interested in understanding the times in which we now live.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars engrossing history 1 Sep 2003
An impossibly broad canvas is engrossingly covered in this book. There are some excellent sketches of the key figures such as Wilson, Lloyd George and particularily the vengeful French President Clemenceau - and some equally vivid cameos of peripheral figures such as the eccentric Queen Marie of Rumania and the enigmatic TE Lawrence. Macmillan organises her wealth of information with great skill and makes the events at Versailles and the tragedy of the subsequent years truly comprehensible.
History on the grand scale from one of the best historians currently writing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent insight into The Paris Conference of 1919 that will make the reader rethink the events that created the modern world.
Published 11 days ago by andrew mcclelland
3.0 out of 5 stars A very hard read.
Nobody can seriously doubt the qualifications of the author but is is not an easy read. It would be very difficult to write a really readable book on such a serious subject.
Published 12 days ago by Mr. Peter Crosland
This deep exploration of the creation of the Versailles Treaty and how it re-shaped much of Europe and parts of Asia shows how many of the prob;lems facing these continents today... Read more
Published 14 days ago by R. M. D. Bennett
4.0 out of 5 stars An important read
The causes of the First World Waf and the machinations behind the Peace are like bookends to an historiogrwphy of a couple of thousand books. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Jonathan F. Vernon
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Read
This is a well researched and easily read book about the aftermath of the first world war. It should be required reading in schools. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. S. Bonsall
4.0 out of 5 stars Referencing the hick colonials
Rather disappointed to see the New Zealand Prime Minister (1912-1925), William ("Bill") Massey who led NZ throughout the entire war and attended the Paris Peace... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ivor Wells
5.0 out of 5 stars book worth reading
It is a very well written bibliography with very interesting comments with respect to the later history. It puts the 2. wold war in retrospect
Published 3 months ago by Jacob F. Christensen
4.0 out of 5 stars Peacemakers
I am reading a book by the same author and it is also very good. It is designed to reawaken my knowledge of the end of The Great war in preparation for a talk on this subject
Published 3 months ago by alan dennis berridge
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read!
This book is an excellent resource for those studying early twentieth century history. It covers all the major topics of the Treaty of Versailles in great detail, and the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by R Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars Peace and freedom in Europe. Knowing and learning
Peacemakers are the most important work in peace making in Europe. It takes into account, powerful and weak, winners and losers, but also considers all nations that want to become... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Slobodan Lang
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