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The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War [Hardcover]

Professor Margaret MacMillan
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Oct 2013

WINNER of the International Affairs Book of the Year at the Political Book Awards 2014

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2013

The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict which killed millions of its men, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe's dominance of the world. It was a war which could have been avoided up to the last moment - so why did it happen?

Beginning in the early nineteenth century, and ending with the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, award-winning historian Margaret MacMillan uncovers the huge political and technological changes, national decisions and - just as important - the small moments of human muddle and weakness that led Europe from peace to disaster. This masterful exploration of how Europe chose its path towards war will change and enrich how we see this defining moment in our history.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (17 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668272X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846682728
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 6.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

The War that Ended Peace tells the story of how intelligent, well-meaning leaders guided their nations into catastrophe. These epic events, brilliantly described by one our era's most talented historians, warn of the dangers that arise when we fail to anticipate the consequences of our actions. Immersed in intrigue, enlivened by fascinating stories, and made compelling by the author's own insights, this is one of the finest books I have read on the causes of World War I. (Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State)

Once again, Margaret MacMillan proves herself not just a masterly historian but a brilliant storyteller. She brings to life the personalities whose decisions, rivalries, ambitions, and fantasies led Europe to "lay waste to itself" and triggered decades of global conflict. Hers is a cautionary tale of follies a century in the past that seem all too familiar today. (Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution)

The War That Ended Peace is a masterful explanation of the complex forces that brought the Edwardian world crashing down. Utterly riveting, deeply moving, and impeccably researched, MacMillan's latest opus will become the definitive account of old Europe's final years (Amanda Foreman)

splendidly well written - fluent, engaging, well-paced and, despite the grim subject, often entertaining (Richard Overy New Statesman)

magisterial...rich and suggestive... MacMillan is a wry and humane chronicler of this troubled world... lively and sophisticated... as MacMillan observes in a closing sentence that is well worth taking to heart, 'there are always choices' (Christopher Clark London Review of Books)

She writes prose like an Audi - purring smoothly along the diplomatic highway, accelerating effortlessly as she goes the distance. This is a ground-breaking book, decisively shifting the debate away from the hoary old question of Germany's war guilt. MacMillan's history is magisterial - dense, balanced and humane. The story of Europe's diplomatic meltdown has never been better told. (Jane Ridley Spectator)

The Canadian historian laces The War That Ended Peace with deft character sketches and uses sources incisively...MacMillan escorts the reader skilfully through the military, diplomatic and political crises that framed the road to war from 1870 to 1914. (Tony Barber FT)

Margaret MacMillan, the author of Peacemakers , which won numerous prizes, is that wonderful combination - an academic and scholar who writes well, with a marvellous clarity of thought. Her pen portraits of the chief players are both enjoyable and illuminating. Among the cascade of books arriving for the anniversary, this work truly stands out (Antony Beevor Times)

MacMillan is a perceptive guide to the thought processes of the key players (Simon Griffith Mail on Sunday)

excellent, elegantly written book...as fine an assessment of the reason peace failed as any yet written (Saul David Evening Standard)

Few historians have better credentials to write about the origins of the First World War than the Oxford scholar Margaret MacMillan...with its lovely elegant style, keen eye for human foibles and impeccable attention to detail, this is one of the most enjoyably readable books of the year (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)

A sweeping but immensely readable account...an impressive feat (Bronwen Maddox Prospect)

MacMillan's superb and very entertainingly written guide to this Europe - a Europe, as she shows, similar to our own in some ways, but very different in others - will be warmly welcomed by different kinds of reader. Those who "know" the subject will find new perspectives and new ways of looking at it, while those less familiar with it could hardly find a better introduction or a better basis for judging some of the centenary polemics we now face. (Roger Morgan Times Higher Education)

[A] richly textured account of the road to war (David Blackbourn Guardian)

Magnificent...The War That Ended Peace will certainly rank among the best books of the centennial crop. (The Economist)

vivid, gripping and scholarly (Piers Brendon Independent)

monumental...sharply observed, pacy book (Lionel Barber FT Books of the Year)

the most balanced and readable study of the first world war's causes (Tony Barber FT Books of the Year)

a fascinating must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the centenary of this event next August, and Ireland's place within it (Ruairí Quinn Irish Times Books of the Year)

brilliant...the author is not merely a fine scholar...but she is also terrifically sensible, a rare combination (Max Hastings Mail on Sunday Books of the Year)

...one of the most incise and brilliant narratives of the causes of the greatest tragedy of the 20th century... (The Sydney Morning Herald 2014-02-22)

Book Description

The definitive history of the political, cultural, military and personal forces which shaped Europe's path to the Great War

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleep Walking Into War 26 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A gripping read, suitable for a history novice, or an expert.
Beginning with the Paris Exhibition of 1900, Prof MacMillan charts European history to the outbreak of war, picking out, with the benefit of all we now know, how a series of events, along with a prevailing culture of militarism, and theories of how war should be conducted, and all the limitations of the period too, brought us closer to war.
As the introduction makes clear, it was not so much that the European powers intended to go to war, its that the various options were gradually narrowed down, so war became, apparently the only choice. I say apparently, for as Margaret Macmillan points out, there are always choices.
Even as we all know the outcome, the book holds the reader in suspense, as time and events march on.
Throughout the book we get a sympathetic appreciation for all the key players, with their strengths and foibles. Each chapter deals with significant events, e.g. the two Morocco crises, the Balkan wars, or aspects and movements of the time, e.g. the peace movements, military plans, militarism. We learn how all of this shapes the leaders of the day, and the various alliances that form between the powers. In the main, there's helpful analysis towards the end of each chapter, of what impact these events/factors had on the path to war. We also get an appreciation of the period, and how the key players were men (mainly men) of their time.
We are treated throughout the book to a then European perspective. How Europeans felt, how Europeans reacted, what values Europeans held dear, and so on. We get an insight into early 20th century European culture; this I found refreshing, exhilarating almost, drawing out a European identity.
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134 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Failure of Brinkmanship 19 Oct 2013
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
'Preventive war is like committing suicide out of fear of death' (Bismarck).

'It had to come' (US Ambassador in London, 1914).

'Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilised, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves:and these were of doubtful utility'. (W.Churchill).

'Please restrain Conrad' (Archduke Ferdinand in 1908).

'You'll be home before the leaves fall'. (Kaiser to troops in August 1914).

'He was like a battleship with steam up and screws going but with no rudder, and he will run into something one day and cause a catastrophe'.( Sir Edward Grey describing the Kaiser).

Professor Sir Michael Howard has written that you cannot understand the causes of the Great War or indeed any war unless you also understand the political, economic, social and cultural environment in which it took place. Hence, the ramshackle nature of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the constitutional arrangements of Germany post 1870,the surging nationalism in Serbia and the fragile nature of Tsarist Russia must be understood.For this reason, historians like Professor Margaret Macmillan now concentrate more on issues and developments in all of these fields instead of researching only diplomatic exchanges.

This essential requirement reveals the paucity and trivial nature of some of the offerings in the current cascade of books on the Great War, and why this account shines like pure gold. Those accounts that 'read like novels' do so because most of them consist of fiction and myth. No war has been so subjected to mythology, or stands so much in need of the correcting force of fundamental simplicities, as the Great War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally very good 30 May 2014
Format:Hardcover
The material is not new, but the author has marshalled her extremely complex material in a cogent way and on the whole writes quite well. There are a very few shocking lapses - she places the Napoleonic wars in the 18th century - and, as usual, despite thanking her friends and mother for reading the material, there are too many printing errors. (Others have commented that copy editors are no longer affordable for publishers.) The most irritating thing is the opening assertion that the question more interesting than why the war broke out is why the peace failed. This is a false dichotomy equivalent to saying, don't tell me why my car broke down but tell me instead what needs to be fixed. This nonsense was presumably cooked up to justify writing yet another WW1 book, but despite being the thesis of the whole work, is quickly forgotten as she writes what is in fact a gripping 'why the war started' book.
Also, how is it possible for a serious author to create such an absurd title, despite all those friends, and mum? Every war is a war that ends peace.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Cry 'Havoc' and let slip the dogs of war..." 17 Oct 2013
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars ... and social pressures that built to ensure that the Great War was...
Comprehensive and detailed study of the worldwide political and social pressures that built to ensure that the Great War was inevitable.
Published 2 days ago by Mr Lloyd Sutton
5.0 out of 5 stars Although I haven't finished this book yet, it is ...
Although I haven't finished this book yet, it is clearly and concisely written which makes it much easier to understand the background to the start of the First World War.
Published 4 days ago by Ms J Sawney
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
an excellent account
Published 6 days ago by brian rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars I found this a fascinating and readable book giving me ...
I found this a fascinating and readable book giving me a new insight , might read more of her work. I chose it because of the BBC radio 4 series
Published 8 days ago by graham hulme
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Approach to Understanding WW1
Really interesting to understand the build up to WW1.......very well and clearly written.....I feel I have met all the key players.
Alf
Published 9 days ago by Clare Sayers
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Detailed and well written history of the build up to a world war
Published 10 days ago by Chris Weeks
4.0 out of 5 stars Who dunnit? Looking for the roots of the First World War
Another well-researched and well-written book by Margaret Macmillan that describes he events leading up to the First World War, focused around the key actors in each of the... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Anthony W. Bates
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very informative
Published 16 days ago by Jd Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars The first half of the book is better than the second half
I recall studying the causes of the First World War at A-level. The experience was tedious, an anatomy lesson of various alliances, the relative number of dreadnoughts built by... Read more
Published 19 days ago by F Henwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book on the First World War
Very well written. Authoritative and articulate. Very clear account of how the First War started. Highly recommended.
Published 20 days ago by Peter Henry
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