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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

'Without question, Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. Brimming with lucid analysis, elegant character sketches, and geopolitical pathos, it is essential reading.'Between January and July 1919, after "the war to end all wars," men and women from around the world converged on Paris to shape the peace. Center stage, for the first time in history, was an American president, Woodrow Wilson, who with his Fourteen Points seemed to promise to so many people the fulfillment of their dreams. Stern, intransigent, impatient when it came to security concerns and wildly idealistic in his dream of a League of Nations that would resolve all future conflict peacefully, Wilson is only one of the larger-than-life characters who fill the pages of this extraordinary book. David Lloyd George, the gregarious and wily British prime minister, brought Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes. Lawrence of Arabia joined the Arab delegation. Ho Chi Minh, a kitchen assistant at the Ritz, submitted a petition for an independent Vietnam.For six months, Paris was effectively the center of the world as the peacemakers carved up bankrupt empires and created new countries. This book brings to life the personalities, ideals, and prejudices of the men who shaped the settlement. They pushed Russia to the sidelines, alienated China, and dismissed the Arabs. They struggled with the problems of Kosovo, of the Kurds, and of a homeland for the Jews.The peacemakers, so it has been said, failed dismally; above all they failed to prevent another war. Margaret MacMillan argues that they have unfairly been made the scapegoats for the mistakes of those who came later. She refutes received ideas about the path from Versailles to World War II and debunks the widely accepted notion that reparations imposed on the Germans were in large part responsible for the Second World War.A landmark work of narrative history, Paris 1919 is the first full-scale treatment of the Peace Conference in more than twenty-five years. It offers a scintillating view of those dramatic and fateful days when much of the modern world was sketched out, when countries were created--Iraq, Yugoslavia, Israel--whose troubles haunt us still.Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize...

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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World Reviews

  • Madeline

    "Each of the Big Three at the Peace Conference brought something of his own country to the negotiations: Wilson the United States' benevolence, a confident assurance that the American way was the best, and an uneasy suspicion that the Europeans might fail to see this; Clemenceau France's profound patriotism, its relief at the victory and its perpetual apprehension of a revived Germany; and Lloyd George Britain's vast web of colonies and its mighty navy. Each man represented great interests, but ...more

  • Kelly

    This review originally appeared on my blog, Shoulda Coulda Woulda Books.

    Paris 1919 focuses on the peace conference that took place at the end of the First World War (known as the Great War, then, since they mercifully didn’t know yet that it would need a number). After all was quiet on the western front in November 1918, the Allies sent representatives to Paris to negotiate the peace terms for the defeated enemy nations and clean up the aftermath of the war. Dozens of nations showed up at the co
    ...more

  • Lizzy

    “The delegates to the peace conference after World War I "tried to impose a rational order on an irrational world.”
    In Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan scrutinizes the crucial months when the winners of the First World War sat together and determined what the penalty would be for those who dared to lose the war.

    The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to have settled the First World War, it further represented a dream that it could end all wars. Far from it, as y ...more

  • Will

    I wanted to find out more about Europe after WW1 and in the inter-war years, so this seemed like a good place to start.

    We talk about the 1914-18 war, the “Armistice” that ended it and the subsequent “Treaty of Versailles”. But I had not really appreciated that there was a full six months between the end of the war and the treaty finally being signed in May 1919. And I had not really understood that the treaty involved so such more than just the assessment of reparations to be taken from Germany;
    ...more

  • Neil Fox

    The Paris conference of 1919 and its attendant Treaty of Versailles have been acrimonously vilified in the popular imagination by everyone from John Maynard Keynes to Adolf Hitler, and are held responsible for the rise of Fascism in the 1930's and being in effect the direct cause of World War 2. Had the conference achieved a different and fairer outcome, the historical wisdom goes, the World would have been spared the horrors of a second, far more destructive, Global conflict and the subsequent ...more

  • sologdin

    Tophats outfox other tophats at six-month soiree. (Most cover designs for this have the Big Three in friggin’ tophats!)

    Same vibe here as with Yergin’s The Prize: presentation of personalities during epochal events. It’s not exactly a defect, and, for the novice (I.e., me) it’s good to have snappy biographical vignettes on all of the human capital of the conference (not just Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, but also Balfour, Curzon, Pilsudski, Ataturk, Venizelos, Benes, and so on). Portrait of L
    ...more

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)

    I rarely give out five stars--that's deliberate--but this is so illuminating on a complex topic without being dry, I think it deserves full marks. The book treats of "six months that changed the world"--the Paris Peace Conference that produced the Treaty of Versailles. I was taught in high school that the vindictive terms of that treaty were ruinous to Germany and at the root of Hitler's rise and the outbreak of World War II. It was a view popularized by John Maynard Keynes (who was involved in ...more

  • Max

    Paris 1919 reviews the worldwide geopolitical situation in the aftermath of WWI. From Western Europe to Central Europe, the Balkans and Russia, from the Near East to the Far East, endless conflicts and national aspirations are examined through the lens of The Paris Peace Conference. The war and its resolution set the foundation for the rest of the century. Paris 1919 immensely improved my understanding of not just this period, but all of twentieth century history.

    Detailing the meetings, infighti
    ...more