Cover image for Paris 1919 : six months that changed the world
Title:
Paris 1919 : six months that changed the world
Author:
MacMillan, Margaret, 1943-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Peacemakers
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xxxi, 570 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : maps ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Peacemakers. London : J. Murray, 2001.
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780375508264
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize Winner of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize 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 1919is 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. From the Hardcover edition.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Virtually all historians agree that the Versailles Peace Conference was a monumental failure that set the stage for the outbreak of World War II. However, there is no consensus regarding the causes of that failure. Some blame Woodrow Wilson and his high-minded but absurdly impractical ideals; others blame the cynicism and narrow nationalism of Lloyd George and Clemenceau. MacMillan is a professor of history at the University of Toronto and the great-granddaughter of Lloyd George. Her narrative and analysis of the critical first six months of the negotiations will not end the controversy. However, this engrossing and inevitably depressing account is a vital contribution to efforts at understanding the deeply flawed agreements that emerged. At times, MacMillan's recounting of the minutiae of negotiations can be overwhelming, but the great accomplishments of this work are her perceptive and eloquent depictions of the key players in the conference. Of course, Wilson, as the dominant force, is at the center of her account, and she convincingly tarnishes his image as a great statesman. He was often insufferably rigid and arrogant, and his espousal of frustratingly vague concepts like "self-determination" often confused even his own advisors. For those who seek a deeper understanding of one of history's most tragic failures, this book is a treasure. --Jay Freeman


Publisher's Weekly Review

A joke circulating in Paris early in 1919 held that the peacemaking Council of Four, representing Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy, was busy preparing a "just and lasting war." Six months of parleying concluded on June 28 with Germany's coerced agreement to a treaty no Allied statesman had fully read, according to MacMillan, a history professor at the University of Toronto, in this vivid account. Although President Wilson had insisted on a League of Nations, even his own Senate would vote the league down and refuse the treaty. As a rush to make expedient settlements replaced initial negotiating inertia, appeals by many nationalities for Wilsonian self-determination would be overwhelmed by rhetoric justifying national avarice. The Italians, who hadn't won a battle, and the French, who'd been saved from catastrophe, were the greediest, says MacMillan; the Japanese plucked Pacific islands that had been German and a colony in China known for German beer. The austere and unlikable Wilson got nothing; returning home, he suffered a debilitating stroke. The council's other members horse-traded for spoils, as did Greece, Poland and the new Yugoslavia. There was, Wilson declared, "disgust with the old order of things," but in most decisions the old order in fact prevailed, and corrosive problems, like Bolshevism, were shelved. Hitler would blame Versailles for more ills than it created, but the signatories often could not enforce their writ. MacMillan's lucid prose brings her participants to colorful and quotable life, and the grand sweep of her narrative encompasses all the continents the peacemakers vainly carved up. 16 pages of photos, maps. (On sale Oct. 29) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

It is widely considered that the peace conference at the end of World War I was a failure though we cannot really say why. In this ambitious and absorbing narrative, MacMillan, a professor of history at the University of Toronto and the great-granddaughter of Lloyd George, starts by dismissing the old saw that the Treaty of Versailles paved the way for Adolf Hitler and led directly to World War II. By the end of this enthralling listening experience, you may even agree with her. MacMillan focuses a great deal of attention on the forces motivating the Big Three: the visionary yet unlikable Woodrow Wilson, the wily British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau. For six months, they convened in Paris to hammer out the peace treaty and created countries (Israel, Yugoslavia, and Iraq) whose troubles concern us to this day. Two old empires, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian, had allied themselves with Germany and collapsed with the defeat, making it necessary to redraw completely the map of Eastern Europe. This monumental work is written the way history should be written; it is clear and detailed with substantiation. Suzanne Toren's pacing and tonality help render a complicated subject accessible. Highly recommended and well worth the price for all libraries.-Barbara Perkins, formerly with Irving P.L., TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

MacMillan (Univ. of Toronto) uses the deliberations surrounding the Treaty of Versailles (together with its adjuncts: Trianon, St. Germain, Neuilly, Sevres, and Lausanne) in several ways. First, she introduces readers to a stellar cast of characters: Lloyd George, the "Welsh wizard"; Clemenceau, the "French tiger"; Wilson, the "American professor"; as well as King Faisal, Lawrence of Arabia, Ataturk, Ho Chi Minh, and even Gandhi. Second, she clearly articulates the intricacies of the welt politik that led up to WW I. Third, she discusses many of the issues that were on the table in 1919 and are still present: Balkan ethnic politics, Europe's relationship with Turkey, Britain's involvement with Europe, tensions in the Middle East. But, most important, 1919 marks the advent of the US as a moralizing force that at once castigated Old World imperialisms while initiating its own self-appointed role as global arbiter of good and evil. Somewhat poignantly, MacMillan closes this study of the aftermath of the "war to end all wars" with two questions: "How can the irrational passions of nationalism or religion be contained before they do more damage? How can we outlaw war?" Well footnoted, referenced, and illustrated with clear maps and intriguing photographs. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers and upper-division undergraduates and above. B. Osborne Queen's University at Kingston


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 Woodrow Wilson Comes to Europe On december 4, 1918, the George Washington sailed out of New York with the American delegation to the Peace Conference on board. Guns fired salutes, crowds along the waterfront cheered, tugboats hooted and Army planes and dirigibles circled overhead. Robert Lansing, the American secretary of state, released carrier pigeons with messages to his relatives about his deep hope for a lasting peace. The ship, a former German passenger liner, slid out past the Statue of Liberty to the Atlantic, where an escort of destroyers and battleships stood by to accompany it and its cargo of heavy expectations to Europe. On board were the best available experts, combed out of the universities and the government; crates of reference materials and special studies; the French and Italian ambassadors to the United States; and Woodrow Wilson. No other American president had ever gone to Europe while in office. His opponents accused him of breaking the Constitution; even his supporters felt he might be unwise. Would he lose his great moral authority by getting down to the hurly-burly of negotiations? Wilson¹s own view was clear: the making of the peace was as important as the winning of the war. He owed it to the peoples of Europe, who were crying out for a better world. He owed it to the American servicemen. "It is now my duty," he told a pensive Congress just before he left, "to play my full part in making good what they gave their life's blood to obtain." A British diplomat was more cynical; Wilson, he said, was drawn to Paris "as a debutante is entranced by the prospect of her first ball." Wilson expected, he wrote to his great friend Edward House, who was already in Europe, that he would stay only to arrange the main outlines of the peace settlements. It was not likely that he would remain for the formal Peace Conference with the enemy. He was wrong. The preliminary conference turned, without anyone's intending it, into the final one, and Wilson stayed for most of the crucial six months between January and June 1919. The question of whether or not he should have gone to Paris, which exercised so many of his contemporaries, now seems unimportant. From Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta to Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton at Camp David, American presidents have sat down to draw borders and hammer out peace agreements. Wilson had set the conditions for the armistices which ended the Great War. Why should he not make the peace as well? Although he had not started out in 1912 as a foreign policy president, circumstances and his own progressive political principles had drawn him outward. Like many of his compatriots, he had come to see the Great War as a struggle between the forces of democracy, however imperfectly represented by Britain and France, and those of reaction and militarism, represented all too well by Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany's sack of Belgium, its unrestricted submarine warfare and its audacity in attempting to entice Mexico into waging war on the United States had pushed Wilson and American public opinion toward the Allies. When Russia had a democratic revolution in February 1917, one of the last reservations that the Allies included an autocracy vanished. Although he had campaigned in 1916 on a platform of keeping the country neutral, Wilson brought the United States into the war in April 1917. He was convinced that he was doing the right thing. This was important to the son of a Presbyterian minister, who shared his father's deep religious conviction, if not his calling. Wilson was born in Virginia in 1856, just before the Civil War. Although he remained a Southerner in some ways all his life‹in his insistence on honor and his paternalistic attitudes toward women and blacks he also accepted the war's outcome. Abraham Lincoln was one of his great heroes, along with Edmund Burke and William Gladstone. The young Wilson was at once highly idealistic and intensely ambitious. After four very happy years at Princeton and an unhappy stint as a lawyer, he found his first career in teaching and writing. By 1890 he was back at Princeton, a star member of the faculty. In 1902 he became its president, supported virtually unanimously by the trustees, faculty and students. In the next eight years Wilson transformed Princeton from a sleepy college for gentlemen into a great university. He reworked the curriculum, raised significant amounts of money and brought into the faculty the brightest and the best young men from across the country. By 1910, he was a national figure and the Democratic party in New Jersey, under the control of conservative bosses, invited him to run for governor. Wilson agreed, but insisted on running on a progressive platform of controlling big business and extending democracy. He swept the state and by 1911 "Wilson for President" clubs were springing up. He spoke for the dispossessed, the disenfranchised and all those who had been left behind by the rapid economic growth of the late nineteenth century. In 1912, at a long and hard-fought convention, Wilson got the Democratic nomination for president. That November, with the Republicans split by Teddy Roosevelt's decision to run as a progressive against William Howard Taft, Wilson was elected. In 1916, he was reelected, with an even greater share of the popular vote. Wilson's career was a series of triumphs, but there were darker moments, both personal and political, fits of depression and sudden and baffling illnesses. Moreover, he had left behind him a trail of enemies, many of them former friends. "An ingrate and a liar," said a Democratic boss in New Jersey in a toast. Wilson never forgave those who disagreed with him. "He is a good hater," said his press officer and devoted admirer Ray Stannard Baker. He was also stubborn. As House said, with admiration: "Whenever a question is presented he keeps an absolutely open mind and welcomes all suggestion or advice which will lead to a correct decision. But he is receptive only during the period that he is weighing the question and preparing to make his decision. Once the decision is made it is final and there is an absolute end to all advice and suggestion. There is no moving him after that." What was admirable to some was a dangerous egotism to others. The French ambassador in Washington saw "a man who, had he lived a couple of centuries ago, would have been the greatest tyrant in the world, because he does not seem to have the slightest conception that he can ever be wrong." This side of Wilson¹s character was in evidence when he chose his fellow commissioners‹or plenipotentiaries, as the chief delegates were known‹to the Peace Conference. He was himself one. House, "my alter ego," as he was fond of saying, was another. Reluctantly he selected Lansing, his secretary of state, as a third, mainly because it would have been awkward to leave him behind. Where Wilson had once rather admired Lansing's vast store of knowledge, his meticulous legal mind and his apparent readiness to take a back seat, by 1919 that early liking had turned to irritation and contempt. Lansing, it turned out, did have views, often strong ones which contradicted the president's. "He has," Wilson complained to House, who noted it down with delight, "no imagination, no constructive ability, and but little real ability of any kind." The fourth plenipotentiary, General Tasker Bliss, was already in France as the American military representative on the Supreme War Council. A thoughtful and intelligent man who loved to lie in bed with a hip flask reading Thucydides in the original Greek, he was also, many of the junior members of the American delegation believed, well past his prime. Since Wilson was to speak to him on only five occasions during the Peace Conference, perhaps that did not matter. The president's final selection, Henry White, was a charming, affable retired diplomat, the high point of whose career had been well before the war. Mrs. Wilson was to find him useful in Paris on questions of etiquette. Excerpted from Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.