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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Review by www.cymlowell.blogspot.com

Why is our world in such a mess today? Why do we have constant political problems in Israel-Palestine, in the Balkans, in Iraq and the Middle East, between the U.S. and France, and so on?

Are these issues a result of events happening today or yesterday?

All of the...
Why is our world in such a mess today? Why do we have constant political problems in Israel-Palestine, in the Balkans, in Iraq and the Middle East, between the U.S. and France, and so on?

Are these issues a result of events happening today or yesterday?

All of these issues, and many others, are in one way or another tied to the resolution of World War I, which was, historians tell us, triggered by the assassination of an Austrian prince in Sarajevo. The Germans and the Austria-Hungarians then commenced a war that was largely fought in the trenched fields of France and Belgium. Millions died on all sides, including the Russian front.

When the war was over, due to surrender by the Germans before the war crossed the Rhine, the Paris Peace Conference was convened to settle the political fallout. New countries were created, old borders re-drawn, entreaties granted or denied, and the personalities and relationship of Woodrow Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George created a new world order. The war to end all wars, of course, was a failure in many ways, not the least of which the breakout of another war with a generation.

Many of the whys and wherefores of the Twentieth Century emanate from the Paris Peace Conference. We see the fallout everyday in the press.

Paris: 1919 is a historical masterpiece. In many places it reads like a history book, complete with the author's feelings about the nature of conversations that did or could have taken place. On the other hand, it is an easy read in terms of focusing on the history of places or events that are of interest to you.

In my case, I have always been fascinated by Turkey, Israel-Palestine, the Crusades, the Byzantine Empire, Roman and Greek conquest and administration of the area, and so on. These subjects are addressed in the final 150 or so pages. I read each word, riveted by the role that one of my favorite historical characters (T.E. Lawrence, the ubiquitous Lawrence of Arabia) played in the peace process.

I found Paris: 1919 to be amazingly thought-provoking. Would the world be a better place today if Woodrow Wilson had had a different personality, or if the U.S. had taken the Palestinian Mandate?

Could Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, and Nicholas Sarkozy to a better job if we had a Paris: 2010 Peace Conference?

If you wonder about the politics of today, spend a few hours in the politics of 1919-1920 and let your own thoughts soar.

posted by CymLowell on January 28, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Fashionable, 'great man' approach to history

Margaret MacMillan, an historian based at Ryerson University, gives us her account of the Paris conference of 1919. The German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires had all gone, and delegates from thirty countries met for six months to agree Treaties supposed ...
Margaret MacMillan, an historian based at Ryerson University, gives us her account of the Paris conference of 1919. The German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires had all gone, and delegates from thirty countries met for six months to agree Treaties supposed to bring peace and stability. But in fact the British, French, US and Italian governments made all the decisions. And how much peace did the Conference achieve? According to the British officer Archibald Wavell, 1919 was more a peace to end peace. The conference backed the counter-revolutionary war against Russia. Winston Churchill. spurred by class hatred, was the most vicious and slanderous enemy of the Russian people. He boasted about the forces that he more than anyone had sent into Russia, ¿they shot Soviet Russians at sight. They stood as invaders on Russian soil. They armed the enemies of the Soviet Government. They blockaded its ports and sunk its battleships. They earnestly desired and schemed its downfall.¿ MacMillan, to her shame, writes, ¿With hindsight, Churchill and Foch were right about the Bolsheviks.¿ Further, the Conference let Britain and France divide the Middle East into occupied mandates, `telling the Moslem what he ought to think¿, as Balfour said. MacMillan quotes Lloyd George, ¿Mesopotamia ... yes ... oil ... we must have Mesopotamia; Palestine ... yes ... the Holy Land ... Zionism ... we must have Palestine; Syria ... h¿m ... what is there in Syria? Let the French have that.¿ MacMillan likens the end of the First World War to the counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989-90: ¿there was the same sense of a new order emerging.¿ But the end of the Soviet Union did not bring peace, quite the opposite: it ended the post-1945 peace settlement and ushered in a period of wars, from Yugoslavia to Chechnya to Iraq. Nor did the 1919 Conference bring a new order, ending war. This is fashionable history seen through the prism of personalities, the `great man¿ approach to history. No wonder that Blair, we are told, liked this book!

posted by Anonymous on April 22, 2003

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  • Posted January 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Review by www.cymlowell.blogspot.com

    Why is our world in such a mess today? Why do we have constant political problems in Israel-Palestine, in the Balkans, in Iraq and the Middle East, between the U.S. and France, and so on?

    Are these issues a result of events happening today or yesterday?

    All of these issues, and many others, are in one way or another tied to the resolution of World War I, which was, historians tell us, triggered by the assassination of an Austrian prince in Sarajevo. The Germans and the Austria-Hungarians then commenced a war that was largely fought in the trenched fields of France and Belgium. Millions died on all sides, including the Russian front.

    When the war was over, due to surrender by the Germans before the war crossed the Rhine, the Paris Peace Conference was convened to settle the political fallout. New countries were created, old borders re-drawn, entreaties granted or denied, and the personalities and relationship of Woodrow Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George created a new world order. The war to end all wars, of course, was a failure in many ways, not the least of which the breakout of another war with a generation.

    Many of the whys and wherefores of the Twentieth Century emanate from the Paris Peace Conference. We see the fallout everyday in the press.

    Paris: 1919 is a historical masterpiece. In many places it reads like a history book, complete with the author's feelings about the nature of conversations that did or could have taken place. On the other hand, it is an easy read in terms of focusing on the history of places or events that are of interest to you.

    In my case, I have always been fascinated by Turkey, Israel-Palestine, the Crusades, the Byzantine Empire, Roman and Greek conquest and administration of the area, and so on. These subjects are addressed in the final 150 or so pages. I read each word, riveted by the role that one of my favorite historical characters (T.E. Lawrence, the ubiquitous Lawrence of Arabia) played in the peace process.

    I found Paris: 1919 to be amazingly thought-provoking. Would the world be a better place today if Woodrow Wilson had had a different personality, or if the U.S. had taken the Palestinian Mandate?

    Could Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, and Nicholas Sarkozy to a better job if we had a Paris: 2010 Peace Conference?

    If you wonder about the politics of today, spend a few hours in the politics of 1919-1920 and let your own thoughts soar.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 23, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    ¿Six Months that Changed the World¿ might actually take six mont

    “Six Months that Changed the World” might actually take six months to read– but it is well-worth the time spent!  This book is not for the casual history reader but for one who wants the nitty-gritty details of pivotal events (truly world-changing as the title suggests) whose consequences resonate to our present day.

    So many of today’s headlining news stories have their roots in the events that are the subject of this book.  For that reason, for the person who wants to really understand how we got where we are today and the roles that many of the modern nations must play on today’s international stage, this book is essential reading.  Also included in this book is detailed insight into the many people who  played a part in the Paris Peace Conference.  Knowing the individual stories of these participants provides insight into their motivations during the peace process– this is an important aspect of the story.  The author is honest about her Anglo heritage; knowing her background allowed me to censor what may have been some bias on her part.

    Be warned however!  There are so many names, places, facts, events in this book that it can become very overwhelming to keep everything straight.  The notation, highlighting and search functions of the digital edition were very helpful and much used by me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Stares to the third floor

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    ""The Three Musketeers",

    David Lloyd George (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom - Chancellor of the Exchequer), Georges Clemenceau (France's President of the Council and Minister of war - doctor and journalist) and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (Prime Minister of Italy - Professor of Law) <BR/><BR/><BR/>Lloyd George also found in WWI England's outlet to avoid in house rebellion against possible autonomy for Ireland. <BR/>During that period schism ruled the country threatening to expand to the rest of the British Empire. <BR/>LG talked `about the gravest issue raised in this country since the days of the Stuarts', the words `civil war' and `rebellion' was mentioned to describe the grave situation in Ireland. <BR/>As Exchequer LG was afraid that post war period would breakdown the whole credit system with London, as world power, at its centre. A wave of financial panic that had started in New York engulfed the main Capitals all over Europe. <BR/>At Versailles, Lloyd George had good ear for melodrama, and at 56 by 1919 he looked years older. <BR/><BR/>Orlando headed the Cabinet after humiliating defeat of Italy's armed forces at Caporetto (Slovenia) on the Austro-Italian front when Austro-Hungarian troops supported (of course) by German units, routed the Italian army and immediately broke the entire Italian front. <BR/>The word `Caperetto' gained its defeating resonance in the Italian parlance. (Even Mussolini used it later to describe - and dismiss - any sense of defeatism in the Army - or anywhere within his administration) <BR/>Orlando rebelled furiously at such `stigma' and at Versailles demanded (begged) to know if Italy were to be treated as `subordinate' - a point that caused lots of frictions within Italy - or enjoy the spoils of war with proper amenities. <BR/>Acting as Catholic chaplain he relied on the Holy See to convey the gratifying news that Italy, although vanquished and tired to the bones, deserved just and fair treatment. His paroxysm of passion burst him into tears many times. <BR/>At Versailles, Vittorio Orlando was 59 and came to the meeting overwrought, pale cheeked and white faced; he too looked years older. <BR/><BR/>Doctor Georges Clemenceau - the Tiger of France - was deluged several times before the WWI broke that Germany was premobilizing its forces at times France was utterly unprepared. (Some French troops were carried to their HQ by taxis) <BR/>GC was also obsessed by the civil strife that engulfed Paris in 1914 - when many foreigners suspected of being German spies were arrested and troops came in to control the situation - The events developed violent temper in GC, on several occasions he was heard uttering words like `an idiot ...' `fire the guy...' `He should be torn to ribbons....'. <BR/>At the terrible cost of draining French manpower, CG knew well that was an error that would never be repaired. The culprits were the Germans. The wrongdoers were the Germans; the greed came from Germany, expansionism was Germanic. To put an end to this deadlock, Germany ought to be penalized. <BR/>At Versailles, George Clemenceau was 79 by 1919 he acted much younger than his age. <BR/><BR/>The three didn't listen to Woodrow Wilson 14 points; a formidable man of principles, Wilson puritanically attached to neutrality, criticized the Treaty of Versailles that they drafted based on `Revenge. Hate. Fear. Desperation' <BR/>It is strange how the three musketeers couldn't perceive how war stifles reforms - greatness at the world stage had been their aim.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2004

    War Winners, Peace Losers

    After WWI, the victors, mainly the U.S., Britain and France, had the responsibility to draw a new world order after the fall of the old one, at the Conference of Paris and other conferences thereafter. Possibly frustrating some readers, Margaret MacMillan rightly chose a thematic approach to the issues that the Big Three had to address during the Conference of Paris. MacMillan does a good job making the necessary connections between the chapters so that readers do not lose sight of the big picture. Each theme is so complex that it could be the subject of a book on its own. Paris 1919 can entice readers to know more about this period. MacMillan clearly shows the disconnect between a peace conference and happenings in the field. Despite the best intentions of the U.S., Britain and France, these countries were often inconsistent in the application of some key principles such as auto-determination and territory swaps, in their desire to reward the victors and punish the losers. Furthermore, the U.S., Britain and France tended to focus on short-term gains without considering long-term implications. Whoever needs convincing on this point can think about Palestine, Iraq, former Yugoslavia and Hungary, to name a few. Paradoxically, the Treaty of Lausanne that almost complelety wiped out the punitive Sevres Treaty (one of the aftermaths of the Conference of Paris) towards Modern Turkey has been the most successful and the most lasting of all the post-war treaties. Modern Turkey, one of the defeated nations at the end of WWI, successfully rebelled against the respective diktats of the victorious nations and humbled them one by one first on the battlefields and then in the diplomatic arenas. As George Curzon, a British imperial statesman, noted at the end of the conference in Lausanne: Hitherto we have dictated our peace treaties. Now we are negotiating one with an enemy who has an army while we have none, an unheard of position. Iraq is a current example of how difficult making peace can be compared to winning war. Fair elections, though possibly subpar if organized in the short term, could promote peace in Iraq. These elections could send a strong signal to Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds alike. To the Shiites by making clear that the unjust, past rule of the Sunni minority is over. Elections would help convince the Sunnis and Kurds that in a federal structure they will be their own masters in a wide range of matters. Of course, each community will have to guarantee the basic rights of minorities in their respective entities. The Coalition and Iraqis should find some very useful inspiration in the Belgian Constitution and its implementation laws. The Flemish-speaking majority has coexisted peacefully with the French and German-speaking minorities for many years in a federalist structure while deciding on its own destiny in a wide range of matters that do not interfere with the viability of the Belgian federation. Similarly, the French and German-speaking minorities can preside over their respective future in the same matters without endangering the existence of the Belgian federal state.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    An exquisite book

    A marvelous account of a critical period in history , when the seeds for today's world were planted. McMillan gives true life to the the swarm of great and not-so-great leaders of the world of 1919. Tremendously enjoyable!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2003

    window on the present

    One of the best books I've read. Incredibly interesting, and full of information that will educate you to a broad spectrum of budding 'nationistic' perspectives. Much undestanding of today's events can be traced to this expose

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2003

    A Timely and Great Read for Anyone Interested in World News

    I believe anyone with an interest in the events moving and continuing to shape the world today will find this book as fascinating as the people and decisions it portrays are frustrating. It brings the news of the last few years in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East into clearer focus as the author shows how prejudices, attitudes and a clash of philosophies brought many of our modern nations into being and created many of the situations that lead into World War Two and to the crises we face today and will face into the future. While this very readable book brings the facts to the forefront, it breathes life into the subject with tidbits of the gossip and the strengths, weaknesses, and eccentricities of those who shaped the world we live in today. Too much of the background presented in the book looks as though it could have come from recent headlines, making ¿Paris 1919¿ a sometimes sad reminder that maybe we haven¿t made as much progress in dealing with the problems and prejudices of the world as we might like to believe in the last 100 years or so.

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