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Posted April 22, 2003
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 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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 11, 2011
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