The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914

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Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review ? The Economist ? The Christian Science Monitor ? Bloomberg Businessweek ? The Globe and Mail

From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of ...

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Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • The Economist • The Christian Science Monitor • Bloomberg Businessweek • The Globe and Mail

From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I.
 
The century since the end of the Napoleonic wars had been the most peaceful era Europe had known since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the first years of the twentieth century, Europe believed it was marching to a golden, happy, and prosperous future. But instead, complex personalities and rivalries, colonialism and ethnic nationalisms, and shifting alliances helped to bring about the failure of the long peace and the outbreak of a war that transformed Europe and the world.
 
The War That Ended Peace brings vividly to life the military leaders, politicians, diplomats, bankers, and the extended, interrelated family of crowned heads across Europe who failed to stop the descent into war: in Germany, the mercurial Kaiser Wilhelm II and the chief of the German general staff, Von Moltke the Younger; in Austria-Hungary, Emperor Franz Joseph, a man who tried, through sheer hard work, to stave off the coming chaos in his empire; in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and his wife; in Britain, King Edward VII, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, and British admiral Jacky Fisher, the fierce advocate of naval reform who entered into the arms race with Germany that pushed the continent toward confrontation on land and sea.
 
There are the would-be peacemakers as well, among them prophets of the horrors of future wars whose warnings went unheeded: Alfred Nobel, who donated his fortune to the cause of international understanding, and Bertha von Suttner, a writer and activist who was the first woman awarded Nobel’s new Peace Prize. Here too we meet the urbane and cosmopolitan Count Harry Kessler, who noticed many of the early signs that something was stirring in Europe; the young Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and a rising figure in British politics; Madame Caillaux, who shot a man who might have been a force for peace; and more. With indelible portraits, MacMillan shows how the fateful decisions of a few powerful people changed the course of history.
 
Taut, suspenseful, and impossible to put down, The War That Ended Peace is also a wise cautionary reminder of how wars happen in spite of the near-universal desire to keep the peace. Destined to become a classic in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, The War That Ended Peace enriches our understanding of one of the defining periods and events of the twentieth century.
 
Praise for The War That Ended Peace
 
“Magnificent . . . The War That Ended Peace will certainly rank among the best books of the centennial crop.”The Economist
 
“Superb.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Masterly . . . marvelous . . . Those looking to understand why World War I happened will have a hard time finding a better place to start.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
“The debate over the war’s origins has raged for years. Ms. MacMillan’s explanation goes straight to the heart of political fallibility. . . . Elegantly written, with wonderful character sketches of the key players, this is a book to be treasured.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A magisterial 600-page panorama.”—Christopher Clark, London Review of Books

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The term "The Long Peace" usually refers to the phase of history after World War II, but as historian Margaret MacMillan (Paris 1919), it might refer even more accurately to the century between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the onset of World War I. How this peaceful, prosperous era finally came to its bloodbath conclusion is the subject of her new book. With laser-like clarity, she describes how European leaders, politicians, diplomats, generals, bankers, and admirals consciously or unconsciously aided the descent into a conflagration that killed more than fifteen million men and women. A history as gripping and suspenseful as any battlefield narrative.

The New York Times Book Review - Richard Aldous
One of the strengths of The War That Ended Peace is MacMillan's ability to evoke the world at the beginning of the 20th century…As she points out, "in 1900 Europeans had good reason to feel pleased with the recent past and confident about the future. The 30 years since 1870"—the Franco-Prussian War—"had brought an explosion in production and wealth and a transformation in society and the way people lived." Food was better and cheaper. There had been dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine. Faster communications…meant Europeans were more in touch with one another. "Given such power and such prosperity, given the evidence of so many advances in so many fields in the past century," MacMillan asks, "why would Europe want to throw it all away?" Her answer is that in the end the war came down to those individuals who made the key decisions…MacMillan's portraits of the men who took Europe to war are superb.
Publishers Weekly
★ 09/09/2013
Macmillan, professor of international history at Oxford, follows her Paris 1919 with another richly textured narrative about WWI, this time addressing the war’s build-up. She asks, “What made 1914 different?” and wonders why Europe “walk over the cliff” given the continent’s relatively longstanding peace. She begins by addressing Germany’s misfortune in having “a child for King”; Wilhelm II sought to secure Germany’s—and his own—world power status by inaugurating a naval race with Britain. Britain responded by making “unlikely friends” with France and Russia. Germany in turn cultivated relations with a near-moribund Austria-Hungary. Macmillan tells this familiar story with panache. A major contribution, however, is her presentation of its subtext, as Europe’s claims to be the world’s most advanced civilization “were being challenged from without and undermined from within.” Exertions for peace were overshadowed by acceptance of war as “a tool that could be used” against enemies made increasingly threatening by alliance systems. The nations’ war plans shared a “deeply rooted faith in the offensive” and a near-irrational belief in the possibility of a short war. Macmillan eloquently shows that “turning out the lights” was not inevitable, but a consequence of years of decisions and reactions: a slow-motion train wreck few wanted but none could avoid. Agent: Christy Fletcher, C. Fletcher & Company LLC. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“One of the strengths of The War That Ended Peace is MacMillan’s ability to evoke the world at the beginning of the twentieth century. . . . MacMillan’s portraits of the men who took Europe to war are superb. . . . The logic of MacMillan’s argument is such that even now, as she leads us day by day, hour by hour through the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, we expect some statesman or other to jump on the lighted fuse. . . . ‘There are always choices,’ MacMillan keeps reminding us.”The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
 
“Magnificent . . . The War That Ended Peace will certainly rank among the best books of the centennial crop. . . . [MacMillan] deftly navigates the roiling currents and counter-currents of the pre-war decades. . . . The Great War had a kaleidoscope of causes. Ms. MacMillan tackles them all, with [a] blend of detail and sweeping observation.”The Economist
 
“The debate over the war’s origins has raged for years. Ms. MacMillan’s explanation goes straight to the heart of political fallibility. Almost every assumption made by the leaders of Europe turned out to be wrong. Elegantly written, with wonderful character sketches of the key players, this is a book to be treasured.”The Wall Street Journal

“Masterly . . . marvelous . . . Historians have long argued about why the war started and whether it could have been avoided. . . . Margaret MacMillan’s new book The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 will be a welcome addition to these debates. . . . She takes a long look and examines the many forces that had been moving Europe in the direction of a war for a quarter century. . . . MacMillan is a master of narrative detail and the telling anecdote and this makes for a lively read. She does not break new ground in this book as much as present an exceptionally complex story in a way that will appeal to the general reader. Those looking to understand why World War I happened will have a hard time finding a better place to start.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Highly readable.”The Nation
 
“Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace [stands] out because [it reflects] the immensely complex web of politics, power, and relationships that made war possible, if not inevitable.”The Daily Beast

“A magisterial 600-page panorama . . . a lively and sophisticated overview of the international crises that shook prewar Europe . . . MacMillan is a wry and humane chronicler of this troubled world. . . . The historian’s task, she suggests, is not to judge but to understand. . . . As MacMillan observes in a closing sentence that is well worth taking to heart, ‘there are always choices.’”—Christopher Clark, London Review of Books

“[A] richly textured narrative about World War I . . . addressing the war’s build-up . . . MacMillan tells this familiar story with panache. A major contribution, however, is her presentation of its subtext, as Europe’s claims to be the world’s most advanced civilization ‘were being challenged from without and undermined from within.’ . . . MacMillan eloquently shows that ‘turning out the lights’ was not inevitable, but a consequence of years of decisions and reactions: a slow-motion train wreck few wanted but none could avoid.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A first-rate study, necessary for all World War I collections. Highly recommended.”Library Journal (starred review)

“Everything can be lent a veneer of inevitability, but history rarely works in such a linear manner. But MacMillan, famous for her scholarship on the peace concluding WWI, avoids this trap. She shows, again and again, that events could have run in any number of different directions.”Booklist

“Thorough . . . lively . . . Exhaustive in its coverage of diplomatic maneuvering and the internal political considerations of the various nations, the book includes comprehensive discussions of such motivating issues as Germany’s fears of being surrounded, Austria-Hungary’s fears of falling apart and Russia’s humiliation after losing a war with Japan.”Kirkus Reviews

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 of our era’s most talented historians, warn of the dangers that arise when we fail to anticipate the consequences of our actions. This is one of the finest books I have ever read on the causes of World War I.”—Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state
 
“With sure deftness, Margaret MacMillan manages to combine excellent history with elements of the cliff-hanger. You keep hoping that, at the last moment, one of those idiot leaders of 1914 might see the light and blink before it’s too late. No one is better equipped to recount this story than Margaret MacMillan.”—Sir Alistair Horne, author of The Price of Glory
 
“In this epic tale of human folly, Margaret MacMillan brilliantly explores the minds of the flawed, fascinating men whose misguided decisions led to a conflagration that few wanted or believed would actually happen. The War That Ended Peace is a must-read book for our time.”—Lynne Olson, author of Those Angry Days
 
“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 masterly explanation of the complex forces that brought the Edwardian world crashing down. Utterly riveting, deeply moving, and impeccably researched, Margaret MacMillan’s latest opus will become the definitive account of old Europe’s final years.”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire

Library Journal
11/01/2013
A prize-winning historian's exhaustive take on why the war happened when peace might have prevailed. (LJ 10/15/13)
Kirkus Reviews
Award-winning academic MacMillan (International History/Oxford Univ.; Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History, 2009, etc.) takes on the origins of World War I. Rather than allocating blame for the war or asking why it came about, the author asks instead, "[W]hy did the long peace not continue?...One way of getting at an answer is to see how Europe's options had narrowed down in the decades before 1914." She begins with the confident Europe celebrated in the Paris Exposition of 1900 and shows how national rivalries gradually eroded the comity of nations to the point where a brilliant civilization chose to tear itself to pieces. Inflexible military planning; "defensive" pacts that appeared offensive to rivals; national fears, honor and prestige; the characters and capabilities of national leaders; consideration of war as a means of suppressing internal divisions; and, finally, "mistakes, muddle or simply poor timing" all played a part in steering Europe from considering a general war unthinkable to considering it inevitable. Not everyone agreed; MacMillan turns periodically, if too briefly, to the peace movements led by Alfred Nobel, Bertha von Suttner and the Socialist International, but in the end, nationalism overwhelmed these altruistic impulses. There is much emphasis on the great men of the time, the bombastic and erratic kaiser and other leaders of the great powers, whose well-described personalities, prejudices and temperaments affected events in a way that is difficult to imagine today. Exhaustive in its coverage of diplomatic maneuvering and the internal political considerations of the various nations, the book includes comprehensive discussions of such motivating issues as Germany's fears of being surrounded, Austria-Hungary's fears of falling apart and Russia's humiliation after losing a war with Japan. The author's presentation is so thorough that it is often easy to lose sight of her theme. While MacMillan's prose is mostly lively, it lacks a narrative flair that could help carry readers through this monumental work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400068555
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Pages: 784
  • Sales rank: 9,954
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret MacMillan received her PhD from Oxford University and is now a professor of international history at Oxford, where she is also the warden of St. Antony’s College. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; a senior fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto; and an honorary fellow of Trinity College, University of Toronto, and of St Hilda’s College, Oxford University. She sits on the boards of the Mosaic Institute and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and on the editorial boards of The International History Review and First World War Studies. She also sits on the advisory board of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and is a Trustee of the Rhodes Trust. Her previous books include Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History, Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World, Women of the Raj: The Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India, and Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 17, 2013

    I received this is an advanced copy from Net Galley in exchange

    I received this is an advanced copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review

    I enjoy history books and have read several WWII books, but this is one of the first WWI books I have picked up and I was not disappointed. An extremely fascinating time in history with several conflicting opinions and views regarding who was to blame and if the conflict could have been avoided. Also, regarding how WWI may have created an atmosphere that made WWII possible. MacMillan wrote an engaging and fascinating narrative that kept me turning the pages late into the night. She was able to bring these historical figures to life in a way that would make most novelists weep. Though if I didn't know these men truly existed, I would find it difficult to believe these people and that some of these situations and actions weren't fictional. MacMillan truly made history come to life in this book for me, and that's what I look for in a good historical read. I learned so many fascinating pieces of history in this book and have recommended it to many of my history-buff friends. I would highly recommend this book to history novices and experts alike.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Willowwing

    Ok

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    TO ALL

    Please go to bloodclan and tell yhem tha pikapowe is locked out!!! Please!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Addersnap

    Gtg bbt

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    Endingstar

    She yawned.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    Highly recommended

    An excellent book. Covers the decision makers' motivations and personalities. Thorough and readable. Includes maps, some photos, and an extensive bibliography.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

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