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• 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 Paris 1919. 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 the world still.
“Ms. McMillan’s approach to history is to get under the skin of the figures, to see them as all-too-human actors struggling with a task of monumental difficulty. . . . Among the many strengths of this work is its completeness. Ms. McMillan. . . provides a lucid primer on many of the less widely understood parts of the picture. . . . honest, dispassionate and thoroughly engaging. . . .” —The New York Times
"MacMillan deftly reviews the conference's great controversies and decisions (and non-decisions)...." —Claremont Review of Books
“Scrupulously researched, very fluidly written and closely argued…Splendidly revisionist and daringly politically incorrect.” —Andrew Roberts (The Sunday Telegraph)
"Compelling…Exactly the sort of book I most like: written with pace and flavoured with impudence based on solid scholarship; illuminating tangled subjects with irreverent pen portraits of the individuals concerned; and with a brilliant eye for quotations." —Roy Jenkins, author of Churchill (The Sunday Times, London)
"It's easy to get into a war, but ending it is a more arduous matter. It was never more so than in 1919, at the Paris Conference…This is an enthralling book: detailed, fair, unfailingly lively. Professor MacMillan has that essential quality of the historian, a narrative gift." —Allan Massie, The Daily Telegraph
"MacMillan is brilliant at evoking the atmosphere of the conference…Everyone who was anyone — from Elinor Glyn to Marcel Proust — hung around on the fringes of the conference. MacMillan enlivens her narrative with very funny stories about the regions whose affairs the negotiators sought to settle." —Richard Vinen, Financial Times
"Fascinating and funny…most of the problems treated in this book are still with us today — indeed some of the most horrific things that have been taking place in Europe and the Middle East in the last decade stem directly from the decisions made in Paris in 1919. It is instructive and sobering to read about the passions, the humbug and the sheer stupidity that gave rise to them." —Adam Zamovski, The Sunday Times
"The First World War was an unprecedented experience for the human race, involving so much change and upheaval that the peace conference that followed it was, in turn, unlike any other in history…Now at last we have a book that does justice to the Paris peace conference in all its aspects…No figure of any consequence is introduced without a vivid character-sketch. The result is a thoroughly illuminating study, which reads racily." —John Grigg, The Times
"One of the most important books of the year…Paris in 1919 was the place to be: an epoch-making city with an illustrious past...Into it poured the world's politicians and diplomats, the occasional king and queen and celebrities like Lawrence of Arabia and Ho Chi Minh…Macmillan, in a brilliantly lucid narrative, succeeds in placing the Paris conference within an era of warring and demanding factions that could not have foreseen the prospect of a resurgent Germany…The sheer attractiveness of her grand-scale book lies in the penetrating portraits and underlying sentiments of dueling personalities against the noble backdrop of Versailles." —Colin Gardner, Oxford Times