Peacemakers Six Months That Changed the World : The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War, Paperback

Peacemakers Six Months That Changed the World : The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


Between January and July 1919, after the war to end all wars, men and women from all over the world converged on Paris for the Peace Conference.

At its heart were the leaders of the three great powers - Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau.

Kings, prime ministers and foreign ministers with their crowds of advisers rubbed shoulders with journalists and lobbyists for a hundred causes - from Armenian independence to women's rights.

Everyone had business in Paris that year - T.E. Lawrence, Queen Marie of Romania, Maynard Keynes, Ho Chi Minh.

There had never been anything like it before, and there never has been since.

For six extraordinary months the city was effectively the centre of world government as the peacemakers wound up bankrupt empires and created new countries.

They pushed Russia to the sidelines, alienated China and dismissed the Arabs, 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; failed above all to prevent another war.

Margaret MacMillan argues that they have unfairly been made scapegoats for the mistakes of those who came later. They tried to be evenhanded, but their goals - to make defeated countries pay without destroying them, to satisfy impossible nationalist dreams, to prevent the spread of Bolshevism and to establish a world order based on democracy and reason - could not be achieved by diplomacy.

This book offers a prismatic view of the moment when much of the modern world was first sketched out.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592 pages, 16pp illustrations, maps
  • Publisher: John Murray General Publishing Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780719562372



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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

Brilliant, thorough examination of the way Lloyd George and Clemenceau used Wilson's windy, high-minded hypocrisy as a cover for their own self-interest and empire-building, and so screwed Europe over for another generation.

Review by

I felt that this book handled the topic very fairly with a great deal of impudence. Macmillan flies in the face of her critics and those of mainstream thought on the matter. A splendid read and well researched.

Review by

David Lloyd George was the author's great-grandfather. Similar to Barbara Tuchman, she is very familiar with the foibles of the ruling class. Her character vignettes are a joy to read. She truly manages to evoke the flair of the period and the city. Her book provides both a good account of the peace negotiations and a summary of the resolutions for the discussed territories. The end of the First World War saw the collapse of the Eastern European empires of Germany, Austria, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. MacMillan highlights the American and French failure in creating viable and ethnically sound units. In my opinion, she is too soft on the often pernicious British influence (especially in the Middle East).The peace negotiations were doomed from the start, as the German acceptance of a preliminary peace had not resulted in an occupation of the defeated's territory. Thus, the odd situation that the Allies could not really exert pressure upon the Germans. On the other hand, the Allies wanted to transfer the cost of this senseless war upon the shoulders of those least able to bear them. The unwillingness of the US establishment to accept international responsibilities and to refinance and net the war debts of its Allies was the underlying cause of the treaty's failure. The excessive French demands were only secondary in nature. As Keynes had shown, Germany could have paid a fairly calculated war debt if given economic aid at the same time. Given that for half a year, the world's politicians worked alongside one another in one city, the fruits of its labor were barren. The prize for the worst behaved negotiators clearly goes to the Italians whose ineptitude during the war turned into a gargantuan appetite during the peace negotiations. No wonder that it was the first to fall into fascism.Highly recommended.

Review by

Very comprehensive account of the Paris Peace Conference. Atfer the first part which sets up the history, characters and nations going into the conference it deals with each geographical area rather than a chronology of events. Given the complex negotiations and the constant switching between items discussed, this approach was perhaps enviatable to preseve some coherence and keep the reader onside with events. It does though sometimes make it hard to get a flavour of the talks as they progressed and the fact Wilson went back to america during the negotiations loses the importance I feel it would have had. However, dealing with each area provides a great reference to come back to and Macmillan does a good job of following through the consequences of what was decided right through to the modern day, e.g. the mess that is now Iraq, makes better sense knowing how it was thrown together.

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