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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  6,009 ratings  ·  402 reviews
National Bestseller

New York Times Editors’ Choice

Winner of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize

Silver Medalist for the Arthur Ross Book Award
of the Council on Foreign Relations

Finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minis
Paperback, 570 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published September 6th 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Do you know what I hate? I hate it when I find out that something I have known for years and years is not actually true. As a case in point, take the Treaty of Versailles. I hadn’t really thought about it all that much, but if asked I would have said that it would have most likely come out of a peace conference and that peace conference would have been held at Versailles. I know, I can be terribly literal at times. I also would have guessed that the conference might have lasted a few days, maybe ...more
I think it was Churchill who said that the most fascinating aspects of World War I – from a historical perspective – was its beginning and end. The start: the shocking assassination of an unloved heir of a creaky empire, shot in a Balkan backwater and somehow touching off a world war. The end: the peace to end all war, monarchies toppled, empires disintegrated, lines redrawn. Certainly, the majority of war-literature resides in these bookend events.

I actually found my way to Margaret MacMillan’
"Each of the Big Three at the Peace Conference brought something of his own country to the negotiations: Wilson the United States' benevolence, a confident assurance that the American way was the best, and an uneasy suspicion that the Europeans might fail to see this; Clemenceau France's profound patriotism, its relief at the victory and its perpetual apprehension of a revived Germany; and Lloyd George Britain's vast web of colonies and its mighty navy. Each man represented great interests, but ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Kelly marked it as to-read
Guys I just cannot. This book is so my bag and my thing but I cannot force myself through this textbook. Which is what it is. It is a fairly accessible one, but despite my attempts to fish out the quirky bits, it's all places and names and dates in overwhelming piles that seem like laundry list reports. Maybe it's just that I'm working my way through the sideshow smaller issues before Macmillian gets to the main event, but I'm over 100 pages now and we're not there yet. I would have been thrille ...more
When reviewing a book, it is generally considered good form to review the whole book, not just one chapter or even one page. So, before my descent into bad reviewing form, I'd like to say that this is a fine book about the Versailles Peace Conference, written by a grand-daughter of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. When she tells you that French Prime Minister George Clemenceau during the conference once attempted to interest a young, newly-married daughter of DLG in a bunch of dirty po ...more
One of the two best diplomatic histories I've ever read, second only to David Fromkin's The Peace to End All Peace (also, and probably not altogether coincidently, about the arrogance of the Great Powers and the outcome of WWI). The largely tragic ramifications of the Treaty of Versailles are of course well know, but MacMillan does a masterful job of laying out the process by which the treaty was formed, exploring the complexities -- geographic, political, ethnic -- that faced the victors in red ...more
What a fantastic read! I learned so much from MacMillan's intricate account of the time after the Great War. She relies on many historical facts and documents to weave an extremely detailed explanation of how the world was re-draw and the grave errors the BIG FOUR made and how those decisions are still reverberating today.

I knew little of the fallout of the Great War, save that there was a Treaty of Versailles. I knew the German reaction led to the fuelling of animosity and, eventually, the rise
Margaret Macmillan is a master storyteller and a methodical historian. Paris 1919 is a wide-ranging and detailed account of many nations and personalities at pains to achieve statehood, strategic goals, abusive gains, and compensation following the Great War.

My experience of reading Paris 1919 was a little back-and-forth. At first I found it intriguing, albeit deeply biographical as it introduced the Peace Conference and the Big 3. But then it became a bit dull and repetitive; addressing the co
Tophats outfox other tophats at six-month soiree. (Most cover designs for this have the Big Three in friggin’ tophats!)

Same vibe here as with Yergin’s The Prize: presentation of personalities during epochal events. It’s not exactly a defect, and, for the novice (I.e., me) it’s good to have snappy biographical vignettes on all of the human capital of the conference (not just Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, but also Balfour, Curzon, Pilsudski, Ataturk, Venizelos, Benes, and so on). Portrait of L
This is pretty good - well written, structured, no noticeable weird ideological quirks, good balance of anecdotes and data, etc, etc. On the other hand, the book seems to be more concerned with what's important than what is interesting, at least for my particular interests. There's a great deal about the, well, really big important decisions and failures and successes, focusing on Poland, Austro-Hungary, Ottomans, Germany, etc, and some about the League of Nations and all that.

I think the point
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 23, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List
I rarely give out five stars--that's deliberate--but this is so illuminating on a complex topic without being dry, I think it deserves full marks. The book treats of "six months that changed the world"--the Paris Peace Conference that produced the Treaty of Versailles. I was taught in high school that the vindictive terms of that treaty were ruinous to Germany and at the root of Hitler's rise and the outbreak of World War II. It was a view popularized by John Maynard Keynes (who was involved in ...more
Loring Wirbel
(This is a companion review to David Andelman's "A Shattered Peace," on my bookshelf.)

In reviewing the more recent "A Shattered Peace", I said that Andelman relied too much on sizzle, while Macmillan went for the steak. Since Margaret MacMillan is the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, one might expect that a comprehensive book like this would rely on personalities of the Big Four, and that it might be overly-sympathetic to Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau. She does indeed re
Eric Althoff
A fascinating history lesson for buffs or novices alike, "Paris 1919" recounts--in always interesting but sometimes overly exposed detail--the Paris Peace Conference and how it shaped the broken European landscape (and indeed, much of the world) after The War to End All Wars. By turns fascinating and flustering--knowing what we know now--MacMillan skillfully creates a narrative from cold, hard facts and brings the personalities of the American, French, British and various other politicos who tri ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History Buffs, History Students, WWI fans
Recommended to Michael by: Victoria Belco
I must confess that I’m not quite certain what to say about this book, in part because I’m not quite sure what the book actually is. It is written by a PhD in history, and is even listed on her Wikipedia page as her “most successful” (in what sense?) publication, yet it does not appear to contain original research or a clear thesis. It is engagingly readable and full of “facts” rather than analysis, thus appears to be intended for a popular audience, yet its length, bibliography, and footnotes, ...more
Jeni Enjaian
I really enjoyed this book. Having studied the portrayal by the New York Times of the Armenian Genocide, I was aware of the Paris Peace Conference and its inaction concerning the "Armenian Question." That, unfortunately, summed up my limited knowledge of the Peace Conference. This book greatly expanded my knowledge and increased my hunger to learn more about WWI including the causes, events, historical actors and aftermath.
This book was incredibly detailed but comprehensible to almost anyone wi
Jill Hutchinson
I took this book to the beach, which was a mistake. This is not a history to read while surrounded by conversation and general mayhem!!! I finished it when I returned from vacation in the quiet of my home. This history of the Versailles Treaty takes concentration and reflection as it outlines, in detail, the machinations of France, Britain, Italy (sporadic at best) and the United States, as they struggled to author a treaty which was impossible to create.

Countries and colonies were moved like ch
Clif Hostetler
According to, this book argues that the conditions imposed on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles did not lead to the rise of Adolf Hitler. I read the book back in 2003 so my memory of its contents is a bit hazy, but I don’t remember that point being made by the book. What I do remember is that the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires caused numerous cases of minority enclaves being surrounded by hostile neighbors. The resulting ethnic cleansing through migration (an ...more
Even if I wasn’t predisposed to an enjoyment of WWI history, I suspect I’d have enjoyed Margaret MacMillian’s (epic 500 page) account of the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles in Paris 1919. Elegant sentences and a keen sense of characterization make this history intensely readable. A decision to withhold judgment on the particular historical characters lends it credibility, in that no one person or country is blamed; rather, the combined effect of a complicated and contingent set of treaties, ...more
Margaret MacMillan has done a decent job in identifying and cataloging the events that occurred through out Europe in 1919. However, she falls into the same pit that is evidenced by many European historians who write for the average audience.

Her research is impeccable, but there is little analysis as to how these events actually changed the world other than the occasional one liner. The events are not really tied together by an idea as much as just giving events in a timeline. Perhaps this is n
This book is terrific. Written by the great granddaughter of British prime minister David Lloyd-George, who headed the British delegation in the peace talks after World War I, it not only sketches the fascinating personalities of the those who hammered out the Versailles Peace Treaty and the ill-fated League of Nations after World War I, but ends up giving a primer on the history of most European nations and China, India, Japan and the Middle East as well. If you want to see where problems still ...more
Excellent revionist account of the peacemakers at Versailles, that chronicles a fascinating time in European history. One of the great things about this readable book is that for what can be a heavy historical subject is dealt with is the amount of detail and not overloading the read with irrelevant information.

An important read for the background to some of the problems that happened in Europe pre-1939. There are also some great descriptive pieces in this book. An important book for students of
Sam Reaves
How did the late lamented Yugoslavia ever get bolted together in the first place? And how did Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness, if you saw the movie) wind up in charge of Iraq? These and other curiosities are due to the efforts of the great and good at the Paris peace conference following World War I, when the victorious allies sat down to carve up the world.
I knew the history in a vague way; just after the armistice Woodrow Wilson took his Fourteen Points to Europe, intending to set the Old World
If the star-rating system were based on facts told, Paris 1919 would be a solid five. The six months the Allied leaders spent in Paris leading up to the Treaty of Versailles was filled to overflowing with how the defeated nation of Germany would be treated, how land formerly claimed by Germany would be divided, who would get what (with everyone vying for their share of the pie.) What came across strong and clear was how much two allied nations England and France mistrusted each other during thes ...more
This is an excellent history of the conference that produced the Treaty of Versailles, concluding what was then called the Great War. MacMillan's mastery of the details is impressive, and she weaves a fascinating tale. Of particular interest to the contemporary reader is the way she demonstrates how the high handed treatment by the Great Powers (Britain, France and the United States) of people in Africa, Asia and especially the Middle East has consequences we still face today. She also does an e ...more
Howard Cincotta
As you might have suspected, everything you thought you knew about the Versailles Treaty ending World War I is either wrong, misleading, or missing the point. But that is only one the services provided by Margaret MacMillan, professor of history at the University of Toronto and the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George.

Her exhaustive (and exhausting) book, Paris 1919 provides the daunting complexity and historical context that went into the decisions that the Allies made – for good or for i
Nearly 100 years later, the fractious world still seems unsettled with issues of identity and boundaries that stem from the peace treaties established at the end of World War 1. This book narrates the players, personalities, hopes, and punishments that were the result of six months of negotiations in Paris, 1919.

The author methodically covers the various nations and ethnic groups that essentially three world leaders - US President Woodrow Wilson, Great Britain's Prime Minister Lloyd George, and
“We can learn from history, but we can also deceive ourselves when we selectively take evidence from the past to justify what we have already made up our minds to do.” ― Margaret MacMillan

It was 1919 and the Great War had ended the previous year when, from January to June, the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and the United States met in Paris to decide the outcome of the war they had just won against the Central Powers. This would be difficult, for the Great War of 1914-18 had seen the disappe
John Kaufmann
Excellent rendition of peace talks divvying up the world after the Great War (World War I). Perhaps it is appropriate to say "exhaustive," or "definitive." From reparations to France and England, to Italy's attempt to claim some of the spoils, to Wilson's League of Nations (hint: it wasn't a shoo-in), to the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, to the formation Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, to what was going on with the Civil War in Russia at the time (aided and abetted by several of the Paris parti ...more
Cym Lowell
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 comm
Though this book is thoroughly researched and a good place to go and hunt information for writing of your own, the book is academically lazy. The author simply makes no argument. It is merely a narrative of the entire peace conference punctuated here and there by sordid gossip, 99% of which had absoluetly nothing to do with the peace and that's all. The thesis statement of the book was that the supposedly harsh settlement imposed upon Germany wasn't harsh at all and it wasn't a cause of WW2 as t ...more
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Margaret Olwen MacMillan OC D.Phil. (born 1943) is a historian and professor at Oxford University where she is Warden of St. Antony's College. She is former provost of Trinity College and professor of history at the University of Toronto. A well-respected expert on history and current affairs, MacMillan is a frequent commentator in the media.


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“In the fluid world of 1919, it was possible to dream of great change, or have nightmares about the collapse of order.” 0 likes
“The delegates to the peace conference after World War I "tried to impose a rational order on an irrational world.” 0 likes
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