The Forward to this book by the late Richard Holbrooke is both deservedly laudatory and prescient. Ambassador Holbrooke did not live to see today's gr...moreThe Forward to this book by the late Richard Holbrooke is both deservedly laudatory and prescient. Ambassador Holbrooke did not live to see today's growing crisis and intrigue as of early fall 2012, but he did see up close and personally the crisis in the Balkans in the 1990's. His comments indicate the scope of this work and that this level of detail and information has not been available previously. Certainly this is true for a single work and even more so regarding the analysis and the extraction of events of importance.
Margaret Macmillan has crafted a work that encompasses both the details of the Versailles treaty period and the surrounding world events. That the treaty was negotiated and hammered out in Paris has escaped many stories of the post WWI era and that it, the treaty, was only signed at Versailles to further twist the dagger into Germany. These negotiations were not with Germany, but with every country who thought they could gain something from the end of hostilities. That is the hostilities that had ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Armistice Day.
Macmillan includes far more information about the chaos that was still going on and was relevant to the actions in Paris than is found in other 'post hostility' works. The hostility just was taken to the hotels and ballrooms of Paris. Some groups in the Balkans were continuing to shoot at each other, countries were preparing their defenses if the war erupted again, the Allies were occupying Russia, yes Russia and other little known important details.
Countries were dis-proportionally represented at the conference in Paris. Some countries, Greece for example, had far greater aspirations than was warranted or even possible. Nations that should have had a different result from the final outcome would change allegiance (such as Japan) just a few years later. Nations that never existed emerged and the debris of the fall of the Ottoman empire made for slippery going for all. The middle east was a quagmire where promises had been made to all sides with little regard as to how the could be implemented
Statesmen, some of whom might have deserved that title, were almost all at one time or another more interested in personal glory than even their own country during the negotiations. A few, such as some from South Africa and Australia were there to settle other geo-political scores. The leaders, President Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister Lloyd-George of Great Britain, the 'host' Prime Minister Clemenceau of France, and Italian Prime Minister Orlando collectively know as the Big Four would dominate the final outcome of a treaty that involved far more than their interests. One would be shot, one would suffer a stroke from the strain, there would be offers of duels, and none finished with meaningful compromises beyond draconian and unrealistic punishment of other participants in the war who were but not included in the negotiations.
The author has created a work that requires so much background that the book starting after about 50-75 seems to slow down and depart from the topic at hand. It does not as these chapters, particularly on Yugoslavia, were and are vitally important to the history of Europe! The League of Nations, and Wilson's 14 points, the Rumanian questions, issues in Bulgaria are all vital to the outcome. Much of this detail sets the groundwork for what would erupt 70 years later.
A five star work by any measure if any other history work of the past decade or two also deserves such lofty rating. A bibliography that is worth digging deeply through for not only well known work, but for some unusual gems. Detailed and complete endnotes that when cross referenced add even more to this story that only stirred the fires that would engulf Europe and the world for all of the 20th century. The book goes beyond a Euro-centrality to include the grievances of and failure to properly include the Japanese in what could have been a well executed peace, but instead drove the world to greater calamity.
Highly recommend for all as this is incredibly readable, but complete and proper history! A month spent on this book with rereading and cross referencing at an hour or so per day is time well invested for anyone wanting to be well founded on this topic.
The photos in this work deserve a different rating than three stars. The compilation details 100 great and important events, yet the photos that illus...moreThe photos in this work deserve a different rating than three stars. The compilation details 100 great and important events, yet the photos that illustrate them are not necessarily the best or even very good in some instances for the subject detailed.
Examples of the mismatch between the story and the image include the Hungarian revolution entry that shows an otherwise pedestrian photograph of a crowd burning a poster of a hated leader. Yet, the thousands of images that came from this event covering a gamut from bodies in the streets, to public executions, and finally tanks rolling in the middle of Buda & Pest are not used. Various other entries have similar problems with photos that have a certain greatness, but don't illustrate well the event that helped to change the 19th and twentieth centuries.
An example of the quality lies with the Partition of India where sheet after sheet and roll after roll of film were exposed where each and every one was stunning. The photos selected for this entry in the "100 Days in Photographs" are at best only average in their impact and don't illustrate well the story told of the throngs of people fleeing one new country or the other depending upon their religion.
Mentioned many times in regards to this work is the problem of rights and clearances. A question arises if the photographs were chosen that were publishable and if that drove the selection of events. Or, were events chosen and photographs previously unseen searched for and the list pared down to the magic 100? Various critical assassinations were neglected, events that were arguably only a small part of the larger story were told and illustrated, and other disjointed editorial choices abound.
There are great and important photographs to be found in this book. Historical early work from the Crimean and Boer conflicts, for example, illustrate early photography well. The sequence photographs documenting the building of the Eiffel Tower are important for a spectrum of reasons. How photography was used and developed is apparent from beginning to end in this book, just not consistently explained.
Finally a note on the photographs from certain photographers. The pivotal events of World War II seem to be skewed in favor of a historical misrepresentation regarding what were the important events and favoring certain Time Life photographers who were not the greatest in photographing certain events. There has to be a rights problem as Time-Life published much better and far more critically acclaimed London Blitz photos, but they were by different photographers than the ones noted. National Geographic surely has better unpublished or not widely seen images of Vietnam and more pivotal events than these of the fall of Saigon.
If this were to just be never before or rarely seen images of pivotal events, it only goes part of the way. If this book is a select 100 events it is only partially successful in the relative value of the 100 selected. Inconsistency in the editorial compilation, erratic commentary on the photographs and events, and in many cases a safe selection of photographers drags this book down from a pinnacle to only stand on the lower slopes of the heights that photographs of 100 great events could bring to a reader.
Could be four stars if it were not that Halberstam gets a bit off course a place or two in this tale.
There are some accepted truths about everyone's...moreCould be four stars if it were not that Halberstam gets a bit off course a place or two in this tale.
There are some accepted truths about everyone's behavior and motivation that I'm finding more and more are perhaps not as absolute as I once believed ranging from Clinton's relationship with the military to the ineptitude of Bush.
The author does use he great skill to weave a path through the troubling era of military involvement on the part of the U.S. in the late 20th - early 21st century.
A basic work for the understanding of this era from the journalist's viewpoint even if slightly flawed and plagued by truisms and some blatant pre-conceived notions of motivation and belief.
A worthwhile book for the political junky and military history fan alike!(less)
Amy Dockser Marcus has brought a journalists eye to a city she admits great affection for in this almost 4 star book. The 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner f...moreAmy Dockser Marcus has brought a journalists eye to a city she admits great affection for in this almost 4 star book. The 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner for Beat Reporting brings those skills to this story in a readable and captivating way. That this is not journalism specifically but a historical tale cheats the work of what a bit more depth and detail could have added.
The beginning of the turmoil that is the late 20th early 21st century middle east she encapsulates in stories from a pivotal if not the pivotal year of 1913 in Jerusalem of the Ottoman Palestine district. The book unfolds through the eyes of unknown today, but central,figures in the Zionist movement. The divisions between Arab and Jew are illustrated through significant events. From a small dispute between neighboring farmers that escalates to bloodshed, riot and death to the arbitrary and draconian actions of the Young Turk Ottoman representative in Jerusalem the stage is set for a century of conflict.
Marcus has found several jewels of historical relevance to sprinkle through this all to brief book. This brevity is refreshing and contributes to its readability but also leaves the reader wanting or needing to more without the access to some of the materials that might satisfy or further enhance this view of Jerusalem.
Unpublished journal entries from primarily the Jewish viewpoint provide fascinating insight into the concerns of Jerusalem natives about the influx of the Zionist movement. These works are both boon and bane to this work as they are limited in their inclusion or referencing by Marcus. The author does make a strong case for further study of much of this early source material as one resource for creating a new lens through which to view the present times. Marcus reveals a potentially great resource in the Khalidi library while acknowledging that politics have prevented much work from being done.
This book is a small road map or even tourist guide to a much greater story that spans a century. Several messages emerge regarding the roots of the current troubles in Jerusalem not the least of which is there is responsibility enough to go around. A solution Marcus explores that was not spoken, only written of, then whispered from the early 20th century to today being openly discussed is euphemistically called a separate peace for the parties of Jerusalem. From early private writings to the separate governing bodies of today it all becomes what does not bode well for the long term. It is . . . Partition.
I just finished reading this book again today. This is an astounding chronicling of not only the military endeavor, but of many of the political and s...moreI just finished reading this book again today. This is an astounding chronicling of not only the military endeavor, but of many of the political and social decisions made in this very compressed moment in history.
The Israeli's treatment of various groups and the thought that went in to their treatment such as allowing the surrender of opposing Jordanian troops to spread the word that the battle was over and the Israeli's were not just killing or imprisoning them is one example.