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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  8,252 Ratings  ·  573 Reviews
For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political en ...more
Paperback, 570 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published September 6th 2001)
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Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
This review originally appeared on my blog, Shoulda Coulda Woulda Books.

Paris 1919 focuses on the peace conference that took place at the end of the First World War (known as the Great War, then, since they mercifully didn’t know yet that it would need a number). After all was quiet on the western front in November 1918, the Allies sent representatives to Paris to negotiate the peace terms for the defeated enemy nations and clean up the aftermath of the war. Dozens of nations showed up at the co
“The delegates to the peace conference after World War I "tried to impose a rational order on an irrational world.”
In Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan scrutinizes the crucial months when the winners of the First World War sat together and determined what the penalty would be for those who dared to lose the war.

The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to have settled the First World War, it further represented a dream that it could end all wars. Far from it, as y
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-i
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’
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
If I was going to use one word to describe Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919" it would be "detailed". She includes a multitude of backstories about the delegates and the obstacles they must surmount at the Peace Conference after World War I. The three most important participants were Georges Clemenceau who wanted to protect France from future attacks from Germany, the idealistic Woodrow Wilson who pushed for his Fourteen Points including a League of Nations, and David Lloyd George who was concern ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
"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
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-history
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
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I rank this book as one of my favorites because it explained the restitution in which Germany unfairly had to pay. The author explained thoroughly the reason for WWI. The reason was because there was a system of competing alliances. The Serbians were aligned with Russia but under Austrian control. Austria was aligned with Germany and France aligned with Russia. When Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austrian throne, was killed in 1914 by a Serbian separatist the Austrians cr ...more
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Macoco G.M.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Muy buen libro, aunque a veces peca de ser demasiado exhaustivo con los datos, pero te da una inmejorable visión del Tratado de Versalles, de cómo se formó por primera vez un gobierno universal con Inglaterra, Francia, EEUU a la cabeza, de cómo EEUU intentó a través de Wilson impulsar nuevas formas en la diplomacia dando importancia a la autodeterminación y a la decisión de las minorías, y de cómo al final sus intenciones chocaron con los miedos y resentimientos franceses que impusieron una cond ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it
My issue with Margaret MacMillan's books is that, while exhaustively researched and meant to entertain while educating, they always come down to her playing on our gossipy and gleeful natures. With such a riot of information and colorful personalities, most people don't seem to notice, or mind, the tendency of meanness towards not only historical figures but entire nations. Yes, she only ever quotes other's opinions and observations, but there are ways and ways to present a person, let alone a w ...more
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
(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
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
Eric Althoff
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jill Hutchinson
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-history
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
Neil Fox
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Paris conference of 1919 and its attendant Treaty of Versailles have been acrimonously vilified in the popular imagination by everyone from John Maynard Keynes to Adolf Hitler, and are held responsible for the rise of Fascism in the 1930's and being in effect the direct cause of World War 2. Had the conference achieved a different and fairer outcome, the historical wisdom goes, the World would have been spared the horrors of a second, far more destructive, Global conflict and the subsequent ...more
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
Paris 1919 reviews the worldwide geopolitical situation in the aftermath of WWI. From Western Europe to Central Europe, the Balkans and Russia, from the Near East to the Far East, endless conflicts and national aspirations are examined through the lens of The Paris Peace Conference. The war and its resolution set the foundation for the rest of the century. Paris 1919 immensely improved my understanding of not just this period, but all of twentieth century history.

Detailing the meetings, infighti
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In addition to being a superb and very readable account of events that transpired in 1919 and their aftermath, Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World" is a book with purpose. She sets out to debunk, I believe successfully, the long-embraced view that Germany was a victim of a vindictive peace. Without ignoring the political difficulties that the Western powers faced and the failure of their efforts, MacMillan places blame squarely where it belongs; at the feet of Ado ...more
It is somewhat ironic that I finished this book on 9/11, the same day of remembrance for those fellow US citizens who were killed in an attack carried out by middle easterners, of whom most citizens knew nothing about.

"Why, we don't even know these people!" we said. "What did we do?" we asked. After reading this book, one realizes that under the leadership of our 27th president, Woodrow Wilson, the middle east was moved around geographically and kicked around metaphorically--creating several un
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, ww1-ww2
I wanted to find out more about Europe after WW1 and in the inter-war years, so this seemed like a good place to start.

We talk about the 1914-18 war, the “Armistice” that ended it and the subsequent “Treaty of Versailles”. But I had not really appreciated that there was a full six months between the end of the war and the treaty finally being signed in May 1919. And I had not really understood that the treaty involved so such more than just the assessment of reparations to be taken from Germany;
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Clif Hostetler
Dec 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
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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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“The delegates to the peace conference after World War I "tried to impose a rational order on an irrational world.” 4 likes
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