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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  10,184 ratings  ·  697 reviews
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 sec ...more
Hardcover, 570 pages
Published October 29th 2002 by Random House (first published September 6th 2001)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  10,184 ratings  ·  697 reviews

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What a fantastic read! I learned so much from MacMillan's intricate account of the time after the Great War. Relying on many historical facts and documents, MacMillan offers up not only a depiction of the world in the months after the Armistice had been signed, but how the world changed dramatically. I knew little of the fallout of the Great War, save that there was a Treaty of Versailles. I knew the German reaction to the Treaty and Peace led to the fuelling of animosity and, eventually, the ri ...more
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
“For six months in 1919, Paris was the capital of the world. The Peace Conference was the world’s most important business, the peacemakers its most powerful people. They met day after day. They argued, debated, quarreled and made it up again. They created new countries and new organizations. They dined together and went to the theater together, and between January and June, Paris was at once the world’s government, its court of appeal and its parliament, the focus of its fears and hopes. Officia ...more
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
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 meetin
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 confer/>Paris
“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 you learn from reading
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi
Clemenceau did not much like either Wilson or Lloyd George. “I find myself,” he said in a phrase that went round Paris, “between Jesus Christ on the one hand, and Napoleon Bonaparte on the other.”

If Guns of August, the historical masterpiece by Barbara Tuchman, is the opening book covering the causes of World War I, then Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan is the equally impressive book to wrap up WWI.

Until I read Paris 1919, I did not fully appreciate the history that led up to the signing of th
Connie G
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
"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
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 redrawin ...more
Michael Perkins
“When Marshal Foch heard of the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles he observed with singular accuracy: 'This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years.' (Winston S. Churchill)


The author (a Canadian), is a very good writer and does separate portraits of the main players in Paris, as well as several others, who played some part in the conference.

These are some of what she observes about Woodrow Wilson....

Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 postcar ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ray LaManna
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This excellent historical narrative brings to a close my 5-year project of reading about the events surrounding World War I whose 100th anniversary we celebrated this month with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

It's been quite an experience reading history studies, plays, poems, novels, ordinary soldiers' memoirs, letters and critiques of this central event of the 20th century. The Great War changed everything... and it did not bring a feeling of lasting peace. And the Treaty of Versaill
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Margaret MacMillan has written a masterful, exceptionally-researched volume on one of history's critical fulcrums, for which she has earned much deserved praise. A few personal reactions are in order, I feel. For some, perhaps undeserved reason, I found myself slogging through this work, about two-thirds of the way in; maybe it was the amount of attention devoted to what seem satellite issues, like the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, the Arab states, Japan, China, and did I mention Turkey? Yes, I under ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Clif Hostetler
Dec 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 (and otherwise) c ...more
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 m
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Whitebeard Books
So many incredible things happened during this time period. I recall as a student being told that one should learn from history so we don't repeat mistakes. The current politicians and those pretending to be really need to read this tomb and take to heart the lesson that if holds.
Brendan Monroe
If reading 900 pages on the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the making of the Treaty of Versailles doesn't seem like your idea of a good time, I'm here to tell you how wrong you are. Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World" is sensationally good. Not in that, "whew, thank god I'm done - at least I learned something" kind of way, but in that "Damn, I'm done - and there's so much still I want to know!" kind of way. This book is never boring, but does such a great job ...more
Jeremy Perron
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Margaret Macmillan gives an incredible account of one half of am important year. That year, 1919, was both a historical and horrible year at the same time. For centuries the foreign policy of nations had been in the Metternichian school of realism based on the `balance of power' and the winner taking the spoils. 1919, however began with the birth of new kind of foreign policy: idealism. Wilson and his fourteen points were to rewrite the rules of old and bring forth a more just foreign policy. No ...more
Loring Wirbel
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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 do
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 not actual
Carol Storm
Feb 24, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Did not finish -- way too boring and slow.
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). Portrai
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 thin
Eric Althoff
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
A fascinating and absorbing book on the Paris peace conference in 1919 at the close of World War I. This title is filed on the top shelf of my history books due to the information presented and the skill of the presentation by Margaret MacMillan.
Recommended to anyone interested in the effect that World War I had and still has upon the world.
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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.


“The delegates to the peace conference after World War I "tried to impose a rational order on an irrational world.” 6 likes
“Wilson agreed reluctantly to their attempts: “I don’t much like to make a compromise with people who aren’t reasonable. They will always believe that, by persisting in their claims, they will be able to obtain more.” 3 likes
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