Review: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.

Posted by 2018 article


The Paris Peace Conference was an event the like of which we will never see again. It brought together some of the most powerful people in the world for six months. As they talked, debated, agreed and disagreed, they got to know each other in a way that few leaders have time for today. It is simply inconceivable today that the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Prime Ministers of Italy and France, Australia and Canada or the Queen of Romania, to mention only a few of those who were there, would spend so much time together talking over great and sometimes trivial issues.

The Peace Conference has usually been remembered as a failure and its participants as obstinately short-sighted and foolish. This is unfair. The peacemakers faced problems which often defied solution. It should always be remembered that the conference took place in the aftermath of the worst world war that had been seen in modern history. The signs of the war were visible everywhere in Paris. Half the women on the streets in 1919 were wearing black because they had lost someone in that war. There were gaps in the trees along the grand avenues because the trees had been cut down for firewood. Many of the delegates also made the short trip northwards to the battlefields of the Western Front.

In the Allied countries, before the peace conference met, there was as well considerable enthusiasm for punishing the leaders of the Central Powers, in particular those of Germany which had been the dominant partner. There was talk of trying Kaiser Wilhelm II, who, after one last bombastic speech about dying at the head of his troops, had gone off ignominiously by train to a comfortable refuge in the Netherlands. Lloyd George toyed with the idea of sending him, as the British had done with Napoleon, to an island, perhaps in the Falklands. In the end the Dutch government refused to hand him over.

The Paris Peace Conference was an event the like of which we will never see again. It brought together some of the most powerful people in the world for six months. As they talked, debated, agreed and disagreed, they got to know each other in a way that few leaders have time for today. It is simply inconceivable today that the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Prime Ministers of Italy and France, Australia and Canada or the Queen of Romania, to mention only a few of those who were there, would spend so much time together talking over great and sometimes trivial issues.

The Peace Conference has usually been remembered as a failure and its participants as obstinately short-sighted and foolish. This is unfair. The peacemakers faced problems which often defied solution. It should always be remembered that the conference took place in the aftermath of the worst world war that had been seen in modern history. The signs of the war were visible everywhere in Paris. Half the women on the streets in 1919 were wearing black because they had lost someone in that war. There were gaps in the trees along the grand avenues because the trees had been cut down for firewood. Many of the delegates also made the short trip northwards to the battlefields of the Western Front.

In the Allied countries, before the peace conference met, there was as well considerable enthusiasm for punishing the leaders of the Central Powers, in particular those of Germany which had been the dominant partner. There was talk of trying Kaiser Wilhelm II, who, after one last bombastic speech about dying at the head of his troops, had gone off ignominiously by train to a comfortable refuge in the Netherlands. Lloyd George toyed with the idea of sending him, as the British had done with Napoleon, to an island, perhaps in the Falklands. In the end the Dutch government refused to hand him over.

Of particular interest in this book is MacMillan’s attempt to debunk the traditional view held by historians that the Second World War was a direct consequence of the peace talks in Paris. As her work clearly demonstrates, this assessment is far too simplified and does not take into effect Adolf Hitler’s aggressive, racist, and overly-ambitious mindset during the 1930s. As she states: “Hitler did not wage war because of the Treaty of Versailles…he found its existence a godsend for his propaganda” (MacMillan, 493).

MacMillan goes on to explain that “even if Germany had been left with its old borders, even if it had been allowed whatever military forces it wanted, even if it had been permitted to join with Austria, he [Hitler] would have wanted more” (MacMillan, 493). This is a particularly interesting point because it portrays the origins of World War Two in a manner that goes against accepted ideology and serves as a great counterpoint to traditional historiographical interpretations already in existence.

Even with this small shortcoming, however, I give this book 4/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a history of diplomacy, post-war politics, and the interwar years of the early Twentieth Century.



Free links

Posted by 2018 Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World - amazon.com

Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret.

Posted by 2018 article

51KI3103w2L