"The War That Ended Peace" is an extensively researched study of the people and events that led Europe to World War I. The Road To 1914 did not begin in Sarajevo. Author Margaret MacMillian begins with the state of Europe in 1900 and then examines the countries, leaders and issues that drove history down that road. The readers learn much about the Kaiser, Kings Edward VII and George V, Tsar Nicholas, Emperor Franz Joseph, colonial rivalries and the flare-ups over places like Morocco and the Balkans and shifts in relative power that threatened to bring the Great Powers into conflict. With the background laid MacMillan examines the plans for war and peace and the interests that threatened to reshuffle the alliances in the days leading up to war. Finally the narrative covers the downward slope through the assassination, ultimata, negotiations, mobilizations and declarations until "The lamps are going out all over Europe."
This is historical writing at its finest. I do not, by any means, consider myself an expert on World War I. Despite that limitation this book never left me confused or bored. What I found to be a rare but fascinating quality is the ability to draw parallels between events of a century ago and more recent ones. The comparison between the visit of King Edward VII to Paris and President Nixon to Beijing is one example. Many of us will will become much more familiar with World War I during the upcoming Centennial. "The War That Ended Peace" is a great introduction to the Great War.