Virtually all historians agree that the Versailles Peace Conference was a monumental failure that set the stage for the outbreak of World War II. However, there is no consensus regarding the causes of that failure. Some blame Woodrow Wilson and his high-minded but absurdly impractical ideals; others blame the cynicism and narrow nationalism of Lloyd George and Clemenceau. MacMillan is a professor of history at the University of Toronto and the great-granddaughter of Lloyd George. Her narrative and analysis of the critical first six months of the negotiations will not end the controversy. However, this engrossing and inevitably depressing account is a vital contribution to efforts at understanding the deeply flawed agreements that emerged. At times, MacMillan's recounting of the minutiae of negotiations can be overwhelming, but the great accomplishments of this work are her perceptive and eloquent depictions of the key players in the conference. Of course, Wilson, as the dominant force, is at the center of her account, and she convincingly tarnishes his image as a great statesman. He was often insufferably rigid and arrogant, and his espousal of frustratingly vague concepts like "self-determination" often confused even his own advisors. For those who seek a deeper understanding of one of history's most tragic failures, this book is a treasure. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
From Library Journal
In an ambitious narrative, MacMillan (history, University of Toronto) seeks to recover the original intent, constraints, and goals of the diplomats who sat down to hammer out a peace treaty in the aftermath of the Great War. In particular, she focuses on the "Big Three" Wilson (United States), Lloyd George (Great Britain), and Clemenceau (France) who dominated the critical first six months of the Paris Peace Conference. Viewing events through such a narrow lens can reduce diplomacy to the parochial concerns of individuals. But instead of falling into this trap, MacMillan uses the Big Three as a starting point for analyzing the agendas of the multitude of individuals who came to Versailles to achieve their largely nationalist aspirations. Following her analysis of the forces at work in Europe, MacMillan takes the reader on a tour de force of the postwar battlefields of Asia and the Middle East. Of particular interest is her sympathy for those who tried to make the postwar world more peaceful. Although their lofty ambitions fell prey to the passions of nationalism, this should not detract from their efforts. This book will help rehabilitate the peacemakers of 1919 and is recommended for all libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
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