Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, by Margaret MacMillan

paris1919Like the companion volume, The War That Ended Peace, this book took me awhile to get through, but it’s absolutely packed full of fascinating background information about the 1919 Paris Peace conference that ended World War One. Everyone with a cursory knowledge of history knows that that conference produced the Treaty of Versailles, whose harsh punitive terms have often been blamed for fanning the flames of fascism in Germany, leading to World War Two. However, there was so much more going on at the Paris Peace Conference as well!

I often tell my Grade 12 History students that the peace conference “redrew the map of Europe,” but I had never realized how true that was, how contentious the process was, or how fascinating the characters involved were, till I read this meticulously researched but completely approachable book. Countries such as Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia appeared on the map for the first time, while the destruction of the old Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires led to competition and struggle for the lands they had once ruled. This book is an important, popular-level work written by a scholar who not only knows how to study history but how to make it interesting.

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