THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE
THE ROAD TO 1914
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The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress, and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict that killed millions, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe’s dominance of the world. It was a war that could have been avoided up to the last moment—so why did it happen?
Beginning in the early nineteenth century and ending with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, award-winning historian Margaret Macmillan uncovers the huge political and technological changes, national decisions, and just as important, the small moments of human muddle and weakness that led Europe from peace to disaster. This masterful exploration of how Europe chose its path towards war will change and enrich how we see this defining moment in history.
Europe in 1900
On April 14, 1900, Emile Loubet, the President of France, talked approvingly about justice and human kindness as he opened the Paris Universal Exposition. There was little kindness to be found in the press comments at the time. The exhibitions were not ready; the site was a dusty mess of building works; and almost everyone hated the giant statue over the entrance of a woman modeled on the actress Sarah Bernhardt and dressed in a fashionable evening dress. Yet the Exposition went on to be a triumph, with over 50 million visitors.
“That MacMillan's research is both thorough and of the utmost quality goes without saying; however, the relevant lessons she draws out of the "puzzle" that precipitated the Great War bear repeating again and again. Above all she reminds us that, even in an increasingly interconnected world, nothing is inevitable and there are always choices to be made that can lead us to achieve conflict prevention.”
—General Romeo Dallaire
“The War that Ended Peace tells the story of how intelligent, well-meaning leaders guided their nations into catastrophe. These epic events, brilliantly described by one our era’s most talented historians, warn of the dangers that arise when we fail to anticipate the consequences of our actions. Immersed in intrigue, enlivened by fascinating stories, and made compelling by the author’s own insights, this is one of the finest books I have read on the causes of World War I.”
—Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State
“Once again, Margaret MacMillan proves herself not just a masterly historian but a brilliant storyteller. She brings to life the personalities whose decisions, rivalries, ambitions, and fantasies led Europe to “lay waste to itself” and triggered decades of global conflict. Hers is a cautionary tale of follies a century in the past that seem all too familiar today.”
—Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution
“The War That Ended Peace is a masterful explanation of the complex forces that brought the Edwardian world crashing down. Utterly riveting, deeply moving, and impeccably researched, MacMillan's latest opus will become the definitive account of old Europe's final years.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire