The War That Ended Peace

The War That Ended Peace

The Road to 1914

Book - 2013
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The New York Times Book Review * The Economist * The Christian Science Monitor * Bloomberg Businessweek * The Globe and Mail

From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I.
The century since the end of the Napoleonic wars had been the most peaceful era Europe had known since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the first years of the twentieth century, Europe believed it was marching to a golden, happy, and prosperous future. But instead, complex personalities and rivalries, colonialism and ethnic nationalisms, and shifting alliances helped to bring about the failure of the long peace and the outbreak of a war that transformed Europe and the world.
The War That Ended Peace brings vividly to life the military leaders, politicians, diplomats, bankers, and the extended, interrelated family of crowned heads across Europe who failed to stop the descent into war: in Germany, the mercurial Kaiser Wilhelm II and the chief of the German general staff, Von Moltke the Younger; in Austria-Hungary, Emperor Franz Joseph, a man who tried, through sheer hard work, to stave off the coming chaos in his empire; in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and his wife; in Britain, King Edward VII, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, and British admiral Jacky Fisher, the fierce advocate of naval reform who entered into the arms race with Germany that pushed the continent toward confrontation on land and sea.
There are the would-be peacemakers as well, among them prophets of the horrors of future wars whose warnings went unheeded: Alfred Nobel, who donated his fortune to the cause of international understanding, and Bertha von Suttner, a writer and activist who was the first woman awarded Nobel's new Peace Prize. Here too we meet the urbane and cosmopolitan Count Harry Kessler, who noticed many of the early signs that something was stirring in Europe; the young Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and a rising figure in British politics; Madame Caillaux, who shot a man who might have been a force for peace; and more. With indelible portraits, MacMillan shows how the fateful decisions of a few powerful people changed the course of history.
Taut, suspenseful, and impossible to put down, The War That Ended Peace is also a wise cautionary reminder of how wars happen in spite of the near-universal desire to keep the peace. Destined to become a classic in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August , The War That Ended Peace enriches our understanding of one of the defining periods and events of the twentieth century.
Praise for The War That Ended Peace
"Magnificent . . . The War That Ended Peace will certainly rank among the best books of the centennial crop." -- The Economist
"Superb." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Masterly . . . marvelous . . . Those looking to understand why World War I happened will have a hard time finding a better place to start." -- The Christian Science Monitor
"The debate over the war's origins has raged for years. Ms. MacMillan's explanation goes straight to the heart of political fallibility. . . . Elegantly written, with wonderful character sketches of the key players, this is a book to be treasured." --The Wall Street Journal

"A magisterial 600-page panorama." --Christopher Clark, London Review of Books

Publisher: New York : Random House, [2013]
Edition: First U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9781400068555
Characteristics: xxxv, 739 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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July 2015

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Feb 03, 2018

A monumental work, and a strongly human tracing of the interactions, shifting perceptions, and even more-shifting alliances that helped Europe on its slow slide to War in 1914. One of the most interesting (if most speculative, and thus the least rigorous) aspects of the writing are the frequent parallels MacMillan draws between international relations then and more recent events: Britain facing a resurgent Germany in 1914 compared to America and Russia during the Cold War, or America and China today, for instance. Tensions between national budgets on military spending and on social programs, the tendency of military planners to envision future wars in terms of past conditions, and the inherent momentum of an arms race, all of these also can inform the present when seeing how those in the past failed to envision options and alternatives.

Nov 02, 2015

An interesting read. The historical parts are sort of all over the place, but the character profiles of the people behind the decisions leading to war are excellent. A good start for readers not overly familiar with this period in world history. Eagerly awaiting her newest book!

Apr 01, 2015

It only took me four and a half months and 6 checkouts from the library to finish this book. Not that it was a bad book at all but it is very detailed and required more concentration than I am used to giving a book.
This book gave a very complete and comprehensive view of the politics and personalities that combined to create the first world war. I admittedly have little familiarity with the era and the profusion of names from different countries left me a little lost sometimes. I also found the detail in the book staggering and found that it made the reading a bit of a slog despite my fascination with it's subject matter.

Mar 29, 2015

This has been a grossly overrated work of history. A lot of it is at the level of a tabloid newspaper. We are fed endless details about the politicians’ mistresses in its 700 pages, but there is a real shortage of serious analysis. Although the immediate cause of the war was the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia, Ms. MacMillan does not even deign to provide readers with an outline of what were its terms, or summarize the incredibly conciliatory response of the Serbian government, considering the insulting tone of the ultimatum itself. This points up another weakness of the book; the author is a virulent Serbophobe, who misses no opportunity to take Serbs down a notch.
It isn’t even reliable as to facts, but is littered with errors great and small. Russia became the world’s largest country in the 17th century, not the 19th, the Battle of Borodino was not a Russian victory, the Black Hand’s newspaper was called “Pijemont”, not “Piejmont”, the Ruthenians in Austrian Galicia spoke Ukrainian and not a language related to Ukrainian, the King of Montenegro was called Nikola, not Nicholas (if this is just an Anglicization of a Serbo-Croat name then Ms. MacMillan is not consistent, as she writes of Nikola Pašić, the Serbian PM, not Nicholas Pašić), Gavrilo Princip believed in Yugoslavia and was not a Serbian nationalist, he died in a prison in what is now the Czech Republic, not in an Austrian prison, and contrary to the author’s statement, was full of anxiety that his assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand may have done more harm than good.
The following sentence is unfortunately all too typical of the general tone of the book: “During the crisis over the Bosnian annexation, for example, Italy’s suggestions for a settlement were brushed aside and there was no thought of giving it any compensation in the Balkans.” Here, it seems, we are supposed to commiserate with Italy, not given its due, and not with the people of the Balkans, treated as spoils by the Great Powers, with their own interests ignored.

SFPL_danielay Feb 11, 2015

A very eye-opening account of the lead-up to World War I. After reading this account, there is no more surprise about the fact that war on a global scale broke out at that point in time, just sadness that it could have been avoided.

Feb 05, 2015

Yet another important work by Margaret Macmillan. Full of detail and information about the the powerful actors who failed a generation of young people. The only slight criticism is that Macmillain tends to jump around with dates and names making it at times slow reading. Overall though an enjoyable read. At the end of the day we witness a catastrophe unfold where, once again, none of the rich and greedy that benefited handsomely are held accountable.

Sep 04, 2014

As usual, Margared MacMillan writes well for the intelligent layperson. The text could have used more editing, but is, as others have noted, insightful and rich in detail.

Sep 01, 2014

This book is an excellent place to start explorations of World War 1. MacMillan is an engaging (and often humorous) storyteller who makes historical characters and intrigues come alive. The asides about Canada are very funny. The extensive index and maps are clear and helpful.

Aug 11, 2014

This book sheds a lot of light on what led to the "War to End All Wars." Much insight provided, including the problematic personal union between Austria and Hungary, the clueless nature of the Romanovs, and the arms race between Britain and Germany that presaged the battles of today. A heavy read but a worthwhile one.

May 06, 2014

Wonderful book, very readable. This period is so interesting in that it leads to this horrific war and Ms. MacMillan describes the causes so well. A must read.

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Nov 02, 2015

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Aug 11, 2014

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SPL_STARR Jun 23, 2015

"Louvain was a dull place, said a guidebook in 1910, but when the time came it made a spectacular fire."


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