The story of Europe's diplomatic meltdown has never been better told' Spectator 'The Canadian historian laces The War That Ended Peace with deft character sketches and uses sources incisively MacMillan escorts the reader skilfully through the military, diplomatic and political crises that framed the road to war from to ' FT 'Excellent, elegantly written book Her pen portraits of the chief players are both enjoyable and illuminating.
Among the cascade of books arriving for the anniversary, this work truly stands out' Antony Beevor 'MacMillan is a perceptive guide to the thought processes of the key players' --Simon Griffith. There was an increasing view that the end of the old order was nigh, and that they may as well finish it sooner rather than later. Having thus set the scene, MacMillan takes the successive stepping stones, especially the Tangier incident of , the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in , and the Agadir crisis of These demonstrated that Europe was fortunate not to go to war as a result, but might not be able to pull back from the brink next time.
Even then, had a few more cautious individuals been listened to, it might have been otherwise. Ironically it was Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, who was urging restraint on the more hawkish forces around him, whose assassination at Sarajevo in set in motion the final headlong rush to arms. An element of black farce hung over the leading French radical minister Joseph Caillaux, who was convinced that France and Germany could work together, and had helped to broker a peaceful solution to the Agadir crisis. Unfortunately, his second wife chose to silence a leading newspaper editor who was threatening to publish some indiscreet love letters by shooting him dead in his office.
McMillan recounts the complicated story very well, ending with a short chapter on the war and a paragraph in which she asks who was to blame for the war — was it any one of half a dozen individuals, institutions or ideas, nationalism, or several other culprits? The answer is still the stuff of many an exam essay. With pages this book is not a light read, but it examines the issues with thoroughness and readability, recounting the basic facts and bringing the persons involved to life very well. In the first instance, it was a solution to the long-festering Slav problem — in the second, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Who says that history never repeats itself? It might have helped if she had positioned herself in relation to the historiography — the historical literature on this topic is rich and vast, but she makes no attempt to review it.
When MacMillan picks up speed, however, she writes prose like an Audi — purring smoothly along the diplomatic highway, accelerating effortlessly as she goes the distance. Nick Cohen. James Kirkup.
The War That Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan | The Times
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The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War
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