|Author and historian Margaret MacMillan (Photo by Brett Gundlock)|
We are pleased to welcome a new critic, Jessica L. Radin, to our group.
For those of us who love to read, finding a work of history that is that perfect combination of well written and well researched is something of a Holy Grail. Well-written histories often tend toward the personal, and, while such books are enjoyable, the knowledge that they yield is often at best sparse, and at worst dubious and ideologically inflected. Well-researched histories, full of information, can be so dry and so lacking in narrative that they suck the life out the stories that they (barely) tell. It is tempting to resort to summaries – and particular this month, with the world commemorating WWI, such summaries abound.
But, if you can find a history which is well written and well researched, there is almost nothing more satisfying – those are the texts which illuminate moments, facts, and people that perhaps we have heard of, have seen illustrated in photographs and paintings, but about which we know very little. Margaret MacMillan’s two books on WWI provide precisely that illumination and, with a light touch that always avoids pedantry, can remind readers of why the Great War still has lessons to teach us today. While Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Random House, 2003) – MacMillan's award-winning account of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the war – is perhaps the more famous of the two, in this centenary year it serves us best to start at the beginning. In The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (Random House, 2013), MacMillan provides a riveting account of how the world went to war.