Paris 1919: the lessons of history

The author of the bestselling book Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, which received the 2003 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction, will deliver a special lecture that examines the ways history can provide lessons and insights to help society deal with the present. Margaret MacMillan, provost of Trinity College and professor of history at the University of Toronto, will present the next instalment of York’s Distinguished Lecture Series. The lecture will take place on Tuesday, March 1, at 7pm in the Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson College. The event is organized and sponsored by the Office of the Master, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

Paris 1919 was the surprise hit of the 2002-2003 publishing season, making bestseller lists, garnering awards and glowing reviews at home and abroad. It was an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times as one of the seven best books of 2002.

For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars”, the Big Three – US president Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau – met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, MacMillan provides a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities – Iraq, Yugoslavia and Palestine, among them – born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn.

In her lecture, MacMillan will focus on the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 during which many of the structures, issues and problems that are still with society today were discussed by the Big Three. These include troubled states such as Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, international institutions such as the United Nations and challenges such as ethnic nationalism.

Right: Margaret MacMillan

Educated at the University of Toronto, MacMillan completed an Hons. BA in history.  She then undertook her graduate studies at Oxford University in the UK. MacMillan’s publications include Women of the Raj and Peacemakers: the Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to Make Peace, which was published in North America as Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World. The 1919 book (both versions) received the Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, the Hessel-Tiltman Prize for History, the Silver Medal for the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award, in addition to the Governor General’s Award. It was also a finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Non-Fiction.

Her most recent book is Parties Long Estranged: Canadian-Australian Relations (2003, UBC Press), co-edited with Francine McKenzie.

More about Margaret MacMillan

MacMillan taught at Ryerson University in Toronto for over 25 years. During that time, she also chaired the History Department. She edited the International Journal from 1995 to 2003 and currently is on the boards of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Historica and the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parlimentary Democracy (Canada). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Fellow of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford.

The Distinguished Lecture Series was created by the Office of the Master, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies to expose students, staff, faculty, and the York community to a wide range of current views and contemporary topics. 

The event is sponsored by the Master’s Office, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, and the Council of Masters: Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, Bethune, Calumet, Founders, Glendon, McLaughlin, Stong, Vanier and Winters Colleges. For more information, call ext. 55727.