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tv   Q A  CSPAN  December 16, 2013 6:00am-7:01am EST

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host: margaret macmillan, author of "the war that ended peace -- the road to 1914." i want to jump ahead in your book to june 28, 1914. what happened? guest: the archduke franz ferdinand and his wife were in sarajevo, part of austria- hungary. it was a bad day for him to come, because it was a serbian holiday. serbia was furious that austria- hungary had taken over bosnia. there were plotters who had been plotting to build a greater serbia. it was one of the symbols of the oppression within austria- hungary, and they decided to kill him, and they did. it was sloppy police work. they shot one of -- one of conspirators shot the archduke and his wife point blank.
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host: put these two people in context. what is an archduke? guest: it was one of the titles given to the royal family the habsburgs that ruled austria- hungary. and archduke franz ferdinand was the heir to this empire. his uncle, emperor francis, was getting very old. his wife was a countess, and she was not seen as grand enough to marry a habsburg. so the marriage was -- she was allowed to marry him but the children would never go out and inherit the throne. she was never given the proper honors of an archduchess. it was said, it was -- his last words were, "sofie, you must live for the children." host: this is the man who killed him.
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who is he? guest: he is a young boy from the countryside in bosnia. passionate nationalist. he was one of these young men who came out of a traditional rural society. who come into cities. he was a nationalist committed to building a greater serbia. and he was a ringleader of a plot to assassinate the archduke. he was the man who pulled the trigger. host: any idea how old he was? guest: 17. because he was underage, the austrians did not execute him. he was put in prison. he died in 1918, unrepentant to the end about what he had unleashed. host: how did he kill them? guest: he was standing on the street corner. there were several plotters. one had a bomb that had badly shaken everyone.
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the ceremonies were rushed through. it was decided to get the archduke out as quickly as possible. they were driving in cavalcade down a street that runs beside the river that runs through sarajevo, and they took a wrong turn and the archduke started to follow and someone shouted, don't go there. the car stopped. and he waited there with a gun, and he stepped up to the car and shot them both point-blank. host: you said in your book that there were seven men that were involved in this? guest: seven conspirators stationed at various parts around sarajevo with bombs. they had cyanide tablets to take if they were caught. in some ways, they remind me very much of terrorists today. they had this nihilistic view. they were determined to kill in a spectacular way. they were like suicide bombers.
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host: why did this lead to the start of world war i? guest: it was one of those incidents that set up a chain reaction that was the excuse that austria-hungary had been waiting for. from austria-hungary's point of view, serbia was a menace to the survival of austria-hungary. it was a great multinational empire. within austria-hungary, the nationalities were getting restless. this was the great age of nationalism. among the subjects in austria- hungary were a number of people who were known as slugs. they include serbs, slovenias and slovaks. serbia was acting as a magnet for them in austria-hungary. was giving them training in military tactics and so on, saying to them within austria- hungary, leave the prison. come and join us. what austria-hungary feared is if this happened the other nationalities within the empire
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would ask for the same thing. they were having troubles with the poles in the north and the czechs and the slovaks. it was not just a pesky neighbor that had assassinated its heir. it was an accidental threat. serbia was not destroyed. austria-hungary probably would be. host: 11 years ago you were here talking about a book called "paris, 1919." guest: i can see how much older i look. [video clip] guest: when i realized that lawrence of arabia was there. queen maria was there. i thought this is just such a wonderful collection of people. we love gossip. i thought, this is such a wonderful subject.
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then i realized no one had really done it. you think, good. then to be serious, i realized some of the great issues were discussed then. some of the things we are still dealing with were discussed in 1919. host: how did that book do? guest: it did very well. it surprised me. it surprised my publishers. i would put it down in part to timing. it came out 10 years after the end of the cold war when the world was in a much more complicated place. yugoslavia was breaking up. there was trouble in the middle east. so much of what was happening either resembled what was happening at the end of the first world war or was a direct consequence of it. i think a lot of people read my book hoping to understand the world in which they were living. host: can they still buy it? guest: i am delighted to say it
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is still in print. host: so what part of 1919 did that book cover? how long was that time period? guest: it was six-months. like all history, you have to go back and explain what came before. i like to say what happened next. i looked at the paris peace conference, the big conference called at the end of the first world war to try to deal with the defeated nations, try to settle the world, and try to build an international system with the league of nations so you would not get a great war like this again. so what i dealt with was the six-months when all of the major world leaders were there, but i had to explain the background because so many came before them. i had to explain why there was a romania, bulgaria, a russian revolution. so what happened after the settlement, so i did not leave the story hanging. host: how important were they -- was 1919 and the decisions made at versailles?
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guest: the league of nations may have failed -- but it nevertheless set a very important precedent. and it also set a lot of borders, many of which are still in use today. it created new states such as czechoslovakia and yugoslavia, some of which are not any longer here today. and some of which, like iraq, are here today. the settlement in the middle east -- the borders were drawn after 1919. host: so go to this book. we had you here, check my date, in 2007 for the nixon-mao book. what drew you to write that book? guest: i tend to move from one subject to another. i am interested in moments with history when issues become clear, even though they are not subtle.
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when you read through the first world war, the one i had just done, it was the beginning of a tremendous upheaval in history. the peace conference was an attempt to set up a new world order. and the nixon-mao book fascinated me because there was a shift in international relationships, with a long, cold period between the united states and china that lasted until 1949. in 1970, it changed and the relationship opened up. what i'm interested in is the human beings who either make things happen or fail to make these things happen. host: back to paris, 1919. what were you doing then? where did you live? guest: i was living in canada. i had done one book before that on british living in india. i had a certain amount of trouble in finding a publisher.
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i still remember one who said, nobody wants to read about a bunch of dead white men sitting around the table talking. at any rate, that book came out and it did quite well. i had established a track record. so i suggested the nixon book. it is a fascinating period. and i found nixon and mao absolutely fascinating characters. and henry kissinger equally interesting. i was asked by a publisher if i would do the first world war book. then i kept thinking about it. i move from one subject to another. i also moved physically, because when i wrote my paris book i was in toronto. shortly after that came out, i
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moved to the west of toronto where i was head of the college. five years ago, i moved to a college in oxford and became a warden. it sounds like a prison, but it is not. i have moved quite a bit. for me, it has been great fun. host: what does the warden do? guest: a warden is the equivalent of the ceo. i am the one who is responsible for the college. so anything that goes wrong, i get blamed or take responsibility for it. i have to make sure it all works. i'm lucky because i have a nice college and very good fellows at the college and great staff. it is really an interesting job. my college is very international. a lot of american students, students from all over the world. we have an incoming class of 210 from 45 countries. host: when you were here back in 2007, i think there were 33 colleges at oxford. how many are there now? guest: something like 41. it keeps growing. i have to think because there are partly colleges and partly not. it is very much a collegiate university.
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cambridge is also. but otherwise, there are not many like it. host: how many students in your college and what is the name of it? guest: it's st. antony's college, without the "h." it has 442 students. host: when did you find time to write this book and when did you start it? guest: i started five years ago. i employed research assistants, which in a way i do not like doing because i like doing the research myself. but it because my students are read all kinds of languages -- i took a leave from my college and put my head down and wrote it. host: so "the war that ended peace." when did you start? what period did you start writing about and it went up to the assassination and the start of the war. guest: what i meant to do and what i did are two different things. what i meant to do was to write
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a book on the summer of 1914 when you're going to war. as soon as i got into it, i thought you do not understand how things got so bad in the summer of 1914 without understanding what went before. i started in the end of the 1890's when germany decided to start a naval race with great britain. great britain realized it needed to look around for allies. i decided this was a point to start to try and explain the background. the temptation with history is to go back and back and back. but i went back to the 1890's. host: any recommendations? i have read your book, and i must say it is a very convuluted story. how do you approach, how should somebody approach it to get a grasp of all of the different empires and countries and who they were associated with?
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guest: one way of approaching -- that is how i divided it up -- was to try to understand who the players were and what their feelings were and what their thinking was and what the structures were. so what i try to do is explain what britain was like as this whole process moving towards the war started. britain was the biggest power in the world, the biggest navy, the biggest empire, and it was feeling the strain. i tried to explain what it was that made britain react the way it did. the same for france, russia, germany, austria-hungary, italy. those were the main players. i tried to give people an understanding of what these countries were like. then i tried to say something more generally about europe, because a lot of things caused the war. nationalist ideas which took different shapes in different countries. across borders. an internal struggle among different nations. i tried to look at the ways in which there were common themes across europe. then i tried to do the chronology, because i think it is important we try to understand why things happen to
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know what people are thinking about when they make decisions. so what was in the minds of the people in 1914 was very much what happened before. host: for americans, the war started when? guest: the war, it became a general war in august 4, 1914, when the british joined in. it really starts in the last week of july. host: when did the americans get in it? guest: americans came in in april, 1917. initially the united states looked at what is happening in europe with dismay, bewilderment. why were the europeans doing this? woodrow wilson offered to serve as a mediator at the beginning of the war before the shooting started. he was not listened to. for a lot of americans, the war, that was something that was happening on the other side of the atlantic. they did not have interest in getting involved. but it was german policy that brought them in, very shortsighted german policy.
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host: correct me if i have it wrong -- i wrote down that we, the united states, lost 114,000 soldiers in world war i. guest: i think that was both killed and casualties. host: but then the figures i got out of your book -- between the summer, 1914, and november 11, 1918, 9 million soldiers dead? and 15 million soldiers wounded? guest: yes. it is so hard to believe. you think of what europe was like. it was prosperous, stable. and doing this. the french, i think, took the heaviest losses of any country in proportion to their population. one in four frenchmen were killed or badly wounded. think of what that means to society. host: i want you to explain this you said there were four great empires that fell.
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i will just list them and have you tell us what was so great about the empire and how did they fall. one of them was russia. guest: russia. we tend to forget the russian empire because it did not acquire territory. unlike the british who sailed around the world and grabbed territories or the french. the russians basically developed their empire by expanding their borders. in the 19th century, they grew hugely. through siberia to the pacific and asia. they brought in people that were not russian. they had the baltic peoples and the fins. and they had a large number of poles, people who are not russian. and really they were already dealing with nationalism among these different components of their empire. when the war came, and russia fell to pieces, a number of these people declared independence. host: at the end of world war i, in what shape was russia? guest: dreadful shape.
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russia was doing well economically before the war, but it was on the edge of development. it was still largely an undeveloped country. the war put a tremendous strain on russia, on its industry. even more on its infrastructure and on its organization. in the russian bureaucracy, it was simply not up to the job of managing a complicated war. germany had foreign territories. it had territory in africa. it also had a bit of china. it had some islands in the south pacific. but it also contained a part of poland, because poland had been divided up at the end of the 18th century between prussia, and that became part of germany, austria-hungary and russia. and germany lost its non-german territories. host: what was germany like at the end of world war i? guest: germany also was in turmoil.
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the german economy and society were much better equipped to deal with the war than russia, but even so, the strain of the war had been too much for germany. and there was tremendous resentment, particularly among people who had suffered from the war, those in the lower part of society, housewives and so on, at what had happened and the ways in which their lives were being destroyed. so you had tremendous popular demonstrations. the german army and the german navy. host: the third empire you said was austria-hungary. you mentioned it earlier. how big was it? guest: austria-hungary was huge. it included -- i will not get the whole list -- it included poland, the czech and slovak republic, slovenia, austria- hungary, part of romania. if you think of it stretching right to the center of europe,
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and it did not so much -- it certainly had internal peoples, but it fell to pieces because of the nationalities and they saw the chance to get out. host: what was their condition at the end of world war i? guest: dreadful. austria-hungary had felt the strain of war. it was the least organized of the western powers, less organized than germany. vienna was and is today a huge and prosperous city. host: the last one is the ottoman empire. guest: the ottoman empire for long had been known as the sick man, and people had been expecting its demise through most of the 19th century. but it was looking pretty good by 1914, because of the revolution. you had a new turkish government. they were called the young turks. there are those that thought the ottoman empire might survive, but the war was too much for it. it joined on the german-austria- hungarian side. its arab countries, most of the present middle east, were
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stripped from it. host: who decided iraq and its size? guest: that was decided by the british and the french with precious little consultation with anybody else. the french did a lot to divide up the arab territories of the ottoman empire. and iraq was drawn as a result of haggling between the british and the french. and the british got most of it. and the french got syria and lebanon, which is all right, but they gave up the northern part of iraq to britain. host: we have a picture early in your book. at the center is queen victoria. in that picture are people that i want you to tell us about. there she is in the middle sitting down. guest: queen victoria -- who is the grandmother of europe. she had, i forget how many
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children and married them around europe. the man sitting on the left in profile in the army uniform was kaiser wilhelm ii, who was her grandson. standing behind him in the bowler hat was czar nicholas of russia who was married to her granddaughter. the woman standing beside nicholas, alexandra, who was going to marry nicholas. and there are in that picture a number of other crowned heads. european world families were linked in a huge number of ways through intermarriage and family relationships. host: i'm not sure, but back in that picture, there are standing there was nicolas. and off to his right was king edward vii? guest: edward vii. i am not sure who all of the women are. host: czarina alexandra is? guest: the one with the bow. host: they were all related?
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guest: a lot of them were. in 1914, the king of england, the czar of russia, and the kaiser of germany were all cousins. it did not make any difference, because of course, they all were in defense of their own country. host: what is the difference -- i wrote this down so i can remember them -- what is the difference between being a kaiser of germany, a czar of russia, an emperor of austria- hungary, the president of france, and the prime minister of britain? guest: the first three are hereditary, and so they come by birth to their throne. in all three cases, they have much more power than the president or prime minister. so czar nicholas was the autocrat of all of the russias. and had only very reluctantly given the constitution to the people in 1906. he faced a revolution.
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he tried his best to ignore it. he had pretty much complete control over foreign policy and military policy. wilhelm ii in germany had to deal with parliament, so he had to get money from them. but he had far more power than a prime minister or president. the same is true of the emperor franz joseph of austria-hungary. host: what does kaiser mean? guest: it means emperor. it comes from the same root as caesar. host: what does czar mean? guest: same thing. it is the person at the top of the heap. they felt they were put there by god and by birth. host: back again to the assassination of archduke franz ferdinand. what happened after that? guest: what happened when he was assassinated was shock, not so much mourning within austria- hungary, because he was not that popular.
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and the hapbsurgs gave them a rather hasty funeral. even in death, his wife had a smaller coffin. it was placed lower than his coffin. even in death, that old division stood. but what happened within the government of austria-hungary is people who had been saying for some time, we have got to destroy serbia before it brings about our end said now is our chance. we are sorry about the archduke, or we are not so sorry, but we now have the perfect opportunity to do something about serbia, because it is clear that elements in the serbian government were involved in the plotting. and so now we have the opportunity to destroy serbia. and austria-hungary sent an emissary to wilhelm in germany and said, will you back us? and germany gave a blank check, and said do what you want to do, and we will back you, even if it means russia coming in to defend
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serbia. host: who had the biggest army then? guest: the biggest army and manpower was russia's, but the most effective army was germany's, because germany had a strong military tradition. and a highly trained officer class. very good armaments. and a very good railway network, which is what you needed to move troops around. so, although russia had the numbers, it did not have nearly the organization. its officers were not nearly as good. host: you have this note at the end of the book that it just, it connects somewhat to this era. john f. kennedy was under intense pressure from his own military to take action even at the risk of an all-out war with the soviet union. he resisted partly because he had learned from the previous year's fiasco, the bay of pigs, that the military were not always right, and also because he had read "the guns of august." guest: i find that so
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fascinating. i was trying to think of a parallel between the decision- makers in 1914. it seems from my own time, the closest one was the cuban missile crisis. the more i read about it, the more i realize what pressure kennedy was under. he was a young president being told by the top military brass that you have to do this. you cannot let them get away with this. and he had the courage. i always said it was the finest hour of his presidency to stand up to them. and i think he averted catastrophe. i think it may have helped that he read that book by barbara tuchman that did show how you can get into wars without meaning to. i do not agree with all of her interpretation, but i think she paints a wonderful picture of how just one set of mistakes after another can get us into trouble. host: we seem to see references to barbara tuchman all the time. guest: she was one of the
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historians that road for the general public. she is even more important now because there is a tendency in my profession for us to write just for each other, particularly at university, and to do smaller and smaller types of history. i think what was so wonderful about her is she wrote for the public. she wanted to make the story good and she picked big subjects. i think it is necessary to have people who do that. history belongs to us all, and it is important for the public to appreciate history. host: how much of that do you do yourself? guest: i try to do it. barbara tuchman was one of my great heroes. i read "the guns of august" when i was 20. i liked the way she wrote. and i liked the accessibility and the ways in which she used little details. she had that wonderful phrase she used, corroborative detail. it is a detail that has come to life and makes it seem absolutely real. she had a great eye for that. i try to emulate her.
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host: we have talked about this in the past. we have some video of a relative of yours. you will notice, this is david lloyd george. i am not sure the date. what year did he die? guest: beginning of 1945. host: we will run that now so we can see what he looked like and what was his role in the world. [video clip] >> i hold no prejudices -- i hope no prejudices are going to stand in the way of allowing us to operate that great manifesto to the full. speaking on behalf of a very great -- he puts forward proposals, let's make the most of them. a great idea. idea is another thing i want to say. i am a free man now and can say what i like! [applause]
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and i mean to exercise my freedom to the full. [applause] host: great-grandfather. how important has that been to you? guest: i don't know because i never knew him. then he died when i was an infant. so i never knew him, although i did know my grandmother and my great aunt. even my mother, of course. i do not know how much it influenced me. i was aware of history and politics because of him. but i think when i became an historian, i tried very hard not to be partisan towards him. i hope i treated him as i would treat any other historical figure. host: what role did he play in world war i for great britain? guest: he was important in the beginning of the war. he was the chancellor of the exchequer, which is like the secretary of the treasury. and he was identified with the liberal wing, the moderate wing
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of the liberal party, the left wing. and had generally been seen as someone who is opposed to war and opposed to spending money on armaments. and his support for britain going into the war was very important. i think the cabinet would've split and the government might've fallen. during the war, he became minister of munitions and was extremely effective at getting britain's production up. in december, 1916, he was prime minister when a number of people thought he was the only one to lead britain to victory. host: where were you born? guest: toronto in canada. host: your mother is alive, and it is her grandfather. how did your family -- guest: my mother was 17 in the summer, 1939, and she was in high school in the u.k. before she went to university. she had a family day with a trip to canada as a present. she went there in 1939 and never
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got home. the war broke out. if you are under age you could not travel without your parent'' permission. and her father who was the head of a hospital in london said, you must stay. it was dangerous from german submarines crossing the atlantic. it was dangerous to go back and live in england. she found herself at the age of 17 basically stranded in toronto. and the canadians took her in. and she went to the university of toronto and met my father. host: so you're still canadian but live at oxford. this is a long book, a detailed book. how did you do it? how much time did you have to spend on it? guest: i spent a lot of time. when i was writing it, i became almost totally obsessed by it. i lived as a hermit. i spent every day writing. i would come out of the barracks slightly red eyed looking like a strange vampire. but my family and friends are
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very good. they understood that i really just needed to focus on it. i did. in a way, it is quite exhilarating. although you do become antisocial. host: odd and antisocial? but now you have to talk it. guest: it is the nicer part of writing a book. i have done all of the work on it and now i can talk to people like you who ask nice questions and want to talk. this is a pleasure compared to writing it. host: what is the atmosphere? who you are, and how do you keep track of all this? guest: well, it is like an old monty python sketch. the character saying, my brain hurts. there are times when my brain -- it is like trying to keep them at many different levels. there is the top level with the strategy and the big decisions. then there is the next level with the people carrying them out, and then the public opinion. and things happening on every level. what you have to do is relate them to each other. and you have to keep it -- because no reader will follow it
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if you keep on saying, by the way, i forgot to mention -- you make choices and you have to leave stuff out. and you have to draw threads through the story. what i try to do every so often is wrap things up and say, this was the situation at the time. this is what has happened, because to try keeping it all in my head was difficult. i thought readers would find it incomprehensible. host: did you find any primary source material that had not been published before? guest: no. i think everything has been published or has been researched. there are some things i think you will never know and records were not kept, but maybe some stuff in russia. i have heard this. there are some things in the soviet archives that have not been further explored. there has been so much written on the outbreak of the first world war. it is one of the biggest historical puzzles. pretty much everything has been gone through. what has been changing, and what i think has been interesting, historians have been looking at the grassroots much more.
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so we now know more about what the people in france, in germany, or britain were thinking as the war began to come about. host: who fired the first shot? guest: the first shots were fired by austria-hungary against serbia. at belgrade, the night of july 30. host: who fought the first battles, the big battles? guest: the first big battles were fought in western europe. the german plan was to sweep through belgium down into france. and the battle began in belgium. the belgian army decided in what was heroic and possibly suicidal to take on the german army and resist. and they paid very heavily for that. host: so you go back to the early 1900's. what was going on there that you found that led to this? and who were some of these characters? who is your favorite character in that period? guest: well, favorite in terms of who i would like to meet --
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one of my favorites is the great french socialist who was this wonderful politician who combined the practical and working through politics with a sense of idealism. but fascinating characters -- it is hard not to be fascinated by kaiser wilhelm ii. he is so flamboyant, so erratic. the trouble with wilhelm, you have to be careful not to let him dominate the whole book. host: we have some video of him. can you tell us which one he has? guest: where is he? he is the one standing, watching the troops go by. with the helmet. host: what is with the hats, the helmets? is that a dog? guest: he loved sailing. there he is with the big mustache. he had wax that made the mustache stand up at the end. what is so interesting in this period, they say something about military values.
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how often he wore the military uniform. you do not see him in civilian clothes very much, which says something about the way in which military values permeated european society. he also was one of those people who knew it all. there was a wonderful story that he was at a concert and did not like the tempo of the music so he jumped up and seized the baton and conducted the orchestra himself. host: and who else were you somewhat intrigued by that you wrote about? guest: well, i was intrigued by ferdinand himself. what i had not realize about him this was out of ignorance -- was that he was in fact one of those who tended to speak for peace. during the previous crisis, he had said, let's not do anything foolish because it will be a destruction of the monarchy. it was one of the ironies that they assassinated one of the few people that might've prevented the war against serbia.
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host: you said that one week after the assassination that germany issued a blank check for war. guest: well, yes. the german kaiser had lunch with the austrian ambassador who had brought a special message from vienna and said that -- wilhelm himself was not sure that he wanted the war,, and he said, we are with you. we will stand behind you, even if russia fights. what was dangerous was that the german high command was making a calculation that if they had to fight russia, it was much better to do it in 1914 than 1917. by 1917, russia would be stronger. host: could somebody before 1914, could they have stopped it? guest: i think they could. i think there were some of things that could've stopped it. wilhelm could have refused to issue the blank check and told austria-hungary do not try and destroy serbia because you run the risk of starting a major
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war. i think the austrians could have dealt with serbia in another way. they could've said, we want some recompense. the serbian government did go a certain way towards meeting austria's demands. austria could've accepted those. the russians could've refused to mobilize against germany. they could've mobilized just against austria-hungary, although the military planners said it would be difficult. and i think the kaiser could have refused to give the order for german mobilization which meant mobilizing both against france and against russia. there were a number of times that they could've stopped it. host: one small note i wanted to ask you about was george clemenceau, 1906-1909, the prime minister of france. i wrote this down, that he fought a dozen duels? guest: this is what was so extraordinary about your. electric lights, subways, telephones coming in movies, in
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some ways it was very modern. dueling was seen as something that honorable men did on the continent. great britain had moved away from dueling. in france, gentleman fought duels. a composer once fought a duel over someone who thought his music was not good. it was expected that army officers would fight duels. host: who disliked, going back to that period, who disliked each other the most? guest: a lot of it was stirred up. it was very volatile. the british in the germans developed a strong sense of antipathy. what you got was nationalism with that produced stereotypes. you have got generations of french schoolchildren taught that germans are always our enemies. and you have generations of german school children being taught russians are always our enemy, or the french.
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so you get the stereotypes developing, which are very dangerous. stereotypes about other religions, for example, where you say do not believe the other side are really human. you think they are bound to be your enemy. it was a very dangerous nationalism developing in europe. host: you write about three things. one was the dual monarchy. guest: austria-hungary. host: when did it come together? guest: it was a collection of territories the habsburgs had married into or inherited or acquired to war. in 1867 there was a dispute, hungary had been an ancient kingdom and much bigger than the hungry of today. the hungarians always felt that they wanted an equal share in the government of austria- hungary, so there was something called a compromise. so austria-hungary became a dual monarchy. and the emperor of austria was emperor in the austrian
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territories and king of hungary. the two halves were governed separately. they each had their own institutions. the only thing that really cap and together was the emperor at the top, and i think the common foreign and common military minister. host: what was the entente. guest: it is the french word for understanding. it was the french -- the friendship that developed between britain and france in 1904. it was unlikely because britain had france had spent most of their history enemies of each other. they fought in canada, india, north america. they very nearly come to fighting in 1898 over africa. but because of germany, which france was afraid of, and was a big and powerful labor that defeated france in 1879, and because germany was threatening british naval capacity, the british and the french grew closer. they formed the friendly understanding.
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they settled there colonial disputes. and they began to work together for things like military planning. host: what was the triple alliance? guest: the triple alliance was the alliance of germany, austria hungry, and italy. it was the other big grouping. the entente came to include russia. then you had the triple alliance on the other side. increasingly before 1914, you had europe divided up into two armed camps. host: where was the united states during the early 1900 period, and what was his relationship with all of these different groups you are talking about here? guest: the united states is in the process of becoming a world power. united states is a great economic power by 1900, but it has not yet begun to translate that economic power into military power. it was beginning to build a navy. the president was very important in promoting the idea of a two ocean navy. the u.s. had a small army. it was beginning to extend its influence there it was beginning
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to move into the pacific, the hawaiian islands, china. and beginning to get more involved in latin america. but the american attitude towards europe was complex. after all, the united states was founded in an act of revolt against europe. there was a way in which americans looked at europe and said, we do not want to be involved europe we do not want any part of them. relations with various european countries, depends on the country. relations with russia were not bad. although i think the more russia moved for the pacific, it it but it up against american interests. venezuela. there was a border dispute between what was then british guyana and venezuela. and the americans backed venezuela. they got very annoyed with the british. they felt the british were intervening in a part of the world they had no business.
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the british decided they did not want to take on the united states and it was time to mend fences. and so essentially withdrew from the western hemisphere, making it clear they would not intervene any longer. host: and eventually, why did we go into the war? guest: we went into the war 1917 because the german government did some stupid things. it was the german high command which wanted to win the war quickly and did not care about political consequences. it did two things -- it announced it was going to have unrestricted submarine warfare on shipping. and a lot of the neutral shipping was america. a lot of goods were brought to europe and american ships. they began sinking the ships and destroying american property and killing americans. they sank a number of ocean liners, the lusitania which had a number of americans on board. that infuriated americans. this was a direct challenge to american lives. the second thing the german high command did was to send a telegram which was known as the
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zimmerman telegram after the german foreign minister, sent a telegram to mexico saying that we would like to suggest to you that the two of us become friends, make a deal, and that you attack the u.s. and we will help you get back all of the southern states that the u.s. took from you in the 19th century. when the telegram was picked up and decoded by the british and passed on, the british were delighted. they passed it onto united states and that was it. woodrow wilson went to congress and got a declaration of war. host: what was the first battle that we fought? guest: the first battle was over the -- in the spring, where was it? the spring of 1918. it took about a year for american troops to get to europe. host: did it make a difference? guest: huge. it made a difference in two ways. i think the germans saw this. the way you made a huge difference was manpower. as the americans began to flood into europe, i think that eventually there were one
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million soldiers in europe. the german high command new the time was up. what they hope to do was win the war before the american forces arrived. once the american forces were coming in increasing numbers, it was the end for germany. host: what countries that we have been talking about in europe and russia were democracies? guest: it depends what you mean by democracy. all by 1914 had some form of constitutional government, even russia, which had traditionally been seen as the most backward of all the great powers. but it now had a constitution and a parliament, and ahead local assembly. russia was moving down the road. it was by no means a full democracy. britain was a parliamentary democracy, although not everyone in britain had the right to vote. women did not. germany in some ways was democratic. in some ways it was not. the parliament for the whole of germany was elected by universal male suffrage. all men had the vote. but prussia the biggest part of germany had a restricted
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franchise. it was undemocratic within democratic germany. they had a rule of law. france was a constitutional democracy, and austria-hungary had a number of parliaments. that was part of the problem, because it was so divided. none of these countries were complete autocracies. they were all moving in the direction of building civil societies, and having parliamentary institutions. host: in your research, what was the most valuable place that you went? guest: funnily, probably the most vital place with the internet. what was extraordinary is that there was such a difference -- in what -- when i did my thesis in libraries. so much is on the internet. there are 11 vines of british documents on the origins of the war on the internet -- 11 volumes. all of woodrow wilson's papers are available on the internet. a lot of the american documents.
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and a lot of books have been scanned in. i found i can do an awful lot by sitting at home. host: what is your sense of how much history is being written today compared to say, when you were in school? where did you go to school? guest: i went to the university of toronto as an undergraduate. i had one of the best educations i could possibly have had. we had the most wonderful history department. then i went off to oxford and did history there. i spend my life doing history. but i think history is still hugely popular. i think people want to know. in some ways, has been fueled by the interest we have in our ancestors. the genealogical interest. many people want to know, what was the context in which this is happening? host: so what has happened to the amount of history being written, and has the internet changed that, other than your own experience? guest: you can find out some things on the internet. but the quality. so when i look up something on the internet, it is wonderful
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finding fate -- basic facts, but when you get to interpretations, i like to read stories, articles and books that will do that, because you can get so much information, but it is what you do with the information that is important. host: are you teaching? guest: not as much as i would like. i've a few graduate students. i teach part of a course at oxford every year. because i am mostly a bureaucrat, i do not have very much time to teach. host: when people go to st. antony, what does it cost? guest: it now costs, depending on the course you are taking, and depending on whether you come from within england or without, if you are an american, it costs 15,000 pounds for tuition alone. probably 25,000 pounds, meaning maintenance. host: $40,000 or $50,000? and what kind of student do you get?
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what does it take to get in? guest: we have extraordinary students. we are very lucky. we get students who have worked for a bit. we get students who have been working with generalists. we have students that work that's anchors and work for the government. and students who have worked in the clinton white house. we have people that work for their own governments around the world. and students with broad interest, which i like. they will often speak several languages, read several languages, lived in different parts of the world. they are really fun. host: so what impacted world war i have on monarchies? guest: well, i think world war i helped to show that allowing people to have powerful offices is not a good idea. and a number of countries got rid of their monarchs. russia became a socialist republic. germany became a republic. italy continue to have a king.
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austria-hungary vanished anyway, but it had presidents and prime ministers rather than kings. it is funny because there has been a resurgence of monarchy recently. there has been talk of having a king in yugoslavia again. serbia. the former king of bulgaria who has gone back and is in politics. there's something to be said for having a first family-run business. i find it very odd. host: was anybody warning back before world war i that the british could lose their empire? guest: very few people, i think. the empire seemed very solid. and people were working for the empire -- they tended to think they were there for a long time. people in india looked at indian nationalism which was just developing, generations before the indians were able to rule themselves, and what the first world war did was speed up the process of disintegration of empire. host: have there ever been any
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empire bigger than the british empire? guest: i do not think there has. the roman empire was of course mainly europe. what is the difference is the roman empire lasted much longer. host: you talk to, i think of where they are today with almost no empire. guest: it is very hard. for a while -- that would've been 40 years ago, there was a reluctance to talk about their empire at all. it is gone. we do not want to talk about it. then there was the time of the stalls are. -- nostalgia. we have a television series like the jewel in the crown. now they have come to terms with it. what they have not come to terms with so much is the relationship to europe, which is always been difficult. and the british still, i think, do not really feel comfortable being part of europe. host: so are you thinking about another book? guest: i've been thinking about another book, but i'm thinking i will do -- i am not sure i can take on another big book.
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host: what would you write about? guest: i have been thinking about it. one of the things i have been interested in is the role of emotions in history. maybe a series of essays on how fear plays a part in decisions in history or how envy plays a part. kaiser wilhelm ii was envious of britain. that really affected a lot of what he did. so were a number of the subjects. i am toying with this idea. it is a bit nebulous. host: what happened to some of these, the czar nicholas of russia, what happened to him? guest: he was murdered by the bolsheviks along with his family. there is a very sad picture of the russian imperial family. there were very happy and devoted family. devoted parents. very pretty archduchesses. a rather tragic young boy. and they were all murdered by the bolsheviks. host: what happened to wilhelm? guest: he went into exile in the netherlands.
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and there was talk of trying him as a war criminal at the paris peace conference, and i think there hearts weren't in it. so he lived in exile. in a damp, dutch castle. he became very keen on chopping wood. he was denying that he ever did anything wrong. he died in 1941, just before hitler invaded russia. host: who was leading the ottoman empire? guest: it was a sultan, whose name i cannot remember. who was very shadowy. he basically was sent off in exile in 1921. then the mustafa kemal, ataturk, became the father of modern turkey. who was the sharpest leader in europe before the war started? guest: the sharpest leader was bismarck, who managed to make the whole system work and managed to keep europe from going into war. it is very hard to save after
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him. there was a very good foreign minister in france called del casse. the trouble with russian statesmen is that they were between too powerful and too popular. they got rid of them. otherwise, i really cannot think. that may have been part of the problem. there was mediocre leadership at the time. host: this may not be a very sophisticated question, but who was the dumbest? guest: who was the dumbest? nicholas ii was not very bright. he was incredibly credulous and not very bright. wilhelm was quite clever in germany. george v in britain. host: how long was george v the king? guest: he was king from, i'm bad on dates. he was king from 1911 to 1930's? and then he was succeeded by edward viii, who gave up the
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throne for mrs. simpson. host: what was the hardest part about doing this book? guest: the hardest part was getting myself down to doing it and getting on top of all of the material. what you do not see is all of the stuff that is underneath the surface. and it took me about four or five months actually to get organized to the point where i started writing. host: the cover of this book, we will show that on the screen, "the war that ended peace." who are the two men? guest: one is kaiser wilhelm ii, and the other one is a very young winston churchill, because he was in charge of the british navy. he was the lord of the admiralty at the time. host: when did you decide to have these two on the cover? guest: there was a lot of discussion because it was tricky. you have people that were recognizable. most people would recognize kaiser wilhelm ii, but they
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would not recognize many of the other figures. churchill. it was quite nice because it was two different generations. how many people recognize the churchill, the young churchill? it is not the cigar smoking one. but i think he is recognizable. host: our guest has been margaret macmillan. she wrote "paris, 1919" that we talked about 11 years ago. and this new book is called "the war that ended peace -- the road to 1914." the beginning of world war i. thank you very much for joining us. guest: thank you so much for asking all these nice questions. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. "q&a" programs are available at c-span podcasts.
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>> take a look at some of our live programs this morning across the c-span networks. here on c-span, "washington journal" is next. 9:30 discussing the north american free trade agreement. c-span3, the u.s. energy and information committee will release the outlook for 2014. christine harext, thehanson will talk about conservative agenda heading into the 2014 election. then alex lane will talk about the latest with the health care law. -- alex wayne.
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after that, a look at medicare ornstein.h charles he will talk about a recent study that found waste in the program when it came to the dispensing of namebrand drugs. ♪ national security agency officials are considering amnesty for edward snowden. snowden, who is currently living and working in russia, was indicted in june on espionage charges. should the united states give amnesty to edward snowden? welcome to

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