Monday, May 5, 2014

History As Alternate History: Margaret MacMillan’s The War that Ended Peace

It’s been a busy month here at Somerset House Press.  Not only am I still holding down my day job, but I’m also writing two novels – one my own H.P. Lovecraft inspired work, the other I’m editing for a friend. I recently picked up a paperback copy of Robert Conroy’s (readers will know I have an ambiguous relationship with him) Rising Sun. I''ll review that novel in  a later posting.

I’m now reading, besides the excellent The Violent Century, by Lavie Tidhar, The War That Ended Peace, by Margaret MacMillan, which tells about the last years of the peace in Europe before the start of the Great War.

Perhaps with the approaching century mark of the start of the war this August, reading a book about the subject makes some sense.  After all, as MacMillan writes, we are still trying to make sense of how and why the First World War started.  Although I’m not yet a third through her book, she I think, cogently demonstrates that this was a war that didn’t necessarily have to happen. “What did the decision-makers think they were doing?” she asks. “Why didn’t they pull back this time as they had done before? Why, in other words, did the peace fail?”

Without the First World War, what would’ve happened?  Would the peace finally have broken down at some point in the future and we would’ve had a Great War, no matter what?  Or would somehow the peace would’ve gone on – no war, no millions dead on the battlefield, no countries shattered, no need to the Treaty of Versailles that punished Germany in a victor’s peace, no Nazi Party and no Adolf Hitler to take control over it, no Second World War, no Holocaust.  No collapse of the Tsarist Russia and no Cold War.

It could’ve been better or it could’ve been worse.  Several authors such as Michael Moorcock, have examined this theme from both sides.

Just as I have always maintained, the it’s the best in alternate history that examines history in new lights, it’s also serves the cause of history best when historians ask, what if?

If you’re interested in a compelling and intelligent non-fiction read, I recommend Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace.

In the meantime, have a look at my own books, Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.   Thanks.