Delegates at the Trianon palace in Versailles, France, 1919. 
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We often recall World War I and the two decades that followed as a grim chapter of history, the prelude to an even costlier and more destructive war from 1939 to 1945. We remember terrible losses—the nine million or more dead in battle, the civilians who died of preventable disease or starvation, the ghastly influenza epidemic that, in the dying days of the war and the shaky first moments of peace, may have carried off as many as 50 million around the world. We think of a Europe that once led the world in wealth, innovation, and political power, only to emerge from the war diminished, its Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires in tatters, Bolshevism and ethnic nationalism threatening more upheaval and misery.

The calamity of the 1930s was not foreordained at Versailles.

Yet when the Allies gathered at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles 100 years ago, from January to June 1919, the time

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  • MARGARET MACMILLAN is a historian at Oxford University and the University of Toronto specializing in the international relations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her books include Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace.  
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