I have reached about halfway into Prof. MacMillan's superb history of the Versailles peace-makers after WWI and their deeply flawed conclusions. I began with a sneer because , 'as evry fule do no', they were the idiots who laid down the foundations for WWII. And, setting aside the Italian nonentity, the three 'main men' were, to say the least, an unpromising bunch to rely on to produce a thousand year peace!
Prof. MacMillan gives every impression of being judicious in her descriptions of Wilson, Clemenceau and Lloyd George. I guess she had to plough through very many histories of this period in which, no doubt, these three protagonists were portrayed as everything from outright villains to wonderful heroes - and everything in between. The thing that stands out for me is that from her description they come across as products of their time and place. Had three different men been in their position then probably the outcome might have been different but whether it would have been better - or worse - no-one can tell.
As I began to read of the issues with which they had to grapple I wrote them off as fools but then, as I read on, an insidious question kept creeping into my mind - what would you have done in their place? Needless to say, answer came there none! And all the time it is necessary to remind yourself as you read that none of these men had absolute power. For a start they had to agree amongst themselves whilst at the same time satisfying a multiplicity of interested parties with entrenched and opposite views. Not the least of these "interested parties' were their home electorates, or public opinion, if you like, a factor that never touched the concerns of the 'peace makers' in Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic wars.
This book is history at its very best. Yes, it is concerned with the somewhat abstract political movements of the day but it never forgets the most important factor in all of history - human nature!