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Author Podcast: Margaret MacMillan


The Whistler Reads village book group met March 7th at 7pm at Millennium Place to discuss Margaret MacMillan's award winning, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Random House) Three community members (City Councillors and the former Mayor of Whistler) brought history to life with a fun MadLib of the world leaders from the conference; (see pictures) the audience watched them argue and debate the terms of the peace and participated with their own comments and questions. Margaret MacMillan "addressed" the WR group via an earlier podcast interview with WR Director, Paula Shackleton.  Fabulous Alsace regional wine was provided by Dundarave Wine Cellar with tasting notes and given out as door prizes. Thanks to Telus, for their support of WR literacy arts in our community.


March 08, 2007

BookBuffet Author Interview with Margaret MacMillan

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(Quicktime version below)


BB: Today we speak with Canadian historian and author Margaret MacMillan. Dr. MacMillan is Provost and Vice Chancellor of Trinity College, University of Toronto, a post she has held since 2002.  Dr. MacMillan did her Bachelor of Philosophy in Politics at Oxford University, and a Doctorate in Philosophy on British India there as well.  She has been a full professor at U of T since 2003, and teaches history to students on the topics of the Cold War and Nationalism vs. Internationalism.


Her books include Women of the Raj(1988) and Peacemakers: the Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War (2001), published in North America as Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (2002). The book won the Duff Cooper Prize for History or Biography and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction in the UK in 2002, as well as the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction in Canada in 2003. It was on the New York Times Editors' Choice List in 2002.

Product image for ASIN: 140006127XHer latest book, Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World (Random House, Feb 2007) was nominated in January 2007 for a Gelber Prize, awarded annually to the best book on international affairs published in English. In 2006 Provost MacMillan was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In July 2007 she will take up new duties as Warden of St. Antony's College at the University of Oxford. 

Dr. MacMillan lives in Toronto and is now on the American book tour for Nixon in China. She is the great grand-daughter of David Lloyd George.  

Interview Transcript

BB:  Dr. MacMillan welcome, and thank you for speaking with BookBuffet.

MM: Thank you Paula, I just wish I were there!

BB: Dr. MacMillan tell us about the duties of the Provost of Trinity College and how you balance your academic teaching and administrative responsibilities with your research and writing?


BB: You seem to be cornering the market on historic conferences. What is it about these that interest you and what is your goal? 


BB:  Paris 1919 is a masterful work that captures the elusive quality of good historical writing by not only setting the groundwork for the times, but also breathing life into the personalities involved. The bibliography and notes at the back of the book are almost 50 pages. How long did it take you to do the research, and can you describe how you approached the writing? 


BB: As the great granddaughter of DLG what advantages or special responsibilities does this present?


BB: In reading this book what struck me was the sheer enormity of the task which rested on the shoulders of the Supreme Council, DLG, Wilson and Clemenceau and also the effect of Wilson’s 14 Points – particularly “self-determination” in shaping the various treaties that came out of the conference. What do you feel were the achievements and the failures of the Paris Peace Conference?


BB: On the issue of reparations, you bring up the point that Germany, it is now widely believed, suffered less under the burden of debt than previously thought, and that the rise of Nazism and the second World War came as a result of other reasons.


BB: I was intrigued by the economic proposals that were put forward by such great thinkers as John Maynard Keynes and Etienne Clemetal, the latter helped to found what became the European Union; an institution which called upon a new economic order replacing wasteful competition and favored pooling resources.


BB: With respect to the influences and threats of Bolshevism at this time, it is clear that decisions were made to create buffers along the borders of Russia to protect the socialist spread of ideals. People like Churchill were recommending allied forces push on into Russia in support of the White Russians. What do you think would have come of the world order had he had his way?


BB: The Paris Peace treaty was seen to support Zionism and the relationship between powerful British influences such as Balfour and Churchill, which led to the passing of a mandate with the League of Nations in July of 1922. However the League of Arab Nations never approved this. What are your thoughts on the fact that apartheid has evolved in that area between the Jewish peoples and the Palestinians, how could this have been averted.


BB: The League of Nations was created to provide an international body to avoid war, and shelter younger nations as they develop political and economic strength peacefully – not through war.  There was debate by the French as to whether the league should have a standing military.  In examining the failures of the League of Nations how do those lessons inform the body entrusted with these goals today - the United Nations?


BB: Of all of the decisions that were made at the conference what in your mind had the greatest impact on the history of the 20th century?


BB: In examining the historic figures who negotiate treaties between countries, and I am speaking now of the Versailles as well as Nixon in China --- how much do you attribute to the will and personalities of the leaders vs. a sort of natural progression of ideas (such as the rise and fall of communism, economic theories, etc?)


BB: Best of luck on your book tour and I’d like to ask what is ahead for you as you take up the duties of Warden of St. Anthony’s College at the University of Oxford?

Further Links

Wines chosen by Neil Punshon of Dundarave Wine Cellar in West Vancouver come from the Alsace region.

Olivier Humbrecht of Domaine Zind Humbrecht was selected as one of the top 10 white winemakers in the world by Decanter magazine last year.

Check out Dundarave Wine Cellar on your way into town next time! Neil is available to show you these and more.

Whistler Reads would like to thank Telus for their support of the literary arts.

Other BookBuffet Author Interviews



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