Book Review: The Great War for Peace


by William Mulligan

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. viii, 448. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0300173776

The Great War for Peace is a thought-provoking work. 

Dr. Mulligan (University College Dublin) presents a simple thesis, that despite the horrific violence and its terrible bloodshed, World War I was vital to the evolution of the largely peaceful Europe that emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War.  Reduced to the barest bones, the war discredited the ‘balance of power’ notions of preserving peace and stability, inspiring thinking about maintaining peace which led to interwar efforts at collective security, and then, in the aftermath of World War II to the formation of an increasingly integrated Europe, by leaders who experienced the wars at first hand. 

Mulligan examines closely the causes of first war and attempts at peacemaking in Europe from 1911 through 1925.  He opens with a look at the European state system on the eve of series of wars that began with the Italo-Turkish War in 1911, and continued through the Balkan Wars, the Great War, despite very nearly continuous efforts to restore a peace.  Mulligan then discusses how the Great War ended and the Versailles settlement, but goes on to discuss the “little wars” spawned by the Great War, various revolutions, civil wars, and even interstate wars (Russo-Polish, Graeco-Turkish), that into the mid-1920s, when a general peace was restored by the Locarno Pact.  

This book has an interesting cast, obviously including the “greats” of the Great War, but also obscure people who lived through the horror, and that of the Second World War, to build a more peaceful Europe, such as de Gasperi, Adenauer, Monnet, and Spaak.

Mulligan’s argument may not convince some students of war and peace, but it is an essential read anyone seriously interested in the subject.


Note: The Great War for Peace is also available as an eBook, ISBN 978-0-300-20621-0.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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