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“Only a historian with MacMillan’s comprehensive knowledge, command of sources, clarity of thought, and artful writing could succeed so brilliantly with one volume on this sweeping topic.”

Robert B. Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, U.S. trade representative, and U.S. deputy secretary of state.

War - US & UK edition available Sept. 22, 2020. Pre-order now

From the bestselling author of Paris 1919 comes a provocative view of war as an essential component of humanity and our history. Is peace an aberration?


The instinct to fight may be innate in human nature, but war—organized violence—comes with organized society. War has shaped humanity’s history, its social and political institutions, its values and ideas. Our very language, our public spaces, our private memories, and some of our greatest cultural treasures reflect the glory and the misery of war. War is an uncomfortable and challenging subject not least because it brings out both the vilest and the noblest aspects of humanity.


Margaret MacMillan looks at the ways in which war has influenced human society and how, in turn, changes in political organization, technology, or ideologies have affected how and why we fight. War: How Conflict Shaped Us explores such much-debated and controversial questions as: When did war first start? Does human nature doom us to fight one another? Why has war been described as the most organized of all human activities? Why are warriors almost always men? Is war ever within our control?


Drawing on lessons from wars throughout the past, from classical history to the present day, MacMillan reveals the many faces of war—the way it has determined our past, our future, our views of the world, and our very conception of ourselves.

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Praise for War: How Conflict Shaped Us

“This important book teaches us to realize the impressive way in which war invades every aspect of our society. Read and learn.”

George Shultz

“Clausewitz sketched On War to instruct military professionals; Margaret MacMillan has written War to explain this ‘troubling and unsettling mystery’ to the rest of us. She investigates the subject’s terror and fascination, as well as its scope and persistence, with honesty and humanity. Only a historian with MacMillan’s comprehensive knowledge, command of sources, clarity of thought, and artful writing could succeed so brilliantly with one volume on this sweeping topic.””

Robert B. Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, U.S. trade representative, and U.S. deputy secretary of state

“A foremost historian explores one of the central forces of human history. This readable and convincing work is yet another tour de force from Margaret MacMillan!”

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Harvard University, author of Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump

“War is awful but somehow alluring, dreaded but too often welcomed. On these pages, with her vast gifts as a historian and storyteller, Margaret MacMillan explains why.”

Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder and Ike’s Bluff

Council on Foreign Relations

Council on Foreign Relations

About the Expert

EXPERT BIO

Margaret MacMillan is the visiting distinguished historian at the Council on Foreign Relations. She specializes in British imperial history and the international history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is an emeritus professor of international history at Oxford and a professor of history at the University of Toronto. She was provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto from 2002 to 2007 and warden of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford from 2007 to 2017.



Her publications include Women of the Raj (1988), Paris, 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (2002), Nixon and Mao: the Week that Changed the World (2007), Dangerous Games: the Uses and Abuses of History (2009), The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (2013), and History’s People: Personalities and the Past (2015). In 2018 she gave the BBC’s Reith Lectures on the subject of war and humanity and in 2020 will publish an expanded version as The Mark of Cain: War and the Human Condition.



She has taught modern history and international relations at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Oxford. Visiting appointments include the Humanitas Professor of War, Cambridge University, the Xerox Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS, and Distinguished Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. She is also an honorary fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.



She has served on a number of boards including those of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and the Rhodes Trust. She is currently a trustee of the Central European University and the Imperial War Museum, and is on the editorial boards of First World War Studies, the International History Review and the International Journal. She comments frequently in the media on international affairs.



She has a BA in history from the University of Toronto and a BPhil in politics and DPhil from the University of Oxford.



Please click here to visit Margaret MacMillan at the Council on Foreign Relations

Lives of Houses

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A group of notable writers—including UK poet laureate Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, Margaret MacMillan, and Jenny Uglow—celebrate our fascination with the houses of famous literary figures, artists, composers, and politicians of the past.


What can a house tell us about the person who lives there? Do we shape the buildings we live in, or are we formed by the places we call home? And why are we especially fascinated by the houses of the famous and often long-dead? In Lives of Houses, a group of notable biographers, historians, critics, and poets explores these questions and more through fascinating essays on the houses of great writers, artists, composers, and politicians of the past.


Editors Kate Kennedy and Hermione Lee are joined by wide-ranging contributors, including Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, David Cannadine, Roy Foster, Alexandra Harris, Daisy Hay, Margaret MacMillan, Alexander Masters, and Jenny Uglow. We encounter W. H. Auden, living in joyful squalor in New York’s St. Mark’s Place, and W. B. Yeats in his flood-prone tower in the windswept West of Ireland. We meet Benjamin Disraeli, struggling to keep up appearances, and track the lost houses of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen. We visit Benjamin Britten in Aldeburgh, England, and Jean Sibelius at Ainola, Finland. But Lives of Houses also considers those who are unhoused, unwilling or unable to establish a home—from the bewildered poet John Clare wandering the byways of England to the exiled Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera living on the streets of London.


With more than forty illustrations, Lives of Houses illuminates what houses mean to us and how we use them to connect to and think about the past. The result is a fresh and engaging look at house and home.

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REVIEWS




"No other book explores the central role that house and home play in the biographies of authors and artists with so much sophistication, acumen, and tenderness. There is a lot to like in Lives of Houses."—Deidre Shauna Lynch, author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History


"Lives of Houses does that clever thing of filling a gap that, until this moment, had not been noticed."—Kathryn Hughes, author of The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton

History's People

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In History’s People internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of figures of the past, women and men, some famous and some little-known, who stand out for her. Some have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. Others are memorable for being risk-takers, adventurers, or observers. She looks at the concept of leadership through Bismarck and the unification of Germany; William Lyon MacKenzie King and the preservation of the Canadian Federation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the bringing of a unified United States into the Second World War. She also notes how leaders can make huge and often destructive mistakes, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. Richard Nixon and Samuel de Champlain are examples of daring risk-takers who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are the dreamers, explorers, and adventurers, individuals like Fanny Parkes and Elizabeth Simcoe who manage to defy or ignore the constraints of their own societies. Finally, there are the observers, such as Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and Victor Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life.


History’s People is about the important and complex relationship between biography and history, individuals and their times.

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The War That Ended Peace | Paperback

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An excerpt:


The Great War still casts its shadows both physically and in our imaginations. Tons of ordnance are still buried in the battlefields and every so often someone - an unlucky farmer ploughing in Belgium, perhaps - is added to the casualty lists. Every spring after the ground has unfrozen, units of Belgian and French armies have to gather up the unexploded shells that have been heaved up. In our memories too the Great War, thanks in part to an extraordinary outpouring of memoirs and novels and paintings, but also because so many of us have family connections to it, remain that dark and dreadful chapter in our history.


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The War That Ended Peace | Hardcover

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The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress, and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict that killed millions, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe’s dominance of the world. It was a war that could have been avoided up to the last moment—so why did it happen?


Beginning in the early nineteenth century and ending with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, award-winning historian Margaret MacMillan uncovers the huge political and technological changes, national decisions, and just as impor­tant, the small moments of human muddle and weakness that led Europe from peace to disaster. This masterful exploration of how Europe chose its path towards war will change and enrich how we see this defining moment in history.


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