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Synopsis

On the night of 7 November 1918 French troops at La Capelle, on the Western Front, noticed a soft halo develop in the fog over no man's land. They heard the rumble of cars, then perceived the vague form of a huge white flag: the Germans were crossing the line to seek peace. But who were these Germans and what exactly did they represent? By the time they had signed an armistice, four days later, not even they knew. The Kaiser's Reich had collapsed and Germany faced chaos, while the war in Eastern Europe continued. This book traces the transition from war to peace across Europe. It follows the movement of armies over the northern plains, their collapse, their demoblization, and the effect this had on the material life of people. In Russia there had already been a revolution. In Germany, there were attempts to overthrow the provisional republican government. In Poland new wars broke out. At the same time, there was celebration in the West at the announcement of the Armistice. And the United States entered European politics with a new part to play. Dallas follows these dramatic events from the perspective of five capitals: Berlin, Paris, London, Moscow and Washington. In Berlin the cabarets and beer halls are open, while there is shooting in the streets. In the walled city of Paris, the peacemakers assemble to respond to the call for a League of Nations. Pantomime season opens in London, where Lloyd George holds elections and reorganizes his War Cabinet; John Maynard Keynes of the Treasury worries about debts. Contemporaries describe Moscow as a scene of desolation; but Lenin insists on setting up the Third International. Washington is divided between those who want to open America to the world, and those who would prefer the world to go away. The start of peace is more complex and fascinating than the start of war; it sets the habits and builds the patterns of life for generations to come. This book weaves politics, ideas, social life, fears, aspirations and harsh realities into a seamless reconstruction of life experienced at a great turning-point of history.

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