Margaret MacMillanBy HELENA KAUFMAN
Winnipeg audiences can delight in a talking tour by renowned Canadian-born historian, author, speaker and Professor of History at the University of Toronto and at Oxford: Margaret MacMillan.

Those familiar with her award-winning books or presentations, such as the Massey Lectures or Ideas Series, know to expect a lecture that will inform, entertain and be highly relevant concerning ‘the war that changed everything.’
On April 15, 2018 Dr. MacMillan explores the factors that led up to and created the consequences of the aftermath of The First World War and the Making of the Modern Middle East. She takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. at the Congregation Shaarey Zedek as the 13th Annual Sol and Florence Kanee Distinguished Speaker.
Emotional, conflict-laden and complex, the Middle East’s “messiness” has its roots in the decisions made by the great powers after the “war meant to end all wars”, which still impact millions today. What follows is just a hint of the drama Margaret MacMillan will reveal:
Europe and her citizens were enjoying more travel, integration, economic progress and hope due to the almost 100 years of relative peace leading up to 1914.
When the disintegration came, it claimed 20 million lives and saw 31 countries fight alongside the main alliance of Britain, France, Russia and the USA. This included 600,000 Canadians.
The war bled economies dry, crumbled empires and shook societies, as it fatally undermined European world dominance. It also sped up the rise of the United States as a transformed diplomatic and military world power.
MacMillan’s expertise in 19th century history and 20th century international relations illuminate the factors that challenged the Ottoman Empire and altered the balance of power in the Middle East. The war had great impact on the Ottoman Empire, the awakening Arab nationalism and the growth of Zionism.
Paris to Palestine and beyond
 The Paris Peace Conference took place between January and July 1919. Many came from around the world to be near the important decision makers. They brought petitions demanding the right of self-determination for their own nations, as the “peacemakers” carved up bankrupt empires and created new countries. Even Ho Chi Minh, then a kitchen assistant at the Ritz, submitted a petition for an independent Vietnam.
Not all got a seat at the table. The defeated nations of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria,  the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Turks, who expected the usual peace conference protocol to be followed - were not even invited to attend.
The greatest hope was pinned on the three most important personalities - the leaders of the free democratic world. They were: the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George; the 80-year-old Prime Minister of France, George Cañazo; and President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, who was firmly resolved to ensure the right of self-determination for all nations.
The era had many legendary characters. Some who appear include major players in the Palestinian drama - the Jewish liberation movement delegation, led by Dr Chaim Weitzman, and that of the Arab liberation movement, headed by Emir Faisal, with the great Lawrence of Arabia at his side.

 Secrets and promises
In her books MacMillan refers to many crucial, but little-known moments. One of those was the signed-in-secret Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. Named for Englishman Sir Mark Sykes and Frenchman Georges Picot, Britain and France - with Russian approval, divided the Middle East between them. France took Lebanon, the planned sovereign Arab state of Syria, southeastern Turkey, and northern Iraq. As for Britain, it took charge of the fledgling port of Haifa and, with it, control of Haifa Bay as a Mediterranean terminal for Mesopotamian oil. It also took control of southern Iraq and Jordan, while Russia got Istanbul and the Armenian regions of Anatolia. Palestine came under the protection of Britain, France, and Russia combined. Now, 100 years later this agreement still defines the dramatic conflicts of the region.
 Faisal and Weitzman reached a public accord granting Palestine to the Jews on condition that the Arabs gain their independence. Faisal envisioned Jews bringing vast American capital and innovation to develop the shared region.
Britain, however, made it clear that they were unable to keep their promises to the Arabs because of the strong objection of France, which claimed for itself the Mandate over Syria and Lebanon. Faisal returned to Damascus empty-handed – only one of the moments that fired up the crucible that is the Middle East.
At least there’s a lesson?
“There are no lessons in history, not clear ones,” says Professor MacMillan. “History does not produce definitive answers for all time. It is a process.” MacMillan ponders the longer term significance of the era’s developments in her talks. A vital component of her discussion is an assessment of how the different players saw and remembered their roles.
But is it good for the Jews? Come and discover how the legacy of World War l continues to reverberate on April 15th at 7:30 p.m, at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
As it enters its 50th year of service, what was formerly the Jewish Historical Society and which is now the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada continues its work in support of: The Jewish Historical Society Archives; the Corridor Museum with its artifacts from Western Canadian Jewry in themed window displays; the Genealogical Institute; the Marion & Ed Vickar Jewish Museum of Western Canada; and The Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre.
Funds from this event enable all the outreach programs, onsite resources and the upgrade underway for global digitized access. For more information, to donate or to purchase tickets ($36/$18 students) contact: The Jewish Heritage Centre ( at 204-478-8590  or click on the ad at the top of this page.