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About this book

Sally Marks provides a compelling analysis of European diplomacy between the First World War and Hitler's advent. She explores in clear and lively prose the reasons why successive efforts failed to create a lasting peace in the interwar era. Building on the theories of the first edition - many of which have become widely accepted since its publication in 1976 - Marks reassesses Europe's leaders of the period, and the policies of the powers between 1918 and 1933, and beyond.

Strongly interpretative and archivally based, The Illusion of Peace examines the emotional, ethnic, and economic factors responsible for international instability, as well as the distortion of the balance of power, the abnormal position of the Soviet Union, the weakness of France and the uncertainty of her relationship with Britain, and the inadequacy of the League of Nations. In so doing, the study clarifies the complex topics of reparations and war debts and challenges traditional assumptions, concluding that widespread western devotion to disarmament and dedication to peace were two of several reasons why democratic statesmen could not respond decisively to Hitler's threat. In this new edition Marks also argues that the Allied failure to bring defeat home to the German people in 1918-19 generated a resentment which contributed to interwar instability and Hitler's rise.

This highly successful study has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect the latest scholarship. Now in its second edition, it remains the essential introduction to the tense political and diplomatic situation in Europe during the interwar years.

Table of Contents

1. The Pursuit of Peace

Abstract
Major wars often provide the punctuation marks of history, primarily because they force drastic realignments in the relationships among states. To this rule the First World War was no exception. Long before the fighting ceased in November 1918, it was evident that the map of Europe must be redrawn and that reallocation of colonies, creation of a new international organisation, and changes in the economic balance must considerably affect the rest of the world as well. The First World War heralded the end of European dominance as the true victors in this predominantly European war were the United States and Japan: two non-European powers. The European victors were bled white and suffered a Pyrrhic victory from which none of them ever really recovered. While this fact was not evident at the war’s end, it was clear that the forthcoming settlement must far exceed in geographic scope and complexity those other periodic realignments of the power balance, the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and the 1815 Final Act of Vienna, to which it is often compared. Nobody doubted the magnitude of the task ahead, but nobody was properly prepared to undertake it.
Sally Marks

2. The Effort to Enforce the Peace

Abstract
Although the Paris peace settlement dealt with the entire globe, it was a peculiarly European peace, written largely by the European victors to their own benefit. Despite nominal Japanese participation and Wilson’s efforts toward a new world order, the treaties reflected Europe’s view of the world and of its own role in it. Most of the assumptions upon which European leaders operated had, however, been rendered obsolete by the First World War. In this sense the settlement was anachronistic.
Sally Marks

3. The Revision of the Peace

Abstract
The 1924 reparations settlement constituted a major revision of the Versailles Treaty in that the Reparations Commission was reorganised while both its powers and German payments were sharply reduced. By the time this scheme was achieved, there had been other revisions of the 1919 settlement as well. Most of the reparations provisions of the Paris treaties had been jettisoned. Austrian and Turkish reparations had been abandoned altogether. Hungary had been granted a virtual moratorium on all except small coal deliveries, while Bulgarian reparations had been scaled down to a more realistic 550 million gold francs plus a lump-sum payment of 25 million francs for occupation costs. Despite the reduction of reparations to a trickle, European victors were embarking on lengthy negotiations toward settlement of their American debts on long-term payment schemes. There remained a correlation between these plans and reparations schedules as European countries came to view reparations primarily as a means to pay war debts.
Sally Marks

4. The Years of Illusion

Abstract
Before the euphoria engendered by the Locarno meetings had time to fade, another episode heightened the illusion that peace had arrived and that henceforth conciliation would reign. Scarcely a week after Locarno concluded, skirmishes on the Greco-Bulgarian frontier erupted into a Greek military invasion of Bulgaria, who appealed to the League of Nations. Ensuing events gave the League a much-needed but illusory success.
Sally Marks

5. The Crumbling of Illusion

Abstract
Decades rarely provide convenient historical dividing lines, but 1930 was something of a watershed year. It would be an oversimplification to suggest that the 1920s looked back to the First World War while the 1930s looked ahead to the Second World War. None the less the diplomacy of the 1920s had centred on the postwar settlement and attempts to uphold or undo it, with a mounting desire to consign the postwar bitterness to history. The Hague Conference’s Committee on the Liquidation of the Past was only one of many signs of a widespread belief that old problems could be solved, reinforcing peace and prosperity. As the decade turned with many of these issues unresolved, Europe entered an era of new problems, economic and political, including fear of a new war. The 1930 German election led a French politician to remark, ‘We’ve been outwitted’,1 and the Belgian Foreign Minister expressed ‘great fears of an imminent fresh outbreak of war’.2
Sally Marks

6. The End of Old Illusions

Abstract
Some have assumed that most Western leaders were slow to recognise what Hitler’s accession to power meant. One hears about relief that Germany’s political turbulence had ended and that finally Germany had a government which could command a majority in the Reichstag, along with hope that power would tame Hitler and that he really did not mean what he said. Such notions were common and perhaps understandable, but they were rarely found in the ministries of European governments. Nobody fully envisaged the horrors ahead and most Western diplomatists misjudged Hitler’s intentions towards Poland, thinking that like his predecessors he sought frontier revision, when in fact he cast Poland as an obedient satellite and then, after Poland rejected this role, saw it as an entity to be destroyed en route to Russia.1 But on the main issue there was, especially at first, little illusion. Most of Europe’s leaders realised that Nazism was a threat to Europe’s peace and that in the long run Hitler intended war. In April 1933 Herriot informed an American visitor, ‘we shall have to fight them again’,2 whereas MacDonald told his son, ‘I shall not see peace again in my lifetime; I hope you will see it in yours.’3
Sally Marks
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