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About this book

This text has established itself as one of the most highly regarded studies on the subject. Revised, updated and expanded, this second edition incorporates the latest research and includes more discussion of the League, reparations, Eastern Europe, Russia and the Near and Middle East. It also features a new map and Chronology.

Table of Contents

1. The Old World Falls Apart

Abstract
In January 1919, the plenipotentiaries (representatives sent with full powers to negotiate on behalf of their states) and delegates of over thirty Allied and Associated states assembled in Paris for a conference whose task was to restore European and world peace after the most ruinous and devastating war in the history of mankind to date. At its height, there were more than a thousand diplomats and statesmen in Paris, far eclipsing any earlier peacemaking assembly in both its size and the extent of its responsibilities. The outbreak of a second major European war in 1939 suggests that they failed to create a lasting peace but, as Gerhard Schulz points out:
There is a serious lack of logic in all verdicts passed on the peace treaty which ignore the fact that the pre-war policies could not prevent war and which fail to appreciate the essential continuity of the pre-war period, the war, peace-time and the era of revision.
Alan Sharp

2. The Paris Peace Conference

Abstract
The exasperated academic’s suggestion that ‘ad hoc ad nauseam’ should be the motto adopted by his university could be equally applied to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. ‘No matter how hard you try, you cannot imagine the shambles, the chaos, the incoherence, the ignorance here. Nobody knows anything because everything is happening behind the scenes,’ wrote Paul Cambon, the veteran French diplomat, voicing the feelings of many other frustrated professionals in Paris, while Arthur Balfour remarked: ‘At this Conference all important business is transacted in the intervals of other business.’ Contemporary and historical accounts of the conference have shared an emphasis on the haphazard conduct of affairs and the lack of any clearly defined and effective decision-making machinery before the emergence of the Council of Four in late March 1919. Then, in the space of six weeks, many of the major decisions were taken, leaving the conference open to the paradoxical charge that it had been both too slow and too swift in evolving a settlement for the problems of the Great War.1
Alan Sharp

3. The League of Nations

Abstract
There are few better illustrations of the complexities and paradoxes of the peacemaking process in 1919 than the ideas and negotiations that combined to produce the Covenant of the League of Nations. Seeking to build upon past experience but also attempting to create a new framework for diplomatic activity, the League represented a revolutionary basis for future international stability. It sought to limit the untrammelled exercise of national sovereignty that had allegedly characterised the ‘international anarchy’ of 1914, yet it stopped far short of supranational power. It thus embodied the paradox of an attempt to combine collective security with the continued existence of national sovereignty. In theory based on the idea of equality among nations but in practice controlled by the great powers, it aimed at producing a peaceful world by threatening a determined aggressor with, as a last resort, war. Designed to guarantee the territorial integrity and political independence of its members but also to permit peaceful changes to frontiers and treaties that had become inappropriate, the League is an apt symbol of the idealism, vision, difficulties and contradictions of the ‘new diplomacy’.
Alan Sharp

4. Reparations

Abstract
The cost of the Great War in human life and suffering, material damage and misery had been enormous, even leaving aside the expenditure of treasure and the disruption of trade. No one knows the true casualty figures for the fighting but perhaps 8–10 million soldiers dead on both sides is approximately accurate. Many more soldiers and civilians died after the armistice in further fighting or as a result of the influenza epidemic of 1918–19 which wrought havoc in war-wasted Europe. As a direct result of the fighting, France lost 1.35 million men, the British Empire nearly 1 million, Germany 1.6 million and Russia 2.3 million. Italy suffered 650,000 dead and the United States, which had entered the war in April 1917, lost 100,000 men. In addition, perhaps two or three times as many men were wounded, some severely and some crippled for life, while wartime separations occasioned a fall in the birth rate. A hasty survey of the battlefields by the American General McKinstrey estimated material damage at between £3,000m and £5,000m, while the British Treasury calculated the cost of the total Allied war effort at £24,000m. In France, 8 million acres (an area the size of the Netherlands) had been devastated and much of its industrial wealth destroyed. A later estimate suggests French losses at £2,200m. In so far as it could be expressed in terms of money, someone had to pay this bill and there was little doubt, in the atmosphere of 1918, that Germany would be expected to shoulder much of the burden.1
Alan Sharp

5. The German Settlement

Abstract
The signature of the armistice ensured that the map and, in part, the institutions of Germany would be recast by the peace conference but the extent and method of this reshaping remained obscure. Much would depend on the overall assessment that each of the Allied states made of the future intentions and political stability of the new German regime, which sought, as best it could, to distance itself from the ambitions and methods of the Kaiser and his government. Was this deathbed conversion genuine or expedient, and who would control the new, apparently democratic, Germany? Furthermore, what roles did the Allies see for Germany in the new international system? The shape of the new Germany would depend on the outcome of the debate between their widely differing viewpoints.1
Alan Sharp

6. The Eastern European Settlement

Abstract
On 4 April 1919, Robert Lansing, the American secretary of state, wrote:
Central Europe is aflame with anarchy; the people see no hope; the Red Armies of Russia are marching westward. Hungary is in the clutches of revolutionists; Berlin, Vienna and Munich are turning toward the Bolsheviks … It is time to stop fiddling while the world is on fire, while violence and bestiality consume society. Everybody is clamoring for peace, for an immediate peace.1
Alan Sharp

7. The Colonial, Near and Middle Eastern Settlements

Abstract
The statesmen in Paris faced problems beyond the confines of Europe. The liquidation of the German Empire in Africa and Asia, with over 1,000,000 square miles and approximately 14,000,000 people, and the collapse of Ottoman power in the Balkans, Asia Minor and the Middle East meant that their task was much greater than that of any previous peace conference. It was of little consolation to them that many of their difficulties were the self-inflicted results of their own wartime policies, or that their conflicting promises would now return to dog their footsteps. The loss and gain of imperial territories had been a familiar part of most European settlements in the previous two centuries, but once again, the Paris conference had set itself a higher moral standard than its predecessors and this too would complicate the resolution of an already complex situation. Too often the newly discovered device of mandates served only to act as a fig leaf for the desire of the great powers, and in the British case, of its own empire, to annex territories formerly owned by the defeated powers.1
Alan Sharp

Conclusion

Abstract
We are digging up the foundations of a very old world.
Alan Sharp
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