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About this book

The third edition of this acclaimed textbook on peace-making after the First World War advances that the responsibility for the outbreak of a new, even more ruinous, war in 1939 cannot be ascribed entirely to the planet’s most powerful men and their meeting in Paris in January 1919 to reassemble a shattered world. Giving a concise overview of the problems and pressures these key figures were facing, Alan Sharp provides a coherent introduction to a highly complex and multi-dimensional topic.

This is an ideal resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students taking modules on the Versailles Settlement, European and International History, Modern History, Interwar Europe, The Great War, Twentieth Century Europe, German History, or Diplomatic History, on either History courses or International Relations/Politics courses.

Table of Contents

1. The Old World Falls Apart

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 together with many experts and advisers, far eclipsing any earlier peace-making 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.
Alan Sharp

2. The Paris Peace Conference

THE exasperated academic’s suggestion that ‘ad hoc ad nauseam’ should be his university’s motto 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.
Alan Sharp

3. The League of Nations

THERE are few better illustrations of the complexities and paradoxes of peacemaking 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, complexities and contradictions of the ‘new diplomacy’.
Alan Sharp

4. Reparations

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 1918–1919 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.
Alan Sharp

5. The German Settlement

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.
Alan Sharp

6. The Eastern European Settlement

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. Always a frustrated onlooker at Paris, Lansing’s shrewd comments offer interesting perceptions of the conference, and here he highlighted the many paradoxes of the situation in eastern Europe.
Alan Sharp

7. The Colonial, Near and Middle Eastern Settlements

THE statesmen in Paris faced problems beyond 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.
Alan Sharp
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