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.
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