When: Thursdays, Mar 7 – 28, 1:30-3:30pm
Where: The Hampton Inn
Cost: $115.00 for 4 session(s)
Instructor: Richard A. Cosgrove Ph.D
1919 – Peacemaking after the Great War
The Great War had finally ended but how to deal with Germany and the other defeated nations remained a major issue. Britain and France believed in a reparations settlement whereby Germany would pay for the cost of the war. In the two months between the armistice and the opening of the Versailles peace conference, political and social instability had swept across
Europe. Would it be possible to conciliate Germany, fend off Bolshevism and restore peace and order to the continent? The Versailles Conference did not permit the defeated nations to participate in the proceedings, for they simply had to accept the terms upon which the Allies had agreed. In addition, other Treaties tried to make the peace with Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey. The consequences of these activities have remained controversial for a century and whether Versailles led to World War II in two decades is still a matter of debate.
Week 1: The Immediate Aftermath of the War
In all the combatant nations the armistice ushered in demands for profound political and social change that challenged the established order. In Germany, for example, the birth of the Freikorps movement (and attempts at revolution by workers following the Russian model) provoked unrest and in some cases violence. Returning to peacetime economies required major adjustments just as soldiers were being demobilized. The situation required high levels of statesmanship on the part of the Big Four: Clemenceau of France, Lloyd George of Great Britain, Orlando of Italy and Wilson of the United States.
Week 2: The Versailles Treaty
The Treaty first established the League of Nations, a goal much desired by President Woodrow Wilson but destined to be rejected by the United States. The next major issue was that of reparations. From the beginning many economists thought that reparations would place an undue burden on Germany and prevent her from gaining any measure of recovery. That in turn would diminish the economies of the victorious Allies. The most famous (or infamous) article in the treaty was 231, which placed sole responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities on Germany. She also lost her colonies and territories that contained German-speaking minorities. Germany also lost her High Seas fleet and was restricted in the size of her army. Too vindictive or too lenient has remained the primary question.
Week 3: The Minor Treaties
There were four additional Treaties that complemented the Versailles Treaty. These made a separate peace with Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey. The provisions involved the transfer of territories and populations of the defunct Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires from the losers to the victors. Turkey never accepted her treaty and fought a long war with Greece that lasted until 1922. The articles contained in these Treaties were always bitterly resented by the losers who saw the principle of self-determination violated at almost every turn. The conditions imposed on the losers rarely led to reconciliation and always led to continuing resentment.
Week 4: The Legacy
Only two decades separated the two World Wars. The Versailles Treaty has always attracted criticism for its role in this outcome. The high ideals brought to the conference and their betrayal by one or more of the Allies remain conduct hard to justify in retrospect. The fear of Bolshevik Russia underlay the feelings of both the victors and the losers. The Treaty no doubt framed a context for what followed, but whether it was a cause still is debated.