The First World War Peace Settlement

The First World War Peace Settlement

In September 1918, David Lloyd George, established a National Election Committee. As a result of the First World War a general election had not been held for over eight years. The passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act dramatically increased the number of people who could vote. All men over twenty-one now had the vote, previously, property qualifications had barred 40 per cent of them from taking part in elections. "Female householders aged over thirty were also granted the vote, though this left women without property (including most domestic servants) and those in their twenties disenfranchised." (1) These changes almost trebled the size of the electorate. "Two million more men and six million women, five million of them married." (2)

Lloyd George had lost the support of most of the Liberal Party members of the House of Commons. They had followed their leader, H. H. Asquith onto the opposition benches in December, 1916. Lloyd George realised that the only way he could hold on to power would be in a coalition government with the Conservative Party. This idea was appealing to Tory leaders as its members were divided over the issue of tariff reform. (3)

In a letter written in May, 1918, Andrew Bonar Law, explained to Arthur Balfour that "our party, on the old lines, will never have any future in this country". He suggested that unless they accepted Lloyd George's leadership, the general election might destroy the party. Bonar Law went on to argue that Lloyd George would have the same impact on the Conservative Party when Joseph Chamberlain and the Liberal Unionists joined in 1886. Lloyd George "would have the same attitude towards the Conservatives as Joe Chamberlain - with the difference that he would be leader of it (the government)... he brings to his new party fresh blood and extended appeal". (4)

Lloyd George urged the Labour Party to stay in the coalition during the general election. Its leader, Arthur Henderson, rejected the idea. In May 1915, Henderson had become the first member of the party to hold a Cabinet post when Asquith invited him to join his coalition government. However, he resigned in August, 1917, over the issue of peace negotiations. Henderson also wanted to offer the public a clear socialist programme. George Barnes, disagreed with Henderson on this issue and remained as as Minister of Pensions. (5)

By the 8th November, workers councils took power in virtually every major town and city in Germany. This included Bremen, Cologne, Munich, Rostock, Leipzig, Dresden, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Nuremberg. Theodor Wolff, writing in the Berliner Tageblatt: "News is coming in from all over the country of the progress of the revolution. All the people who made such a show of their loyalty to the Kaiser are lying low. Not one is moving a finger in defence of the monarchy. Everywhere soldiers are quitting the barracks." (6)

The German Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Reichstag demanded the resignation of Kaiser Wilhem II. When that was refused, they resigned from the German parliament and called for a general strike throughout Germany. In Munich, Kurt Eisner, the leader of the Independent Socialist Party, declared the establishment of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. Later that day, in order to stop the spread of the revolution, the German government agreed to surrender. On 9th November, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled to Holland. At 5 a.m. on 11th November, 1918, representatives of the German government signed the armistice. It came into force at 11 a.m. (7)

David Lloyd George was determined to have a general election as soon as possible. King George V wanted the election to be delayed until the public bitterness towards Germany and the desire for revenge had faded, but Lloyd George insisted on going to the country in the "warm after-glow of victory". It was announced that the 1918 General Election would take place on 12th December. (8)

The First World War had made respectable both government intervention in the economy and public ownership of some essential industries. Alfred Milner described these policies as "war socialism". David Lloyd George believed that this marked a change in the way the economy was organised and wanted to make this one of the main issues of the campaign as he feared the "socialist message" of the Labour Party might be popular with the public. Lloyd George agreed with the left-wing economist, J. A. Hobson, who believed that "The war has advanced state socialism by half a century". (9)

David Lloyd George did a deal with Arthur Bonar Law that the Conservative Party would not stand against Liberal Party members who had supported the coalition government and who had voted for him in the Maurice Debate. It was agreed that the Conservatives could then concentrate their efforts on taking on the Labour Party and the official Liberal Party that supported their former leader, H. Asquith. The secretary to the Cabinet, Maurice Hankey, commented: "My opinion is that the P.M. is assuming too much the role of a dictator and that he is heading for very serious trouble." (10)

Lloyd George ran a campaign that questioned the patriotism of Labour candidates. This included Arthur Henderson, the leader of the Labour Party who had served in the government as Minister without Portfolio. Henderson's crime was that he did not call for the Kaiser to be hanged and for Germany to pay the full cost of the war. One of his opponents, James Andrew Seddon, the former President of the Trade Union Congress, and now a National Democratic Labour Coalition candidate, commented: "Mr Henderson was very sore because he was being labelled a pacifist. He might not be a pacifist but he had his foot on the slippery slope." (11)

According to Duff Cooper, Lloyd George feared his tactics were not working and he asked the the main newspaper barons, Lord Northcliffe, Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook, for help in his propaganda campaign. (12) They arranged for candidates to be sent telegrams that demanded: "For the guidance of your constituency will you kindly state whether, if elected, you will support the following: (i) Punishment of the Kaiser (ii); Full payment for the war by Germany (iii); The expulsion from the British isles of all Enemy Aliens." (13)

In every issue of The Daily Mail, Northcliffe he insisted on the hanging of Kaiser Wilhelm II and and Germany paying the full cost of the war. However, he wrote to George Riddell that he would not use his newspapers and personal influence to "support a new Government elected at the most critical period of the history of the British nations" unless he knew "definitely and in writing" and could approve "the personal constitution of the Government". When Riddell passed along this demand for the names of his prospective ministers to Lloyd George, he replied that he would "give no undertaking as to the constitution of the Government and would not dream of doing such a thing." (14)

Lloyd George told Northcliffe he could "go to hell". One friend remarked: "Each described the other as impossible and intolerable. They were both very tired men and had been getting on one another's nerves for some time." (15) Without the full support of Northcliffe, Lloyd George, arranged for Sir Henry Dalziel and a group of businessmen, who he bribed with the offer of honours and titles, to purchase The Daily Chronicle for £1.6 million. Previously, the newspaper had supported H. Asquith and had been highly critical of Lloyd George during the Maurice Debate. The newspaper gave its full support to Lloyd George during the 1918 General Election. (16)

David Lloyd George argued during the campaign that he was the "man who won the war" and he was "going to make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in." Although he told Winston Churchill in private that he was going to urge the execution of the Kaiser he left his fellow candidates to call for him to be hanged. The government minister, Eric Geddes, promised to squeeze Germany "until the pips squeak". In reply to those Labour politicians who called for a fair peace agreement that would prevent further wars, Lloyd George responded by calling them "extreme pacifist Bolsheviks". (17)

The General Election results was a landslide victory for David Lloyd George and the Coalition government: Conservative Party (382); Coalition Liberal (127), National Labour Coalition (4) and Coalition National Democrats (9) . The Labour Party won only 57 seats and lost most of its leaders including Arthur Henderson, Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden, George Lansbury and Fred Jowett. The Liberal Party returned 36 seats and its leader H. Asquith was defeated at East Fife. (18)

On 7th November, 1918, Kurt Eisner, a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) established a Socialist Republic in Bavaria. Several leading socialists arrived in the city to support the new regime. This included Erich Mühsam, Ernst Toller, Otto Neurath, Silvio Gesell and Ret Marut. Eisner also wrote to Gustav Landauer inviting him to Munich: "What I want from you is to advance the transformation of souls as a speaker." Landauer became a member of several councils established to both implement and protect the revolution. (19)

Chancellor, Max von Baden, handed power over to Friedrich Ebert, the leader of the German Social Democrat Party. At a public meeting, one of Ebert's most loyal supporters, Philipp Scheidemann, finished his speech with the words: "Long live the German Republic!" He was immediately attacked by Ebert, who was still a strong believer in the monarchy: "You have no right to proclaim the republic." (20)

Karl Liebknecht climbed to a balcony in the Imperial Palace and made a speech: "The day of Liberty has dawned. I proclaim the free socialist republic of all Germans. We extend our hand to them and ask them to complete the world revolution. Those of you who want the world revolution, raise your hands." It is claimed that thousands of hands rose up in support of Liebknecht. (21)

Ebert established the Council of the People's Deputies, a provisional government consisting of three delegates from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and three from the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD). Liebknecht was offered a place in the government but he refused, claiming that he would be a prisoner of the non-revolutionary majority. A few days later Ebert announced elections for a Constituent Assembly to take place on 19th January, 1918. Under the new constitution all men and women over the age of 20 had the vote. (22)

As a believer in democracy, Rosa Luxemburg assumed that her party, the Spartacus League, would contest these universal, democratic elections. However, other members were being influenced by the fact that Lenin had dispersed by force of arms a democratically elected Constituent Assembly in Russia. Luxemburg rejected this approach and wrote in the party newspaper: "The Spartacus League will never take over governmental power in any other way than through the clear, unambiguous will of the great majority of the proletarian masses in all Germany, never except by virtue of their conscious assent to the views, aims, and fighting methods of the Spartacus League." (23)

On 1st January, 1919, at a convention of the Spartacus League, Luxemburg was outvoted on this issue. As Bertram D. Wolfe has pointed out: "In vain did she (Luxemburg) try to convince them that to oppose both the Councils and the Constituent Assembly with their tiny forces was madness and a breaking of their democratic faith. They voted to try to take power in the streets, that is by armed uprising. Almost alone in her party, Rosa Luxemburg decided with a heavy heart to lend her energy and her name to their effort." (24)

In the weeks that followed the war Emil Eichhorn was appointed head of the Police Department in Berlin. As Rosa Levine pointed out: "A member of the Independent Socialist Party and a close friend of the late August Bebel, he enjoyed great popularity among revolutionary workers of all shades for his personal integrity and genuine devotion to the working class. His position was regarded as a bulwark against counter-revolutionary conspiracy and was a thorn in the flesh of the reactionary forces." (25)

On 4th January, 1919, Friedrich Ebert, ordered the removal of Emil Eichhorn, as head of the Police Department. Chris Harman, the author of The Lost Revolution (1982), has argued: "The Berlin workers greeted the news that Eichhorn had been dismissed with a huge wave of anger. They felt he was being dismissed for siding with them against the attacks of right wing officers and employers. Eichhorn responded by refusing to vacate police headquarters. He insisted that he had been appointed by the Berlin working class and could only be removed by them. He would accept a decision of the Berlin Executive of the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils, but no other." (26)

The Spartacus League published a leaflet that claimed: "The Ebert-Scheidemann government intends, not only to get rid of the last representative of the revolutionary Berlin workers, but to establish a regime of coercion against the revolutionary workers." It is estimated that over 100,000 workers demonstrated against the sacking of Eichhorn the following Sunday in "order to show that the spirit of November is not yet beaten." (27)

The leaders of the Spartacus League were unanimous that an uprising must be avoided at all costs. Paul Levi later reported: "The members of the leadership were unanimous; a government of the proletariat would not last more than a fortnight... It was necessary to avoid all slogans that might lead to the overthrow of the government at this point. Our slogan had to be precise in the following sense: lifting of the dismissal of Eichhorn, disarming of the counter-revolutionary troops, arming of the proletariat." (28)

Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Pieck published a leaflet calling for a revolution. "The Ebert-Scheidemann government has become intolerable. The undersigned revolutionary committee, representing the revolutionary workers and soldiers, proclaims its removal. The undersigned revolutionary committee assumes provisionally the functions of government." Karl Radek, had been sent by Lenin, to encourage a revolution, later commented that Rosa Luxemburg was furious with Liebknecht and Pieck for getting carried away with the idea of establishing a revolutionary government." (29)

Although massive demonstrations took place, no attempt was made to capture important buildings. On 7th January, Luxemburg wrote in the Die Rote Fahne: "Anyone who witnessed yesterday's mass demonstration in the Siegesalle, who felt the magnificent mood, the energy that the masses exude, must conclude that politically the proletariat has grown enormously through the experiences of recent weeks.... However, are their leaders, the executive organs of their will, well informed? Has their capacity for action kept pace with the growing energy of the masses?" (30)

Friedrich Ebert, Germany's new chancellor, now called in the German Army and the Freikorps to bring an end to the rebellion. They were armed with machine-guns and armoured cars and demonstrators were killed in their hundreds. Artillery was used to blow the front off the police headquarters before Eichhorn's men abandoned resistance. "Little quarter was given to its defenders, who were shot down where they were found. Only a few managed to escape across the roofs." (31)

By 13th January, 1919 the rebellion had been crushed and most of its leaders were arrested. This included Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who refused to flee the city, and were captured on 16th January and taken to the Freikorps headquarters. "After questioning, Liebknecht was taken from the building, knocked half conscious with a rifle butt and then driven to the Tiergarten where he was killed. Rosa was taken out shortly afterwards, her skull smashed in and then she too was driven off, shot through the head and thrown into the canal." (32)

Vorwärts, the newspaper owned by the German Social Democrat Party reported the following day: Vorwärts has the honour of announcing in advance of all other papers that Karl Liebknecht had been "shot while trying to escape" and Rosa Luxemburg was "killed by the people". (33)

The elections for the National Assembly took place on 19th January 1919. The turnout rate was 83%. Over 90% of the women eligible voted. The result was as follows: German Social Democrat Party (38.72%), Independent Social Democratic Party (5.23%), German Democratic Party (21.62%), German National People's Party (17.81%) and German People's Party (4.51).

Despite the prevailing disorders and confusion, thirty-six million people in Russia cast their secret ballots in parts of the country normal enough to hold elections. In most of the large centers of population, the voting was conducted under Bolshevik auspices. Yet twenty-seven of the thirty-six million votes went to other parties. A total of 703 candidates were elected to the Constituent Assembly in November, 1917. This included Socialist Revolutionaries (299), Bolsheviks (168), Mensheviks (18) and Constitutional Democratic Party (17).

The Constituent Assembly opened on 18th January, 1918. When the Assembly refused to support the programme of the new Soviet Government, the Bolsheviks walked out in protest. The following day, Lenin announced that the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved. Soon afterwards all opposition political groups, including the Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and the Constitutional Democratic Party, were banned in Russia.

These groups now joined forces to form the White Army. Others who joined included landowners who had lost their estates, factory owners who had their property nationalized, devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church who objected to the government's atheism and royalists who wanted to restore the monarchy.

The White Army initially had success in the Ukraine where the Bolsheviks were unpopular. The main resistance came from Nestor Makhno, the leader of an Anarchist army in the area. Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, led the Red Army and gradually pro-Bolsheviks took control of the Ukraine. By February, 1918, the Whites held no major areas in Russia.

Lenin appointed Leon Trotsky as commissar of war and was sent to rally the Red Army in the Volga. Trotsky proved to be an outstanding military commander and Kazan and Simbirsk were recaptured in September, 1918. The following month he took Samara but the White Army did make progress in the south when General Anton Denikin took control of the Kuban region and General Peter Wrangel began to advance up the Volga.

The main threat to the Bolshevik government came from General Nikolai Yudenich. In October, 1918, he captured Gatchina, only 50 kilometres from Petrograd. Leon Trotsky arrived to direct the defence of the capital. Red Guard units were established amongst industrial workers and the rail network was used to bring troops from Moscow. Outnumbered, Yudenich ordered his men to retreat and headed for Estonia. To help the White Army, troops from Britain, France, Japan and the United States were sent into Russia. By December, 1918, there were 200,000 foreign soldiers supporting the anti-Bolshevik forces.

The Red Army continued to grow and now had over 500,000 soldiers in its ranks. This included over 40,000 officers who had served under Nicholas II. This was an unpopular decision with many Bolsheviks who feared that given the opportunity, they would betray their own troops. Trotsky tried to overcome this problem by imposing a strict system of punishment for those who were judged to be disloyal.

When the Armistice was signed on 11th November, 1918, it was agreed that there would be a Peace Conference held in Paris to discuss the post-war world. Opened on 12th January 1919, meetings were held at various locations in and around Paris until 20th January, 1920.

Leaders of 32 states representing about 75% of the world's population, attended. However, negotiations were dominated by the five major powers responsible for defeating the Central Powers: the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Japan. Important figures in these negotiations included Georges Clemenceau (France) David Lloyd George (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy), and Woodrow Wilson (United States).

Wilson wanted to the peace to be based on the Fourteen Points published in October 1918. Lloyd George was totally opposed to several of the points. This included Point II "Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants." Lloyd George saw this as undermining the country's ability to protect the British Empire.

Another issue that worried Lloyd George was Point III: "The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance." His government was split on the subject. Some favoured a system where tariffs were placed on countries outside the British Empire. Lloyd George would also have difficulty in delivering Point IV. "Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety."

Seven of Wilson's points demanded or implied support for "autonomous development" or "self-determination". For example, Point V: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the Government whose title is to be determined." This was an attempt to undermine the British Empire. (34)

These measures were also opposed by Georges Clemenceau. He told Lloyd George that if he accepted what Wilson proposed, he would have serious problems when he returned to France. "After the millions who have died and the millions who have suffered, I believe - indeed I hope - that my successor in office would take me by the nape of the neck and have me shot." (35)

While the discussions were taking place, the Allies continued the naval blockade of Germany. It is estimated that by December, 1918, there were 763,000 civilian famine related deaths. (36) Robert Smillie, the Miners' Federation of Great Britain (MFGB), in June, 1919, issued a statement condemning the blockade claiming that another 100,000 German civilians had died since the armistice. (37)

David Lloyd George admitted that the blockade was killing German civilians and was fermenting revolution, but thought it necessary in order to force Germany to sign the peace treaties: "The mortality among women, children and the sick is most grave and sickness, due to hunger, is spreading. The attitude of the population is becoming one of despair and people feel that an end by bullets is preferable to death by starvation." (38)

Ulrich Brockdorff-Rantzau, the leader of the German delegation, made a speech attacking the blockade. "Crimes in war may not be excusable, but they are committed in the struggle for victory in the heat of passion which blunts the conscience of nations. The hundreds of thousands of non-combatants who have perished since November 11 through the blockade were killed with cold deliberation after victory had been won and assured to our adversaries." (39)

Clemenceau and Lloyd George both hated each other. Clemenceau believed that Lloyd George knew nothing about the world beyond Great Britain, lacked a formal education and "was not an English gentleman". Lloyd George thought Clemenceau a "disagreeable and bad-tempered old savage" who, despite his large head, "had no dome of benevolence, reverence or kindliness". (40) Lloyd George told Edward House, a member of the USA's delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, that "he had to have a plausible reason for having fooled the British people about the questions of war costs, reparations and what not... Germany could not pay anything like the indemnity which the French demanded." (41)

David Lloyd George put in a claim for £25 billion of reparations at the rate of £1.2 billion a year. Clemenceau wanted £44 billion, whereas Wilson said that all Germany could afford was £6 billion. On 20th March 1919, Lloyd George explained to Wilson that it would be difficult to "disperse the illusions which reign in the public mind". He had of course been partly responsible for this viewpoint. He was especially worried about having to "face up" to the "400 Members of Parliament who have sworn to exact the last farthing of what is owing to us." (42)

Lloyd George argued that Germany should pay the costs of widows' and disability pensions, and compensation for family separations. John Maynard Keynes, an economist who was the chief Treasury representative of the British delegation, was totally opposed to the idea. (43) He argued that if reparations were set at a crippling level the banking system, certainly of Europe and probably of the world, would be in danger of collapse. (44) Lloyd George replied: "Logic! Logic! I don't care a damn for logic. I am going to include pensions." (45)

Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian, also advised Lloyd George against demanding too much from Germany: "You may strip Germany of her colonies, reduce her armaments to a mere police force and her navy to that of a third rate power, all the same if she feels that she has been unjustly treated in the peace of 1919, she will find means of exacting retribution from her conquerors... The greatest danger that I see in the present situation is that Germany may throw in her lot with Bolshevism and place her resources, her brains, her vast organising powers at the disposal of the revolutionary fanatics whose dream is to conquer the world for Bolshevism by force of arms." (46)

When it was rumoured that Lloyd George was willing to do a deal closer to the £6 billion than the sum proposed by the French, The Daily Mail began a campaign against the Prime Minister. This included publishing a letter signed by 380 Conservative backbenchers demanding that Germany pay the full cost of the war. "Our constituents have always expected and still expect that the first edition of the peace delegation would be, as repeatedly stated in your election pledges, to present the bill in full, to make Germany acknowledge the debt and then discuss ways and means of obtaining payment. Although we have the utmost confidence in your intentions to fulfil your pledges to the country, may we, as we have to meet innumerable inquiries from our constituents, have your renewed assurances that you have in no way departed from your original intention." (47)

Lloyd George made a speech in the House of Commons where he argued that it was wrong to suggest that he was willing to accept a lower figure. He ended his speech with an attack on Lord Northcliffe, who he accused of seeking revenge for his exclusion from the government. "Under these conditions I am prepared to make allowance, but let me say that when that kind of diseased vanity is carried to the point of sowing dissension between great allies whose unity is essential to the peace of the world... then I say, not even that kind of disease is a justification for so black a crime against humanity." (48)

Negotiations continued in Paris over the level of reparations. The Australian prime minister, William Hughes, joined the French in claiming the whole cost of the war, his argument being that the tax burden imposed on the Allies by the German aggression should be regarded as damage to civilians. He estimated the cost of this was £25 billion. John Foster Dulles, commented that in his opinion, Germany should only pay about £5 billion. Faced with the possibility of an American veto, the French abandoned their claims to war costs, being impressed by Dulles's argument that, having suffered the most damage, they would get the largest share of reparations. (49)

David Lloyd George eventually agreed that he been wrong to demand such a large figure and told Dulles he "would have to tell our people the facts". John Maynard Keynes suggested to Edwin Montagu that whereas Germany should be required to "render payment for the injury she has caused up to the limit of her capacity" but it was "impossible at the present time to determine what her capacity was, so that the fixing of a definite liability should be postponed." (50)

Keynes explained to Jan Smuts that he believed the Allies should take a new approach to negotiations: "This afternoon... Keynes came to see me and I described to him the pitiful plight of Central Europe. And he (who is conversant with the finance of the matter) confessed to me his doubt whether anything could really be done. Those pitiful people have little credit left, and instead of getting indemnities from them, we may have to advance them money to live." (51)

On 28th March, 1919, Keynes warned Lloyd George about the possible long-term economic problems of reparations. "I do not believe that any of these tributes will continue to be paid, at the best, for more than a very few years. They do not square with human nature or march with the spirit of the age." He also thought any attempt to collect all the debts arising from the First World War would poison, and perhaps destroy, the capitalist system. (52)

Keynes argued that it was in the best interest of the future of capitalism and democracy for the Allies to deal swiftly with the food shortages in Germany: "A proposal which unfolds future prospects and shows the peoples of Europe a road by which food and employment and orderly existence can once again come their way, will be a more powerful weapon than any other for the preservation from the dangers of Bolshevism of that order of human society which we believe to be the best starting point for future improvement and greater well-being." (53)

Eventually it was agreed that Germany should pay reparations of £6.6 billion (269bn gold marks). Keynes was appalled and considered that the figure should be below £3 billion. He wrote to Duncan Grant: "I've been utterly worn out, partly by incessant work and partly by depression at the evil round me... The Peace is outrageous and impossible and can bring nothing but misfortune... Certainly if I were in the Germans' place I'd die rather than sign such a Peace... If they do sign, that will really be the worst thing that could happen, as they can't possibility keep some of the terms, and general disorder and unrest will result everywhere. Meanwhile there is no food or employment anywhere, and the French and Italians are pouring munitions into Central Europe to arm everyone against everyone else... Anarchy and Revolution is the best thing that can happen, and the sooner the better." (54)

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28th June 1919. Keynes wrote to Lloyd George explaining why he was resigning: "I can do no more good here. I've on hoping even though these last dreadful weeks that you'd find some way to make of the Treaty a just and expedient document. But now it's apparently too late. The battle is lost. I leave the twins to gloat over the devastation of Europe, and to assess to taste what remains for the British taxpayer." (55)

Eventually five treaties emerged from the Conference that dealt with the defeated powers. The five treaties were named after the Paris suburbs of Versailles (Germany), St Germain (Austria), Trianon (Hungary), Neuilly (Bulgaria) and Serves (Turkey). These treaties imposed territorial losses, financial liabilities and military restrictions on all members of the Central Powers.

The main terms of the Versailles Treaty were:

(1) The surrender of all German colonies as League of Nations mandates.

(2) The return of Alsace-Lorraine to France.

(3) Cession of Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium, Memel to Lithuania, the Hultschin district to Czechoslovakia.

(4) Poznania, parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia to Poland.

(5) Danzig to become a free city;

(6) Plebiscites to be held in northern Schleswig to settle the Danish-German frontier.

(7) Occupation and special status for the Saar under French control.

(8) Demilitarization and a fifteen-year occupation of the Rhineland.

(9) German reparations of £6,600 billion.

(10) A ban on the union of Germany and Austria.

(11) An acceptance of Germany's guilt in causing the war.

(12) Provision for the trial of the former Kaiser and other war leaders.

(13) Limitation of Germany's army to 100,000 men with no conscription, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no poison-gas supplies, no aircraft and no airships;

(14) The German navy was allowed six pre-dreadnought battleships and was limited to a maximum of six light cruisers (not exceeding 6,100 tons), twelve destroyers (not exceeding 810 tons and twelve torpedo boats (not exceeding 200 tons) and was forbidden submarines.

Germany signed the Versailles Treaty under protest. The USA Congress refused to ratify the treaty. Many people in France and Britain were angry that there was no trial of the Kaiser or the other war leaders.

Consequences of Peace: The Versailles Settlement, Aftermath and Legacy 1919–2010

The Paris peace conferences at the end of the First World War still loom large in our collective imagination.

For the most part, the subject is viewed through the prism of the emotions and sentiments that were felt at the time and subsequently: that, for all the noble idealism, the end result was – at best – a missed opportunity, or even that it was unworkable, unfair and indefensible.

Of course, that ‘missed opportunity’ would not be without consequences. Every student of history knows that the seeds of the Second World War were contained in the rancour engendered by the Paris conferences, and it is a criticism that would not have been lost on those around the Versailles table.

As one contemporary presciently noted: “After ‘the war to end war’ they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘peace to end peace’”. Therein, in large part, lies the negative reputation that the conferences have since endured.

Yet, in his new book, Alan Sharp argues for a reassessment of the Paris conferences. While he readily acknowledges that the settlement was profoundly flawed and contributed greatly to the horrors that succeeded it, he is nonetheless conciliatory: “Those who would condemn the peacemakers,” he says, “should perhaps be more cautious with their judgements.”

The gist of his argument is twofold. Firstly, he suggests that the sheer scale of the disruption and dislocation caused by the collapse of four empires at the end of the First World War was so vast and unprecedented, that the chances of any satisfactory settlement of the myriad problems raised were very small. In such circumstances, perhaps the flawed peace was the best that could have been achieved.

Secondly, Sharp suggests that there is much contained within the provisions and deliberations of the Paris conferences that is of seminal importance to the wider history of the 20th century: the principle of national self-determination, for instance, or collective security, or developments in the fields of international law or human rights.

Thus, though Paris was, in essence, the last of the great power conferences of the 19th century – after Vienna (1814–15) and Berlin (1884) – it also formed an essential starting point for the century that followed.

With these assertions, Sharp not only advocates a timely, and rather more benign, reassessment of the Paris peace conferences, he also does an excellent job of placing them within a much wider context than they normally inhabit: one reaching right up to the present day.

In this latter connection, one suspects that Sharp casts his net a little too widely, but the overarching point is nonetheless well made and convincing.

Drawing on recent scholarship, Professor Sharp’s analysis is concise, perceptive and engaging. His beautifully produced book provides an excellent overview of a complex and wide-ranging topic, and would appeal equally to the general reader or to the student of the subject.

This is not quite a rehabilitation of the Paris treaties, but it is certainly a plea for any future assessments to bear both contemporary difficulties and later legacies more firmly in mind.

Roger Moorhouse is the author of Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler’s Capital, 1939–45 (Bodley Head, 2010)

The First World War Peace Settlement - History

Paris Peace Conference

  • The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the victorious Allied Powers following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers.
  • The main result was the Treaty of Versailles with Germany apart from treaties with other defeated nations like Treaty of Sevres with Turkey, Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria etc.

The problem of making a peace settlement

  • War aims
    • When the war started, none of the participants had any specific ideas about what they hoped to achieve, except that Germany and Austria wanted to preserve the Habsburg Empire, and thought this required them to destroy Serbia.
    • As the war progressed, some of the governments involved, perhaps to encourage their troops by giving them some clear objectives to fight for, began to list their war aims.
    • British war aims:
      • British prime minister Lloyd George mentioned (January 1918) the defence of democracy and the righting of the injustice done to France in 1871 when she lost Alsace and Lorraine to Germany.
      • Other points were
        • the restoration of Belgium and Serbia,
        • an independent Poland,
        • democratic self-government for the nationalities of Austria-Hungary,
        • self-determination for the German colonies and
        • an international organization to prevent war.
        • American President Woodrow Wilson stated US war aims in his famous 14 Points (January 1918):
          • abolition of secret diplomacy
          • free navigation at sea for all nations in war and peace
          • removal of economic barriers between states
          • all-round reduction of armaments
          • impartial adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of the populations
          • evacuation of Russian territory
          • restoration of Belgium
          • liberation of France and restoration of Alsace and Lorraine
          • readjustment of Italian frontiers along the lines of nationality
          • self-government for the peoples of Austria-Hungary
          • Romania, Serbia and Montenegro to be evacuated and Serbia given access to the sea
          • self-government for the non-Turkish peoples of the Turkish Empire and permanent opening of the Dardanelles
          • an independent Poland with secure access to the sea
          • a general association of nations to preserve peace.
          • Clash of interests of allied powers and difference in personalities of their leaders at Paris Peace Conference:
            • When the peace conference met (January 1919) it was soon obvious that a settlement would be difficult because of basic disagreements among the victorious powers due to their differing interests as well as differences in ideologies of their leaders.
              • France (represented by George Clemenceau):
                • France wanted a harsh peace, to ruin Germany economically and militarily so that she could never again threaten French frontiers.
                • Since 1814 the Germans had invaded France no fewer than five times. At all costs France’s security must be secure.
                • France wanted to get back Saar, Ruhr and Alsace & Lorraine. She wanted Germany and Austria to remain disunited.
                • George Clemenceau was an experienced diplomat but cynical. He had literary and artistic insight. He had depth of knowledge of world politics. He was known as tiger, a man with full determination.
                • Clemenceau ridiculed Wilson’s 14 points program and said that “even God was satisfied with 10 commandments but Mr. Wilson insists on 14”. He once said that Wilson spoke like Jesus Christ but acted like Lloyd George.
                • France had some support of England and she could get much though not all. She was given mineral areas of Alsace & Lorraine. Germany was made weak both commercially and politically. But France could not extend territory upto left bank of Rhine.
                • Britain was in favour of a less severe settlement, enabling Germany to recover quickly so that she could resume her role as a major customer for British goods given isolated and secure position of Britain with naval supremacy. Also, a flourishing German economy was vital if reparations were to be paid.
                • PM Lloyd George was realistic person, clever, good diplomat. He was not in favor of imposing impossible amount of money on Germany. According to him, it was not sensible too treat Germany as a cow to extract milk and beef at the same time.
                • Britain also realized that Germany was the only nation which could check spread of Communism from Russia.
                • However, Lloyd George had just won an election with slogans such as ‘hang the Kaiser·, and talk of getting from Germany ‘everything that you can squeeze out of a lemon and a bit more’. The British public therefore expected a harsh peace settlement.
                • Lloyd George had to play the role to adjust differences between Wilson and Clemenceau. Clemenceau was not an idealist person and keen to see Germany weak and isolated. On the other hand Wilson was an idealist and wanted to solve issues on the basis of his 14 points programme.
                • The USA President Willson was a brilliant orator, an idealist and a person with rigid conviction.
                • Wilson was in favour of a lenient and long duration peace based on justice and neutrality instead of taking revenge, though he had been disappointed when the Germans ignored his 14 Points and imposed the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on Russia.
                • He wanted a just peace:
                  • although he had to accept British and French demands for reparations and German disarmament, he was able to limit reparations to losses caused to civilians and their property, instead of the whole cost of the war’.
                  • to have supreme position in European politics,
                  • to reduce British naval supremacy,
                  • to secure economic advantages and
                  • to check Japanese expansion in China.
                  • The USA was so much disappointed that she refused to sign treaty of Versailles and did not join League of Nations.
                  • Wilson did not enjoy much support at home. He was democrat but Republican party was in majority in Congress.
                  • Britain and France were forced to follow open door policy in Middle East, approval of Monroe Doctrine was secured from European nations.
                  • Due to the USA, Japan could not get all that she wanted.
                  • Italy wanted expansion of her colonial empire and to extend her influence on Adriatic and was keen to get the border territories populated by Italians.
                  • Most of her claims were not endorsed by allied nations at Paris except that her northern frontier was extended upto Breneer Pass. Because of indifferent attitude of powers, she was an angry nation and withdrew from conference.
                  • Orlando did not speak too much. He took interest in those problems which were directly connected with Italy. he could not occupy decisive place in conference.

                  The treaty of Versailles with Germany

                  • The terms
                    • Germany had to lose territory in Europe:
                      • Alsace-Lorraine to France
                      • Eupen, Moresnet and Malmedy to Belgium
                      • North Schleswig to Denmark (after a plebiscite)
                      • West Prussia and Posen to Poland, though Danzig (the main port of West Prussia) was to be a free city under League of Nations administration, because its population was wholly German.
                      • Memel was given to Lithuania.
                      • The area known as the Saar was to be administered by the League of Nations for 15 years, when the population would be allowed to vote on whether it should belong to France or Germany. In the meantime, France was to have the use of its coal mines.
                      • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which had been handed over to Germany by Russia by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, were taken away from Germany and set up as independent states.
                      • This was an example of self-determination being carried into practice.
                      • Union (Anschluss) between Germany and Austria was forbidden.
                      • Germany’s African colonies were taken away and became ‘mandates’ under League of Nations supervision: this meant that various member states of the League ‘looked after’ them.
                      • German armaments were strictly limited to a maximum of 100000 troops and no conscription (compulsory military service), no tanks, armoured cars, military aircraft or submarines, and only six battleships.
                      • The Rhineland was to be permanently demilitarized.
                      • This meant that all German territory on the left bank of the Rhine, together with a 50-kilometer strip on the right bank, was to be closed to German troops and was to be occupied by Allied troops for at least ten years.
                      • The War Guilt clause fixed the blame for the outbreak of the war solely on Germany and her allies and proposed that the ex-Kaiser should be put on trial for war crimes.
                      • Germany was to pay reparations for damage done to the Allies.
                      • The actual amount was not decided at Versailles, but it was announced later (1921), after much argument as £6600 million.
                      • A League of Nations was formed its aims and organization were set out in the League Covenant.

                      Why did the Germans object, and how far were their objections justified?

                      The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles

                      The Paris Peace Conference convened in January 1919 at Versailles just outside Paris . The conference was called to establish the terms of the peace after World War I. Though nearly thirty nations participated, the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Italy became known as the “Big Four.” The “Big Four” dominated the proceedings that led to the formulation of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty that ended World War I.

                      The Treaty of Versailles articulated the compromises reached at the conference. It included the planned formation of the League of Nations, which would serve both as an international forum and an international collective security arrangement. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was a strong advocate of the League as he believed it would prevent future wars.

                      Negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference were complicated. The United Kingdom, France, and Italy fought together as the Allied Powers during the First World War. The United States, entered the war in April 1917 as an Associated Power. While it fought alongside the Allies, the United States was not bound to honor pre-existing agreements among the Allied Powers. These agreements focused on postwar redistribution of territories. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson strongly opposed many of these arrangements, including Italian demands on the Adriatic. This often led to significant disagreements among the “Big Four.”

                      Treaty negotiations were also weakened by the absence of other important nations. Russia had fought as one of the Allies until December 1917, when its new Bolshevik Government withdrew from the war. The Bolshevik decision to repudiate Russia’s outstanding financial debts to the Allies and to publish the texts of secret agreements between the Allies concerning the postwar period angered the Allies. The Allied Powers refused to recognize the new Bolshevik Government and thus did not invite its representatives to the Peace Conference. The Allies also excluded the defeated Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria).

                      The Peace Settlement

                      Almost a year before the war ended American president Woodrow Wilson drew up a plan called the Fourteen Points that was to end the war. However, when the Allies got together in Paris in 1919 they didn't consider very much of Wilson's plan.

                      The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war, punished Germany and its allies very severely. Germany had to give up land to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark and France. It also lost its colonies in Africa. The Germans were made responsible for having started the war and were to pay almost $33 billion in reparations. The army had to turn over its weapons, ships and other war materials to the Allies.

                      Separate treaties were signed between the Allies and the other Central Powers. Austria and Hungary lost almost two thirds of their former territory. Most of the new states and their borders in Eastern Europe were recognized. In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire lost control of Syria, Iraq and Palestine. Germany's allies also had to pay reparations and had to reduce the strength of their armies.

                      A New World Order? ↑

                      It was a very different world to that of 1914. The United States made decisive interventions in the war and peacemaking, but this reversal of a century-old tradition of non-involvement in European affairs now seemed a temporary lapse after the Senate’s refusal to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. The British Dominions, their identities tempered by war, expected greater autonomy, whilst Irish nationalists sought independence. Four great empires that for centuries had dominated eastern and central Europe and the Middle East had collapsed. In November 1918 Charles I, Emperor of Austria (1887-1922) withdrew as his empire disintegrated whilst Germany became a republic after Wilhelm II, German Emperor’s (1859-1941) abdication, though unlike the Romanovs, the Habsburg and Hohenzollern royal families survived. The Ottoman Empire, shorn of its Middle Eastern territories, continued to exist, at least nominally, until, after a rebellion and a successful campaign against the occupying Greek forces, Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938) expelled the Sultan and created the new secular state of Turkey in 1922. [29]

                      The Russian revolutions created a dilemma that the peacemakers never resolved. James Headlam-Morley (1863-1929), a British expert in Paris, observed: "In the discussions everything inevitably leads up to Russia. Then there is a discursive discussion it is agreed that the point at issue cannot be determined until the general policy on Russia has been settled having agreed on this, instead of settling it, they pass on to some other subject." [30] After an abortive attempt to assemble the warring factions for negotiations on the Prinkipo Islands in the Sea of Marmara, the peace conference dismissed one-sixth of the earth’s surface in Articles 292 and 293 of the Treaty of Versailles. Only later, and with great reluctance, did other states acknowledge the existence of the Soviet Union and the new Baltic nations. [31]

                      In Europe thousands of miles of new frontiers came into existence. As far east as Germany’s boundaries with Poland the peacemakers could decide. Beyond that, deprived of any reliable means of enforcing their will, the new map depended more upon the outcome of wars and armed struggles – as the Chief of the British Imperial General Staff, Sir Henry Wilson (1864-1922), observed, "The root of evil is that the Paris writ does not run." [32]

                      The Balkans changed significantly with Austria, Hungary and Turkey the main losers. The major winner was Yugoslavia (technically, until 1929, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). In 1914 Serbia had 33,900 square miles and 4,600,000 people Yugoslavia by 1921 had 101,250 square miles and a population of 13,635,000. [33] Greece increased from 42,000 square miles and 4,800,000 people in 1914 to (at least temporarily) 60,000 square miles and 7,500,000 inhabitants by 1921. [34] Romania more than doubled its pre-war size and population from 53,661 square miles and 7,500,000 people to 113,941 square miles and 16,000,000 people. [35] Bulgaria, whose hopes of territorial gain (however unrealistic for a defeated power) were disappointed, emerged with 45,000 square miles of territory and a population of 5,200,000 compared to 47,750 square miles and 5,500,000 people in 1914. Its loss of Western Thrace to Greece deprived it of access to the Aegean and, proportionate to its size and wealth, it faced the highest reparations bill of all the Central Powers. [36]

                      The settlement consolidated the Balkans but fragmented Eastern Europe. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary, together with the Soviet Union, filled the political vacuum left by the collapsed empires. Hungary, which lost two-thirds of its pre-war territory and 58 percent of its population, suffered the heaviest deprivations of any of the defeated powers, losing a third of its Magyar people. Austria reluctantly became an independent state, its population of 8 million mostly in or near Vienna, a city deprived of its raison d’être as the imperial governmental, financial and banking centre. [37]

                      Poles, as subjects of the three empires that had partitioned Poland in the 18 th century, fought on both sides during the war, and Poland’s independence rested upon the unlikely outcome that Russia and its enemies, Austria-Hungary and Germany, would all lose. When this happened reborn Poland’s ambitions were not modest, reclaiming lands lost in the fourteenth century, but Lloyd George, in particular, fought to limit German losses in Upper Silesia and on the fringes of the Polish corridor. After the 1920 war with Russia, Poland established this new frontier far to the east of the Curzon line recommended by the conference, creating a state where only 69 percent of the population was Polish and whose neighbours all had grievances against it. [38]

                      Czechoslovakia, based upon the ancient kingdom of Bohemia, with the addition of Slovakia and Moravia, owed much to the efforts of two men, Tomáš Masaryk (1850-1937), whose father was Slovak, and Eduard Beneš (1884-1948), a Czech. Both proselytised hard in exile, eventually gaining Allied endorsement in 1918. Mararyk’s hopes of cooperation with Poland were dashed by a dispute over the coal-rich duchy of Teschen. The fate of 3 million German-speaking former subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to whom Germany laid claim, caused the peacemakers much disquiet. Torn between the principles of self-determination and the need to offer Czechoslovakia secure frontiers and economic prosperity, they allocated the area to the Czechs. Romania and Hungary also had disputes with Czechoslovakia, typical of the problems that prevented the new states from cooperating. Yet, if they did not hang together, should Germany, or Russia, or both, revive, they were likely to hang separately. [39]

                      The peacemakers neglected the abject Ottomans throughout 1919, only drafting the terms of Sèvres in London and San Remo in the spring of 1920, by which time conditions were much altered. Sèvres recognised an independent state of Armenia, imposed strict military restrictions on Turkey, established international control over the Straits and awarded spheres of influence in Anatolia to Italy and France, whilst Greece was given most of Thrace and the opportunity to govern Izmir for five years before a plebiscite decided its fate. The Sultan signed under duress but Kemal’s revolt was growing and in 1921 his forces halted the Greeks at the Battle of Sakarya. He then drove them back with increasing speed in 1922, culminating in a massacre at Izmir on 9 September 1922 and a stand-off with a small British force at Chanak, where war was averted by a combination of luck and good sense.

                      From 20 November 1922 to 4 February 1923 and again from 19 April until 24 July 1923 there were negotiations at Lausanne between Kemal’s representatives and the Allies, for whom the British Foreign Secretary, George Curzon (1859-1925), and later the High Commissioner at Constantinople, Sir Horace Rumbold (1869-1941), armed with little else except the secret intelligence gleaned from decoded Turkish communications, played a weak hand well. The new treaty returned Eastern Thrace, Anatolia, Izmir and some of the Aegean islands to Turkey, all the financial and extraterritorial privileges previously enjoyed by the powers were scrapped and there was no mention of Armenia, whose independence Turkey had effectively destroyed in December 1920. The Treaty of Lausanne proved to be the longest-lasting of the post-war settlements, testimony to the virtues of negotiation between participants willing to work within the same parameters and accept the need for compromise. [40]

                      Elsewhere the shape of the modern Middle East, fashioned by a combination of European imperialism and rivalries between local powers, emerged from the collapsed Ottoman Empire. Mesopotamia (now Iraq), Transjordania (Jordan), Syria and Lebanon were shared between Britain and France as mandates with Transjordania originally being a part of the Palestine mandate, whilst the Hejaz (Saudi Arabia) became independent. Palestine, the subject of Britain’s own ambitions and conflicting commitments to Arabs and Zionists – the twice or thrice promised land – became an enduring problem. Under the British mandate (1920-1948) increasing numbers of Jewish immigrants, anxious to claim their "National Home", clashed with the indigenous Arab population in the interwar period, whilst the violent birth of the state of Israel in 1948 created a Palestinian refugee problem and a clash of territorial interests which remain unresolved. [41] In Asia, Japan consolidated its position as a major regional power at the expense of China, where disappointment and frustration led to a huge demonstration in Beijing against foreign intervention on 4 May 1919. [42]

                      Two areas of the settlements were particularly controversial, offering a rich source for opponents seeking hypocrisy and double-dealing. According to the American banker, Thomas Lamont (1870-1948), "The subject of reparations caused more trouble, contention, hard feeling and delay at the Paris Peace Conference than any other point of the Treaty." [43] Yet applying the principle of self-determination ran it very close, as the need to achieve economic viability, defensible frontiers, administrative convenience and efficient communications encountered the ethnic hotch-potch of eastern and central Europe. Both subjects raised expectations that were impossible to satisfy.

                      Saint-Germain-en-Laye: September 10, 1919

                      This treaty established peace between the Allies and defeated Austria, and consecrated the dismantlement of the Austro-Hungarian empire into several smaller states, a source of many future tensions.

                      Signed at the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye outside Paris, it recognised the creation of Czechoslovakia and the merger of southern Slav states, that were to become Yugoslavia.

                      Romania expanded to include Transylvania and Bessarabia, and Poland was granted land occupied by Austria and Germany.

                      This left a separate Austria with 6.5 million inhabitants and Hungary with 8 million.

                      The First World War Peace Settlement - History

                      In August of 1918, the Allied commanders on the western front decided to go on the offensive. Starting on August 8th, a series of battles were fought called the Hundred Days Offensive. These battles included the Battle of Amiens, the Second Battle of the Somme, and several battles along Germany's Hindenburg Line. The Germans were pushed out of France and were forced to retreat back into Germany.

                      People celebrating after the armistice

                      By the end of the Hundred Days Offensive, the German forces were exhausted and running out of food and supplies. On November 11, 1918 they requested an armistice. An armistice is when both sides agree to stop fighting while a peace treaty is negotiated. The Allies agreed to the armistice and at 11 AM on November 11, 1918 the fighting in World War I came to an end.

                      The Allied Nations met in Paris at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 to decide the fate of Germany and the Central Powers. Although a number of nations took part in the negotiations, the major decisions and discussions were between the leaders of the "Big Four" nations which included Georges Clemenceau (Prime Minister of France), David Lloyd George (Prime Minister of Great Britain), Woodrow Wilson (President of the United States), and Vittorio Orlando (Prime Minister of Italy).

                      Each of the four nations had different opinions on how Germany should be treated. President Woodrow Wilson felt that the best solution was to incorporate his Fourteen Points. He thought that Germany should not be blamed for the war or punished too harshly. However, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau felt that Germany was responsible for the war and should take the blame and be forced to pay large reparations.

                      The Treaty of Versailles was signed between the Allied Powers and Germany on June 28, 1919. This officially ended World War I. The treaty was extremely harsh on Germany. It forced Germany to "accept the responsibility for causing all the loss and damage" of the war. Germany was forced to disarm, give up land to France, and to pay reparations of 132 billion Marks (around $442 billion in 2014 money).

                      The map of Europe changed significantly after World War I. Several new independent countries were formed including Poland, Finland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. Russia became the Soviet Union and the Ottoman Empire later became the country of Turkey. Germany also had to give up the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine to France.

                      As part of the Paris Peace Conference, an organization called the League of Nations was formed. The League of Nations was formed in an effort to establish world peace. Its member countries hoped to prevent wars by helping to settle disputes between countries. The League also aimed to establish fair labor conditions, improve global health, control the global arms trade, and protect minorities in Europe. The League was officially founded by the Treaty of Versailles and had 42 founding member countries.

                      The most controversial aspect of the Versailles Treaty was that Germany was to take full responsibility for the damage caused during World War I (known as the "war guilt" clause, Article 231). This clause specifically stated:

                      The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.

                      Other controversial sections included the major land concessions forced upon Germany (including the loss of all her colonies), the limitation of the German army to 100,000 men, and the extremely large sum in reparations Germany was to pay to the Allied Powers.

                      Also enraging was Article 227 in Part VII, which stated the Allies intention of charging German Emperor Wilhelm II with "supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties." Wilhelm II was to be tried in front of a tribunal made up of five judges.

                      The terms of the Versailles Treaty were so seemingly hostile to Germany that German Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann resigned rather than sign it. However, Germany realized they had to sign it for they had no military power left to resist.

                      Brief History of the Peace

                      Some ten thousand years ago, the last glacial ice sheets retreated from the northern parts of the Canadian prairies. They left behind fertile soils, thick deposits of gravel, boulders of every size and shape, innumerable shallow lakes and large areas of swamp and muskeg. Slowly, grasses and trees began to cover the land again. A natural parkland of mixed spruce and poplar developed with small areas of open prairie grassland here and there.

                      McQueen’s Slough, Waterfowl Reserve, Dawson Creek – Photo by G.R. Clare

                      Groups of nomadic hunters probably passed through the area whenever the Rocky Mountain and Keewatin ice sheets separated briefly. There is evidence of them pausing briefly near Fort St. John around 10,000 years ago. The Ice Free Corridor allowed people from Asia to penetrate deep into the Americas. With the end of the Ice Age, many of these groups moved back north. They followed the great herds of grazing animals which were, in turn, following the grasses northward in the warming climate.

                      For thousands of years the nomadic hunters struggled to adapt to the rigours of a harsh northern climate and an uncertain food supply. Distinctive groups developed their own cultures and tool kits to make survival possible. The two major language groups in the Peace River area are the Athapaskan and the Algonquian. Some of the Beaver have preserved their Athapaskan tongue while the Algonquian language is still used by a few Cree people of the area. Efforts are being made to preserve the native culture in some places and to pass it down to the younger generations but it is a continual struggle.

                      The arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Eastern Canada in 1670 eventually had a major impact in the Peace River area. Guns made their way westward as trade goods and the Cree began to push the Beaver further west. The Beaver in turn pushed the Sekani deep into the Rocky Mountain Trench in the mid-1700s. A truce was eventually agreed to by the Cree and the Beaver and the great river they called Unchagah [Peace] became the boundary between their hunting territories.

                      Two great rival fur-trading companies, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, pushed westward in the late 1700’s. Their competition was sometimes marked by violence toward each other and even toward the Indians they depended on for both furs and food.

                      Fort Chipewayan, on Lake Athabasca, became the headquarters for the Northwest Company’s attempts to reach the Pacific Ocean. Alexander Mackenzie, a fur-trader by profession but an explorer by nature, set out for the Western Sea in 1792. He wintered over at the junction of the Smokey and Peace Rivers near the present day town of Peace River, Alberta. In the spring of 1793, he left Fort Fork in a 26-foot canoe with a crew of 10 men and a dog. On July 22 he reached the Pacific near Bella Coola. He was the first European to cross North America north of Mexico.

                      An era of fur trading began in the Peace with the first forts being built within a few years of Mackenzie’s great trip. Simon Fraser stopped over at Hudson’s Hope in 1806 before he pushed south to follow the river named after him to its mouth near Vancouver. Posts such as Dunvegan, Fort Vermilion, Fort St John and McLeod Lake became centres of the northern fur trade. Both the Catholic and Anglican churches established missions in the Peace along with the fur traders.

                      There was a brief flurry of gold panning in the 1870’s on the Omineca and on the Peace, but it was never of much importance. Some hopeful Klondikers passed through the Peace in 1898 on their way to the Yukon, but this was one of the worst routes to follow to the goldfields.

                      The British Columbia portion of the Peace did not attract significant permanent European settlement until after 1912 when the land was first opened up for homesteading. This last great wave of agricultural settlement in Western Canada brought people from all over the world into the Peace River country. The Peace River area is separated from the southern Canadian prairies by a two hundred-mile wide band of muskeg and forest. It remained virtually empty and largely unknown until the early 1900ís. A few fur traders had recognized the agricultural potential of the deep river valley, but the plateau lands above it remained empty and unexplored until late in the 19th century.

                      The Canadian government’s plans to build a railway from Ontario to the Pacific brought surveyors and geologists into the Peace. Eminent scientists like the botanist John Macoun (1873) the surveyor A.R.C. Selwyn (1875) and the geologist George Mercer Dawson (1879) brought information about the area to public notice.

                      After 1900, enthusiastic amateurs like A.M. Bezanson did much to spread the idea of an untouched wealth of land waiting for settlers. Settlement followed quickly. The Grande Prairie area of northwest Alberta was pretty well taken up by 1911 and people coming later turned their attention to British Columbia.

                      Opened a bit at a time after 1912, the Peace River Block’s 3,500,000 acres of federally controlled land attracted hundreds of settlers. They came in wagons, on horseback and on foot in summer and on sleds with cabooses in winter. They came from all over North America and from most of the countries in Europe.

                      The pioneers fought mud, mosquitoes and abysmal trails. They endured the isolation, monotony and hardships of severe winters which often lasted from the beginning of November to the end of April. They stuck it out — at least most of them did — and proved up their claim to 160 acres of Peace River land. For ten dollars and a lifetime of work, they could have land of their own and a future for their families.

                      When Canada joined Britain in the First World War in 1914, many of the young men starting out in the Peace left their homesteads and enlisted for service overseas. Those who returned safely after 1918 took up the endless task of turning 160 acres of bush into cropland. As veterans, they were entitled to a Soldier Settlement quarter section and many took up that option, sometimes selling it immediately to finance the home quarter. Land to the west of Dawson Creek and Pouce Coupe was opened at this time and little settlements like Arras, Bessborough, Sunset Prairie and Sunrise Valley sprang up.

                      The decade of the Great Depression plunged the Peace into a time of general economic hardship eased only by the fact that this area was never subject to the droughts of the southern Prairies. Many people left Saskatchewan and southern Alberta in desperation and moved north where there was land and water. Even though the population grew during this time, prices for farm products — grain and livestock — were extremely low. Sometimes a farmer would ship fat livestock to market in Edmonton and receive a bill for the freight instead of payment for the animals!

                      World War II focussed attention on the Peace region and on Dawson Creek in particular. The Northern Alberta Railway had reached the village of 800 people in 1931 but it was not until 1942 that its location at the end of steel became important. When the United States and Canada agreed to build a land route to Alaska, Dawson Creek became “Mile Zero” for the Alaska Highway, a designation the city proudly bears even now. The construction of the highway was an epic undertaking — over 1500 miles through uncharted forest and muskeg in less than nine months! Thousands of military and civilian workers quickly overwhelmed the quiet little village and turned it into a boom town.

                      After the war ended in 1945, the area was left with better connections by land and by air. Before long, exploration for oil and natural gas brought new interest and prosperity to the region and new transportation links as well. The Northern Alberta Railway was joined by the Pacific Great Eastern from Vancouver and a new highway — the John Hart — linked Dawson Creek to Prince George. A new highway soon provided a much-shortened connection to Edmonton, capital of Alberta and the home office for many Peace River companies. The construction of the huge WAC Bennett Dam at Hudson Hope and the creation of Williston Lake on the Upper Peace in the mid-60s signaled the beginning of energy extraction in the region. Coal, oil, natural gas and hydro-electricity now flow out of the region to markets in southern Canada, the United States and Pacific Rim countries. The forest industry has expanded, too, turning the spruce and aspen forests into pulp, lumber and particle-board in mills in Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Taylor and Fort Nelson. These industrial products join the more traditional agricultural products of the area — oil seeds, grains, cattle, bison and other livestock — which have been the economic mainstay of the region for decades.

                      A survey of the economics of the Peace River area in 2004 — particularly in the South Peace — would show that oil and gas exploration are at an all-time high and that the population is increasing. Tourism has become a more important aspect of the economy up and down the Alaska Highway and communities sharing the highway are working to capitalize on the steady flow of visitors, mostly American, up the road each summer.

                      Watch the video: Bagn 1940 - Gråbeinhølet og Bergatten