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Treaty of Versailles. Historians views. Background. The treaty is often compared to the treaty of Brest Litovsk This treaty was signed between the Germans and Russians in March 1918 This treaty never really came into effect because Germany surrendered in Novemeber 1918

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treaty of versailles
Treaty of Versailles
  • Historians views
  • The treaty is often compared to the treaty of Brest Litovsk
  • This treaty was signed between the Germans and Russians in March 1918
  • This treaty never really came into effect because Germany surrendered in Novemeber 1918
  • However the harshness of this treaty to some extent dominated the thinking about the peace terms at Versailles
  • In reality harsh as the treaty was with Germany, the treaties of St. Germain and Trianon were far harsher.
treaty of brest litovsk
Treaty of Brest Litovsk
  • Russia lost Poland, the Baltic States and the Ukraine
  • In the South it lost lands to Turkey this cutting off Russian access to the Black Sea
  • Russia had to pay a war indemnity of 6000million Marks
  • Overall impact:
    • Russia lost 30% of its population
    • 32 % of its agricultural land
    • 85% of its sugar beet land
    • 54% of its industrial undertakings
    • 89% of its coal mines
  • At the end of the War, Germany had to give up all of its gains when it signed the Armistice Document
  • At the end of the day this treaty redefines the word ‘harsh’
german losses
German Losses
  • If you look beyond the rhetoric
  • German losses amounted to
    • 13.5 5 of its territory
    • 13% of its economic productivity
    • 10% of its population
    • 40% of its merchant shipping and vessels
    • Huge cuts in armament and armed forces which sharply reduced its capacity to wage war
ruth henig
Ruth Henig
  • British Historian ( Origins of the Second World War, 1995)
    • Her view is:
    • 1950’s forms a cut off about thinking re: the treaty. Before that the tendency is to say that the treaty was very harsh
    • Post 1950 the consensus in general is the settlement was possibly the best under the circumstances
    • Weakness of the treaty was not in its terms but rather in the lack of mechanisms to enforce the terms on Germany
antony wood
Antony Wood
  • Europe 1815-1960 ( 1986)
  • He is a British historian, he argues that the significance of Versailles was emotional
  • The prevailing mood was one of revenge and humiliation for Germany
  • Germans saw this treaty as a sign of humiliation and did everything in its power to over turn it
rohan butler
Rohan Butler
  • British Historian
  • New Cambridge Modern History (1964)
  • He argues that the settlement on the East was more or less a fair compromise
  • Germans reacted to the War Guilt clause and misused its context to protest the treaty
  • Butler argues that the treaty was not a failure as much as German failure to accept its defeat
  • The war had a left a dangerous vaccuum in Eastern Europe and the refusal of the US to join the League further complicated matters
howard elcock
Howard Elcock
  • British Historian writes in 1972
  • Agrees with Rohan Butler
  • Also states that the Depression wrecked any chances for the Treaty to work
  • Elcock argues the treaty failed not because of the terms per se but because of the events following 1919
sally marks
Sally Marks
  • British Historian writes in 1970’s
  • She argues that the treaty was not unfair BUT the Germans thought that it was
  • A weak Eastern frontier ( new states CRYP) was what complicated matters
  • The real failure was in the enforcement of the treaty
  • Sally Marks also argued that the amount that Germany was forced to pay was well within her means and had she chosen to do so, she could have paid off her debts and recovered the Rhineland areas a lot sooner
  • Germany chose to deliberately stall reparations payments because in doing so it would slow down France’s recovery and rebuilding programmes
william carr
William Carr
  • British scholar writes in 1985
  • He sums up the debate as follows: The treaty was severe but Germany could have done worse if France had its way
  • Germany resented the treaty especially the War Guilt clause and the fact that it was a Diktat
  • From the very beginning it was clear that the treaty would last only as long as the victorious powers were in a position to enforce it on an resentful and sullen people
ajp taylor
AJP Taylor
  • British Historian writes in 1961
  • He wrote his seminal work The Origins of the Second World War long before many of the archives were opened yet his arguments about the origins and nature of WW2 have stood the test of time.
  • He states the treaty was designed to provide security from German aggression but could only work with the cooperation of the Government
  • The war had left the Germans in a strong position, her only rival had disappeared( Russia)
  • So once Germany recovered she WOULD be a threat to her neighbours and there was nothing in the treaty that would safeguard against that
anthony lentin
Anthony Lentin
  • He wrote in 1984 ‘Guilt at Versailles’
  • Refers to Machiavelli. ( conciliate enemy or destroy him)
  • He argues that it was neither a Wilson peace or a Clemenceau peace
  • The treaty did not pacify Germany or permanently weaken her but left her hurt and humiliated
  • He says that the treaty did not cripple Germany’s ability to make war
  • Germany came out of the war stronger than her neighbours
  • She gained from the fact that her neighbors saw the peace as unsatisfactory
  • It was a bizarre combination of little will to enforce the treaty, lack of faith in its terms and German determination to undermine it
alan sharp
Alan Sharp
  • He claims that the treaty was essentially a compromise and in the end saitsfied nobody and therein lay its fundamental weakness
german historians
German historians
  • Lately German historians too recognize that the treaty was relatively lenient
views of the peacemakers
Views of the peacemakers
  • In recent years the thinking about Lloyd George and Clemenceau has changed
  • Both have emerged as leaders who wished to safeguard their countries national interests
  • Wilson’s reputation has been damaged. He now is seen as a leader who failed to negotiate effectively and his domestic failures had an impact on the entire treaty settlement
  • This was a key sticking point in the negotiations from the start
  • The view of Versailles has been colured by the book written by economist JM Keynes
  • He argued in his book the economic consequences of the peace that the treaty was beyond Germany’s capacity to pay
  • Etienne Mantoux a French historian who wrote at the end of WW2 challenged that view in his book Carthaginian Peace
  • He argued that Germany had recovered by 1929 and that German post war problems had largely been of her own creation
  • The recent shift in opinion now indicates that France was the country that got the rotten deal in the treaty of Versailles
  • It had to deal with restoration and damage to its 10 richest provinces which had been affected by the War
  • France was left without a Rhineland frontier and without the guarantees that she had been promised
  • USA did not ratify the treaty, signed a separate peace with Germany but reminded the Allies of the debts that they owed
  • It had to deal with a sullen and resentful Germany with no support from its former allies
  • France’s invasion of the Ruhr is now seen as a desperate attempt to recover its dues and to slow down German political and economic recovery
overall assessment
Overall assessment
  • Treaty of Versailles itself was weak
  • It lacked mechanisms for its enforcement
  • It was naively hoped that Germany would accept the terms and comply with them as France had done in 1871
  • Germany on the other hand chose to denounce it at every turn by claiming that it contravened the 14 points.
  • Its case was strengthened when Germany was supported in its attempts to revise the treaty by Britain who did not wish to see a strong and resurgent France
margaret macmillan
Margaret Macmillan
  • She is Lloyd George’s grand daughter and is herself a historian of repute
  • She says: it became fashionable to denounce the treaty
  • She argues it is necessary to conside the actions during the Inter war period than to just blame the treaty
  • She says treaty or no treaty Hitler would still make his demands
  • The treaty was merely a convenient vehicle for his propaganda
  • She blames the onset of WW2 for the failures of policy, short sightedness of the politicians of the time
impact of the treaties with ah
Impact of the treaties with AH
  • Austria lost 2/3rd of its population and so did Hungary
  • The bulk of Austria’s population in Vienna and the rest scattered across the German alpine lands
  • Industrial wealth of Austria was ceded to Poland and Czechoslovakia
  • Austria deprived of industry and access to the sea. Left with largely agricultural lands and debt burden
  • Hungary’s territorial losses more severe than that of Austria
  • Fiume its access to the sea was granted to Yugolavia and became a future bone of contention with Italy
  • Hungary too faced severe economic problems
  • Denied access to the sea and lost its valuable corn producing areas
  • The river Danube which was once the lifeline of trade and commerce was now impacted by the trade and tariff barriers
  • Minority ethnic groups were created and this would add to the tensions on the interwar period e.g Sudeten Germans, 2 million Magyars in Romania
treaties with bulgaria and turkey
Treaties with Bulgaria and Turkey
  • Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria was relatively lenient
  • Treaty of Sevres with Turkey opened the Straits to all ships of all nations
  • The Straits were now handed over to an international commission
  • All territories handed over as mandates
  • Turkey lost territories to Greece and thus its foothold in Europe.
  • This was rejected by the Turks and eventually Turkey was the one country which successfully re-negotiated its treaty in 1924
  • The seeds of the Arab Israeli conflict were sown in this treaty.