A Flawed Peace
On January 18, 1919, a conference to establish those terms began at the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris. Attending the talks, known as the Paris Peace Conference, were delegates representing 32 countries. Big Four: Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Georges Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of Great Britain, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy guided harsh conditions on losing powers. Neither Russia nor Germany and its allies were represented. Germany was forced to sign the treaty without top level representation.
A year before the treaty, President Wilson had drawn up a series of proposals. Known as the Fourteen Points, which called for just and lasting peace. The first five points included an end to secret treaties, freedom of the seas, free trade, and reduced national armies and navies. The fifth goal was the adjustment of colonial claims with fairness toward colonial peoples. The sixth through thirteenth points were specific suggestions for changing borders and creating new nations. The guiding idea behind these points was self-determination. This meant allowing people to decide for themselves under what government they wished to live (true democracy). The French, in particular, were determined to punish Germany. Clemenceau wanted Germany to pay for the suffering the war had caused. Finally a compromise was reached. The Treaty of Versailles between Germany and the Allied powers was signed on June 28, 1919.
Treaty of St Germain (1919) and the Treaty of Trianon (1920)
Treaty of St Germain (1919) was signed with Austria and the Treaty of Trianon (1920) was signed with Hungary.
- Austria & Hungary were reduced to a very small size as compared to the expanse of Habsburg Empire.
- Territory was distributed among other European nations on the principle of self-determination which entailed that now people lived under the government of their own nationality.
Treaty of Sevres with Turkey (1920)
- Huge loss of territory to Greece e.g. Eastern Thrace and Smyrna. Italy also got some territory.
- Dardanelles or the Straits (provided outlet from Black Sea) were permanently opened.
- Ottoman Empire’s colonies were converted to mandates and given to Britain and France. Syria became French Mandate while British Mandates included Trans-Jordan, Iraq and Palestine.
Adopting Wilson’s fourteenth point, the treaty created a League of Nations
What: international association
Goal: To maintain peace among nations.
Permanent Members: United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan (Executive Council).
General Assembly: 32 Allied and neutral nations (Germany and Russia were deliberately excluded).
Germany was declared sole culprit of war.
All of Germany’s territories in Africa and the Pacific were declared mandates, or territories to be administered by the League of Nations. Under the peace agreement, the Allies would govern the mandates until they were judged ready for independence.
The Creation of New Nations
Several new countries were created out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia were all recognized as independent nations.
The Ottoman Turks were forced to give up almost all of their former empire. They retained only the territory that is today the country of Turkey. Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan came under British control; Syria and Lebanon went to France.
Romania and Poland both gained Russian territory. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, formerly part of Russia, became independent nations.
United States became a dominant nation in the world—ultimately rejected the treaty of Versailles. Many Americans objected to the settlement and especially to President Wilson’s League of Nations. The United States worked out a separate treaty with Germany and its allies several years later.
Throughout Africa and Asia, people in the mandated territories were angry at the way the Allies disregarded their desire for independence. European colonialism, disguised as the mandate system, continued in Asia and Africa. Both Japan and Italy, which had entered the war to gain territory, had gained less than they wanted. Lacking the support of the United States, and later other world powers, the League of Nations was in no position to take action on these complaints. Versailles represented, as one observer noted, “a peace built on quicksand”. In a little more than two decades, the treaties’ legacy of bitterness would help plunge the world into another catastrophic war.