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Revelations regarding British attitudes to the Treaty of Versailles.

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Introduction

The Treaty of Versailles Revelations regarding British attitudes to the Treaty of Versailles On 18 January, 1919, the Paris Peace Conference opened at Versailles, just outside Paris, France. The war had ended on 11 November the previous year and the three major victorious powers - the USA, Great Britain and France (led by President Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau respectively) had high but conflicting ambitions at the conference. Lloyd George later spoke of the task which he had set himself for the treaty: "to restore where restoration is just, to organize reparations where damage and injury have been inflicted, and to establish guarantees and securities in so far as human foresight could do so, against the repetition of those crimes and horrors from which the world is just emerging". After much discussion at Versailles, severe debate amongst Great Britain's leading intellectuals was provoked. Economist John Maynard Keynes, writing on 26 May 1919, spoke of the "unjust" and "inexpedient" treatment of Germany (he threatened to retract his services if Lloyd George continued to "lead us all into ...read more.

Middle

On 28 June 1919, the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, and Germany, signed the Treaty of Versailles. The following day, Austen Chamberlain wrote to his sister contemplating the events of the previous months, and specifically the "dangerous temptation" of Germany to rage war on her Eastern frontier, due to her "hatred and contempt for the Poles". However, he goes on to say no democratic country "can or will make aggressive war its...business, though it may easily enough flare up in sudden passion". How great a concern this was for Britain opens up a very important question - would commitments lie with the empire or the continent? Naturally, only time would tell, despite Chamberlain's final reflection ("Think of Germany with its 60 or 70 millions of people and France with its dwindling 40! I shudder!"). Despite all the criticism of the treaty, and the news that German children were starving on the streets, Prime Minister David Lloyd George maintained support for his decisions. ...read more.

Conclusion

Consequently differences of opinion concerning the treaty became more apparent. J. L. Garvin, editor of The Observer, commented in 1933 as follows: "The mistake...was not to have crossed the Rhine in full massiveness in 1919. [Furthermore] the psychological infatuation of their hereditary militarism was not thoroughly broken". Duff Cooper, writing to The Times in 1939 reproduces Garvin's attitude: "If German had been left stronger in 1919 she would sooner have been in a position to do what she is doing today". It is easy to comment as such with hindsight though - Hitler's actions must be considered as an exception to the events which Lloyd George's "human foresight" could have prepared for. Yet even as late as 1937, British Ambassador in Berlin Sir Nevile Henderson wrote of "amend[ing]...the injustices in the Versailles Treaty". British attitudes to the Treaty of Versailles were, not surprisingly, unharmonious. However, views such as the harshness of reparations and requirement for adjustments to be made to the initial treaty prevailed within most schools of thought. The difficulty of establishing an effective treaty must not be underestimated under any circumstances though. A treaty to please everyone simply does not exist. ...read more.

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