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The Treaty of Versailles

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Introduction

The Treaty of Versailles The Great War of the early 19th century that devastated nations, destroyed empires and ultimately bankrupted Europe was finally brought to an end in 1919 following numerous treaties, peace talks and most importantly an armistice. Following 4 years of industrialised warfare and over 10 million casualties the Great powers of Europe began the long and tiresome journey of rebuilding European politics, as well as ensuring that such a catastrophe would never happen again. However the consequences and limitations placed on Germany following the Armistice Treaty and the Treaty of Versailles shocked and angered many Germans as their government had painted a completely different picture. On the 8th of January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced his Fourteen Points to the American Congress, where he outlined the expectations he aimed for following the end of the Great War. This controversial statement was originally frowned upon by the Allied government, however it also received a large amount of praise as the future of self-determination. These points were also utilised as propaganda to lead the Allies to victory, and were globally distributed as not just a vision for the future, but also as encouragement for the Germans to surrender. ...read more.

Middle

As a result of this, A.J.P Taylor describes "Virtually all the Germans assumed that with the Armistice the war was over and as good as forgotten;" and that they "had been fighting a war of national defence and had atoned for their faults."4 Contributing to this clouding of judgement was the misinterpretation of the Armistice's Fourteen points by fault of the German government, despite its release dating almost a year ago. An example of this is mentioned by A.J.P Taylor "The Germans...did not grasp that the 13th Point inevitably meant the loss of German territory to Poland..."5 This meant that as early on as the Armistice Treaty, even the German government was unaware of the real meaning of what the points implied. The combination of these two factors contributed to a completely different reaction by the government and its people the following year when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. In January 1919 the Paris Peace Conference was founded by a council of 32 nations with the aim of discussing and analysing the peace settlement that would be imposed on the Central Power of Germany. This conference was useful however was ultimately deemed a failure due to a number of contributing factors. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many historians such as Mark McAndrew view the Treaty of Versailles as "harsh enough to cause German resentment, but not punitive enough to stop Germany from activity seeking to overturn its clauses"11. Others also shared the opinion of the Treaty of Versailles as a harsh and unfair policy, such as 1920's historian W.H Dawson who described the harshness of the treaty, which stole German territory in a way that discriminated blatantly in favour of non-German populations. Dawson clarifies the German post-war status as "Literally bleeding. From them oozes out the life-blood, physical, spiritual and material of large populations.12" Although the Treaty of Versailles was initially formulated as a policy of peace, the end result was far from this due to the influence of previous war treaties as well as the war guilt clause, which put the outbreak of the war on Germany's shoulders. As a result of this instead of a long-term peace movement the Treaty simply blamed everything over the last 4 years on Germany, completely stripped the country of any power it had left to secure and reinforce the countries of the Allies. The Treaty of Versailles was not realistic from the start however acted as a short-term peace policy but ultimately led to hyperinflation in the German economy as well as a more devastating war 20 years later. ...read more.

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