Key Question 1: Were the peace treaties of 1919-23 fair? The leaders of the great powers met at Versailles in 1919 to discuss the terms that were going to be imposed upon Germany. The aims of the leaders differed considerably.
What were the aims and motives of the Big Three at Versailles?
The French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau, believed that Germany must be punished and made to pay for the cost of the War and for the humiliation suffered by France in the past.
Clemenceau also wanted guarantees that it could never happen again. He wanted the Rhineland to be handed over to France and Alsace-Lorraine to be returned.
He wanted to make Germany pay for all the damage caused by the War.
Large areas of France had been destroyed in the wart. Everyone knew who to blame, and some French politicians wanted Germany to be totally destroyed.
But when Lloyd George got to Versailles he adopted a different approach. He did not want Germany to be punished too hard, but be allowed to recover.
The USA had not suffered any damage during the war, apart from some fires started by German agents to destroy goods going to Britain and France.
American soldiers only arrived in Europe in spring 1918, so Woodrow Wilson arrived in Europe in December 1918 without any scores to settle with Germany.
Wilson's main concern was to try to ensure that war could never break out again. So he came with his ‘Fourteen Points’ one of which suggested the setting up of a League of Nations.
Wilson believed in 'Self-Determination'. This meant he wanted peoples to be able to run their own affairs. He objected to Italy taking over the Adriatic Coast.
The Italian Government did not join the war until 1915. Britain and France signed the secret Treaty of London, agreeing to Italy taking possession of the Adriatic coast of the Balkans as far south as Albania and also some the islands of the coast of Greece.
Italy had suffered very badly during the War. 460,000 soldiers had been killed and the country was heavily in debt to the USA. To most Italians it seemed to have been a disaster.
The Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando arrived at Versailles expecting the Allies to honour the promises that they had made in the Treaty of London.
Japan had supported the Allies throughout the war and expected some sort of reward.
The Polish Corridor was created to give the new country of Poland a way out to the Baltic. This cut Germany into two.
Germany also lost land to Belgium, Denmark and Czechoslovakia.
Colonies - all German colonies were taken away and were handed to Britain and France to look after under League of Nations mandates until they were ready for independence.
Armed forces - the German army was reduced to 100,000 men and conscription was banned, the navy was reduced to six ships and submarines were banned, the airforce was to be completely destroyed.
The Rhineland - this was to be demilitarised, no soldiers or military equipment were to be kept within thirty miles of the east bank of the river. The Allies would occupy it for fifteen years.
The Saar - this was to be occupied for fifteen years and France would be able to mine coal in it for those years.
Reparations - Germany was to pay for the damage caused by the war, the full cost would be worked out by 1921; it eventually came to £6,600,000,000. This would be paid for the rest of the twentieth century.
War Guilt - Germany was to accept the blame for the war, alone.
Why did the victors not get everything they wanted?
France was not allowed to occupy the Rhineland. - Lloyd George believed that this would only antagonise the Germans.
Woodrow Wilson was not able to achieve freedom of the seas. - Lloyd George wanted to maintain Britain’s naval supremacy.
Lloyd George was unable to achieve a moderate settlement. – Public opinion in Britain and French aims forced him to accept harsher terms for Germany than he would have liked.
Italy was not given the Adriatic coast that had been promised at the Secret Treaty of London in 1915. - Woodrow Wilson would not agree to the creation of an Italian Empire.