Peace Treaties of 1919-23: Overview
Paris Peace Conference
The winners gathered in Paris in 1919 to decide on the future of Europe. The leaders of the victorious countries each had different objectives:
• Woodrow Wilson, the US President, wanted a fair peace. During the war he had called for a fair settlement in his famous Fourteen Points speech January 1918. The USA had suffered much less than its allies in loss of life and economic damage. He accepted that Germany must be punished but he did not want this to be too harsh. He believed in self-determination - that every nation should have its own government.
• Clemenceau, the French Premier, called for harsh treatment of Germany. Much of the war had been fought in France and the level of damage was enormous. His aim was to weaken Germany so much that it would never again try to dominate Europe.
• Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, wanted a middle ground between the French and American positions. He was more interested in the British Empire than events in Europe.
The Treaty of Versailles 1919
This dealt with the future of Germany.
Germany was forced to disarm. The army was limited to 100,000. Tanks were banned and the navy was limited to six warships. German troops were banned from the Rhineland area, bordering France.
The territory of Germany was reduced. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France. Poland gained West Prussia, Posen and part of Upper Silesia; Danzig was to be controlled by the League of Nations. A 'corridor' of Polish territory separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany.
Small territories were given to Belgium, Denmark and Lithuania. The coal-rich Saarland was put under League of Nations control for 15 years and the coal mines were handed over to France for this period. Germany was forbidden from ever uniting with Austria. German colonies were confiscated.
Germany was ordered to pay huge compensation or 'reparations' to the winning powers. These payments were justified on the grounds that Germany was guilty of starting the war. A war guilt clause was included in this treaty.
The Other Peace Treaties
Other treaties signed at the end of the First World War
• The Treaty of St Germain 1919 with Austria
• The Treaty of Neuilly 1919 with Bulgaria
• The Treaty of Trianon 1920 with Hungary
• The Treaty of Sevres 1920 with Turkey. This was revised in 1923 and replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne.