Sunday, October 10, 2010

Versailles Verdicts

  • Adolf Hitler hated it. The British diplomat Harold Nicolson called it 'neither just nor wise'.
  • The British economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied it would ruin the world economy.
  • Lenin declared of it: 'This is no peace, but terms dictated to a defenceless victim by armed robbers.'

Where contemporaries led, historians have followed. 'The unwise thing about Versailles was that it annoyed the Germans yet did not render them too weak to retaliate,' declared the British historian Norman Lowe. Pupils in Michigan, USA, are taught that the Treaty was: 'flawed to the extent that instead of preventing future wars it made a future war inevitable'.

Yet is any of this FAIR?

The peacemakers faced a Europe which had fallen apart - there was no question of just calling it a day and going home. THREE empires, comprising most of central and eastern Europe, had collapsed in revolution and bankruptcy. The peacemakers formed nation-states and drew boundaries which, more-or-less, have survived until today. If their attempts to establish peace and disarmaments only lasted 20 years, they DID invent the principle of 'collective security' to which still, in the United Nations, we look to prevent war between the nations. And the diplomats of Versailles constructed this peace, without chance to rehearse, assailed by a maelstrom of lobbyists and pressures, amidst revolutions, famine and Spanish flu, whilst at home, war-weary publics were demanding revenge.
  • Margaret Macmillan, great-granddaughter of the great David Lloyd George, says: 'It is my own view - and a number of historians who have been working in this area for some years - that the treaty was not all that bad.'
  • British politician and historian Neil Stonehouse believes that 'in a devastated and newly complex continent no better attempt could have been made'.
  • Historian and schoolteacher Richard Jones-Nerzic argues that the peacemakers 'did a remarkably good job'.

What is your opinion of the Treaty of Versailles? What do you think -- for example - about these questions

  1. Was it fair or unfair?
  2. Was it successful or a failure?
  3. Was it a crafted peace, or a botched compromise?
  4. Did it help to lay the foundations of the future, or leave behind a legacy of hate?

Use the following webpages

and have your say!