Examine the effects of the peace-making processes that followed two 20th century wars.

From the May 2019 IBDP Paper 2 History exam

From the markscheme:
The question requires that candidates consider the effects of the peacemaking processes that followed two 20th-century wars. The two wars may or may not be drawn from the same region and they may or may not have been contemporaneous with each other. The consequences of the peacemaking process may extend beyond the timeframe of the world history topic but they must be clearly linked to the named peacemaking processes. A comparative approach may or may not be used. Candidates may refer to treaties that put an end to hostilities and actively pursued future peace, such as the Treaty of San Francisco (1951). Conversely, candidates may consider settlements that were later revised, such as the Treaty of Sèvres (1919), which was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), or treaties that contributed to post-war instability such as the effect of the Treaty of Versailles on Weimar Germany. The effects of peacemaking may be political, territorial, economic, social, or a combination.


1918 and 1945 brought the end of two World Wars in the same century that shook the world. The Treaty of Versailles following the First World War would place Germany in a position of economic hardship that would scar its population for decades, creating the leeway for extremist political parties to rise in popularity. However, the treaty also enabled free trade and the self-determination for many countries and regions under the rule of European empires. After the Second World War, Germany’s future was once again placed in the hands of Britain and the United States - only this time the Soviet Union was to partake. The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences played monumental roles in the outcomes of post-war Europe, but also had outcomes that did not involve the prospect of peace. This essay will analyse the effects of the peace-making processes that followed two 20th century wars.

The Great War ended with the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allies on the 11th of November, 1918 in which it was agreed that a peace conference would take place in Paris – beginning in January, 1919. The important figures attending this conference were Georges Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Orlando of Italy and Woodrow Wilson of the United States. Prior to the Paris Peace Conference, Wilson had laid out a set of Fourteen Points which he believed would revolutionise global peace and foreign policy. Bringing these idealisms to Versailles, Wilson was opposed by Lloyd George and Clemenceau - Lloyd George winning his general elections by a landslide in his bid to ‘make Germany pay’. However, some of Wilson’s points were agreed upon, and self-determination was given to many regions that were withdrawing from empires such as the Ottoman Empire or the Austria-Hungarian Empire, this was considered a great success for the independence of ethnic groups. On the other hand, a great task for the conference and its attendees was Germany, and the treaty resulted in heavy losses to the Austria-Hungarian ally. Not only did Germany lose up to 10% of its population and 13% of its territory to France and the newly formed Poland but included in this land was Alsace Lorraine and the Saar coalfields. Germany not only crippled by the Great War was now down 13% on national economic productivity but faced monumental financial debt in the form of reparations (an exact figure for which was determined after the Paris Peace Conference). Germany was no longer permitted an air force and its army would be limited to a measly 100,000 alongside a strict demilitarisation policy in the Rhineland. It has long since been argued that the conditions of such a treaty would have never accomplished long term peace and peaceful relations between Germany and the European powers who had crippled her. A.J.P Taylor describes the German perception of the Treaty in The History of the First World War as “wicked, unfair [and] dictation... all Germans intended to repudiate it at some time in the future.” It can be argued therefore that the effects Paris Peace Conference and the resulting Treaty of Versailles can be to blame for driving Germany to such economic and political extremes such as the Ruhr Crisis and hyperinflation of 1923, followed by another crippling economic crisis caused by the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929. These events are to blame for many of the uprisings and German resentment against the democratic Weimar Republic, giving way to Nazism in the 1930s, of which a relationship can be identified between the plummeted employment rates and increasing support of Nazism between 1929 and 1933.

Following the Second World War and the fall of Nazism, the peacemaking process would begin before the war officially ended on September 2nd, 1945. February of 1945 would signify the Yalta Conference in which Franklin Roosevelt of the United States, Winston Churchill of Britain and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union would meet to discuss the reorganisation of post-war Europe. The question of Poland was an important discussion at Yalta due to Stalin’s annexation of Eastern Poland during the war. Stalin was also engaged in expanding the communist sphere of influence across Eastern Europe. It was decided that a Declaration of a Liberated Europe would ensure democratic freedom to Europe, and Eastern Poland would be permitted to Stalin under a promise to adhere to this declaration. Additionally, it was agreed that denazification and an economic rebuilding of Germany would include the deconstruction and separation of the nation into zones occupied by France, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. After the conference, Stalin ignored the Declaration of a Liberated Europe and formed a puppet government in Eastern Poland. The effect of the decisions at Yalta led to a ‘bad tempered’ conference made 4 months later in July 1945 at Potsdam, during which time Roosevelt died and was replaced by Harry Truman, who was experimenting with the prospect of nuclear warfare at the time. Churchill described the priority at Potsdam to be the address of the ‘German question’ in which the details of zonation were to be finalised, causing much disagreement between the leaders. Potsdam occurred after the end of the war in May, signifying the end of the Grand Alliance between Russia, Britain and America. The ‘bad tempered conference’ indicates little prospect for peace further down the road. Furthermore, Stalin’s expansionist aims and Truman’s nuclear weapon development described as “the most terrible bomb in the history of the world” in his diary deliver little to none about peace in Europe, fuelling animosity between the superpowers, foreshadowing the Cold War.

Effects of the peace-making processes after the First World War – of primarily the Paris Peace Conference – played a considerable role in the economic downfall of Germany and thus the rise of fascist ideologies in its politics, an argument supported by AJP Taylor and J.M Keynes; describing the demands of the treaty as “too expensive”. The economic and financial crises that followed would plummet Germany’s population into mass poverty, it should be noted that extreme circumstances required extreme solutions at the time, and Adolf Hitler’s promise of the eradication of unemployment was considerably attractive. Following the fall of Nazism and end of the Second World War depicts Yalta and Potsdam as the deciding factors of post-war Europe. It is important to consider one of the aims of Churchill in his approach to the ‘German question’ in terms of reparations at Yalta and Potsdam. Churchill opposed Stalin’s wish to financially cripple Germany for fear of another rise in political extremity, reinforcing the links made by AJP Taylor in which the hefty reparations to Germany decided at Versailles played a crucial role for the rise of Nazism.
The peacemaking attempts of Churchill and Roosevelt through the Declaration of a Liberated Europe would later be overlooked by Stalin in his conversion of Eastern Poland to a satellite state. It seems that there was little efficiency in the prospect of peace following the Second World War as an effect of the Yalta and Potsdam conference was growing tensions and suspicions between superpowers America and Russia.