Was the Treaty of Versailles a Fair Peace?


The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was a document that was in essence supposed to bring balance and stability to Europe after a tumultuous war. The treaty that took 6 months to draft however was said to have been flawed, both the losers of war and even the victors had drawn the short end, possibly even worsening situations in Europe and setting the stage for yet another conflict. The criticisms of the Treaty of Versailles will be analysed in three major clauses, the War Guilt and Reparation Clause, Demilitarization Clause and Territorial Remodeling Clause.
The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to provide closure to the war and draw up penalties for the aggressors. However, many of these penalties have been criticized by the losing side for being too harsh and unrealistic. Such an example is the War Guilt Clause (Article 231) that was proposed by Britain and France. This clause was heavily criticized by Germany, the clause states that Germany was solely responsible for the war and the subsequent damages that succeeded the war and thus had to carry the weight of war reparations. The criticism accompanying this clause were that it was incredibly unfair and biased towards Germany, Germany believed that the war was caused by a number of belligerents. To add insult to injury however the allies also demanded that Germany pay 132 billion gold marks in reparation costs (33Billion$). John Maynard Keynes, a British Economist part of the British Treasury was present at the conference, he stated that the reparation costs “counterproductive and excessive.” Showing that even a British national and committee member found the clauses unfair. This clause however may have been justifiable from the big three perspectives, as they needed the losers to pay for damages, although the demands were a bit unrealistic at the time and most of the costs fell on to Germany. In addition, despite France being one of the spearheads of the Treaty of Versailles they too found something to criticize about the treaty. They found that the Treaty was not necessarily harsh enough on Germany. France was one of the most vigorous supporters of the harsh terms on Germany and was repeatedly denied harsher actions by Britain. They wanted harsher reparation terms. The French wanted to essentially cripple Germany to a point where they were no longer a factor, as Keynes argues that “it was the policy of France to set the clock back and undo what, since 1870, the progress of Germany had accomplished.” Despite Germany’s criticisms on the reparation costs being “beyond their economic capacity” and thusly stated it was a “slave treaty”, the German state had recovered almost fully by 1929. Furthermore, the immediate economic problems they suffered may have been due prominent war debts or inflation, and not due to the reparation cost. Additionally, since the war had been fought outside their soils, most of their infrastructure and industrial capacity had been undamaged, meaning they had an easy time getting back on their feet. The allies also made revisions to the reparation terms and attempted to aid the Germany economy, meaning that the criticisms against the clause may have been largely unjustified.
Germany had also been hit with a massive disarmament and demilitarization clause (Article 180), that severely crippled Germany’s ability to defend itself and even keep order in a country as large as Germany. This clause required Germany to reduce her army to 100,000 thousand active troops and completely demilitarize the Rhineland. Such a severe military penalty was only applied to losing nations and can be seen as incredibly biased and much too severe towards Germany as also argued by John Maynard Keynes. Germany argued that the penalty was too harsh, and severely limited its ability to defend itself. In this case Germany’s critique was partially justified, however, the victor’s reasons were also partially justifiable. Britain and France witnessed the aggressive strategies of the Second Reich during the Great War, such as the August 4, 1914 Schlieffen plan and wanted to reduce the likelihood of that ever happening again, so they put restrictions on Germany’s military potential (Article 159).  However, according to French economist Éttiene Mantoux, the criticisms that Maynard put forward when it came to demilitarization where a good thing for Germany. Mantoux argues that due to Germany’s lack of an army they were able to pay off the war reparations, as Germany did not have to pay wages to a large army. This means that both countries are justified in their criticisms of the clause. Nonetheless it is still important to keep in mind that despite all of the clauses put forward Germany would have never been happy with it. Richard J. Evans argues that due to Germany’s alt right wing annexationist program, in which they aimed to annex most of Europe, a treaty that would not leave Germany as a conqueror would be unacceptable to them. They would not accept anything short of what they gained from the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Consequently, Evans argues that the Germans would not accept the Treaty of Versailles under any of the present circumstances. This means they would have found it unfair regardless.
         The Territorial distribution clause (Article 119) demanded that Germany give up their oversea possessions and cede 13% of its lands to Poland, Belgium and France. One of the most criticized points of the Treaty of Versailles was the denial of self-determination and their loss of sovereign lands. Germany argued that the denial of a creation of a union between Austria and Germany was a counterproductive to one of Woodrow Wilsons 14 points, they saw this as a deliberate attempt to cripple the unity of the Germanic peoples in an attempt to leave them divided. This criticism is wholly justified, as the 14 points proposed stated that self-determination was key, however Germany was not allowed to determine their own course due to these limitations imposed by France and Britain. In addition, the territorial losses of sovereign states were criticized by Germany, they argued that the loss of these sovereign lands meant the people living there were cast out from their homelands and thus became the ignored minority in the ceded state. They also criticized the ceding of German national Danzig to Poland, as part of the Allied plan for Poland to have a naval port. This was heavily criticized by Germany, as again German nationals were cast out and Ostprussen was separated from the main German state. This may have also been a contributing factor to the invasion of Poland in 1939, as the German people felt resentment for losing the state. In this case Germany was largely justified, as their European territorial losses were meant to cripple them and split them, however only built up resentment that cumulated in the feverous nationalism and aggressions in 1939. France argues that Germany had been allowed to keep too many key territories however, France demanded the ceding or control of the Rhineland to themselves, in order to establish a defensive barrier. This demand was denied. The demand may have been justified from today’s standpoint, as it may have made it harder for Hitler to invade, however it may have just angered Germany more.
         In conclusion, there is no one side whose criticisms were more or less justified. Both the winning side and the losing side had criticisms and both winning and losing sides had legitimate and logical criticisms. A clear winner cannot be obtained from these criticisms, as all the criticisms can be seen as equally justifiable. In addition, the uncertainty of the criticisms and their justifications can adequately have summed up in the words of late Chinese Prime Minister Chou-En Lai “it is still too early to tell”.


            The treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, was the peace treaty that ended World War I, thus ending the sate war between Germany and the allied powers, exactly five years after the murder of Franz Ferdinand. The Treaty itself caused much dispute amongst the leaders, which led to the withdrawal of Italy. It was argued that the Treaty was far too harsh towards the Germans and that it would only make matters worse. John Maynard Keynes, a British economist who attended the peace conference argued that by punishing Germany so harshly would lead to the financial collapse of the country leading to economic and political repercussions on Europe and the World. British military historian Correlli Barnett however counter argues that the Treaty of Versailles was extremely lenient to the Germans and was hardly a slap on the wrist in comparison to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk imposed on a defeated Russia in March 1918. It is clear that there is much dispute over how harsh the treaty was towards Germany, however, it was vital that Germany was punished for the war but so that they can still maintain financially stable.
         It was argued by Correlli Barnett that the treaty of Versailles was “Hardly a slap on the wrist” when contrasted to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk imposed upon the Russians by the Germans in March 1918. He believed that Germany deserved further punishment. The treaty took away one third of the Russian people, one half of Russia’s industrial undertakings and nine-tenths of Russia’s coal mines which totaled to a total loss of six billion marks on Russia’s behalf. He believes that despite of the treaty of Versailles, Germany has been able to restore its prewar status. Barnett argued that Germany were now in a superior position than they were in 1914. The Eastern borders were now safer due to Austria being fractured into new states and Russia being wracked by revolution. On the western front, Germany had a significantly larger population than France and Belgium, and were more economically vibrant. Barnett was convinced that instead of weakening Germany, we have enhanced German power. He believed that Britain and France should have undone Bismarck’s work and portioned Germany into smaller and more venerable states which would never be able to disturb European peace. Therefore, he believed the treaty of Versailles did not punish Germany enough leading to the failure of restoring the equilibrium of Europe, thus failing Britain’s main purpose of joining the Great War.
         However, John Maynard Keynes argued that by punishing Germany so harshly, it would lead to the financial collapse of the country leading to an economic and political repercussions. Keynes was one of the most outspoken critics of the treaty of Versailles which lead to his withdrawal in protest of the treaty.  Germany's economy already devastated by the war was to be further punished by having to pay repercussions for the war. Germany was asked to pay in excess of $30 billion with subject to invade if payments were to fall behind. This disgusted Keynes, he believed that a substantial loan should be given to Germany in order for them to buy food and materials to aid Germany in starting its reparation payments. President Wilson however, turned down the offer in fear of it not receiving congressional approval. Keynes later resigned his post in protest of the impending “devastation of Europe”. Therefore, due to the harsh punishment upon Germany's economy the treaty failed in its goal of restoring equilibrium in Europe.
         The treaty of Versailles was criticized by both winners and losers but prominently criticized by the winners of the Great War. John Maynard Keynes is very credible and places a very strong argument. Keynes prior to the treaty of Versailles had won acclaim for his work with the Indian currency, alongside managing the British finances during the war. Keynes is an experienced economist and understands the risks imposed when punishing Germany's economy by $30 billion. He has the capability and experience of predicting financial collapses therefore he should have more say in the negotiations about German repercussions. If we can conclude that the economic driver was the main part to the militarization of Nazi Germany, then we must also conclude that the economist was right and that his opinion should have been accounted for. On the other hand, I can understand why Correlli Barnett wanted more enforced punishment upon the Germans. Despite of the German economy under such strain, the ideology of the people was still unchanged and Germany still had a country with one of the Largest population in Europe. Due to his military experience, he knew that a restrain on the German army was no issue due to the eastern front being so weak. He understood that as long as Germany still remained a country, nationalism was always a threat and it can be concluded that nationalism was one of the main drivers of Nazi power. One can agree that by portioning Germany into smaller more venerable states, one destroys Bismarck’s work alongside the possibility of an uprising. In hindsight, Maynard Keynes was to be proven right post treaty of Versailles. It was due to Germany benefiting from the wall street crash that the Nazi’s gained so much popularity which therefore lead to the second world war. One must conclude that Maynard Keynes was right in that by punishing Germany’s economy so harshly, it led to main driver of Nazi power, leading to the second world war.
         It is found that both winners and losers criticized the treaty of Versailles however it was the winners who were to be found most critical due to them having to deal with the consequences that were to follow. The conclusion is that the Germans were too harshly punished in the wrong areas. It was in the opinion of Maynard Keynes, immoral to punish the German economy so severely despite the German economy suffering the consequences of the Great War. To punish the German military was like Barnett said “Hardly a slap on the wrist” due to the eastern front being so weak. It must be concluded that Maynard Keynes was indeed right in which it was the wrong to force the Germans to pay $30 billion, instead we should have followed the views of Barnett and portioned Germany into states of occupation. To conclude, the tough punishment imposed upon the German economy led to the inevitable break down of equilibrium in Europe, thus causing world war two.


The treaty of Versailles attempted to reunite a world divided by war, while also pleasing both the victors and the losers of this war, a seemingly impossible task. The treaty ended up receiving criticisms from both sides in the war, for many different reasons, the four main punishments against Germany especially; all blame to be placed on Germany, Germany to pay 6.6billion pound sterling, a huge reduction of the German army (to 100,00 men and 6 ships), and 10% of all of Germany’s land (as well as all foreign colonies). However, this criticism of the treaty was sometimes invalid, and this essay will analyse these criticisms in areas of the treaty of Versailles relating to economics, social, and military fields.

The economic elements of the treaty of Versailles were criticised by members of both the winning and losing side of world war one, however this critique was only sometimes justified. John Maynard Keynes, an economist present at the creation of the treaty stated that he thought the maximum lawful reparation cost should be 2.1 billion pounds, 4.5 billion less than the actual amount. This was because he believed that reparations any larger than this would have a huge negative impact upon the European economy, financially crippling Germany for decades.  However, while Keynes may have criticised the treaty, he was not exempt from criticism himself, with some saying that he was simply trying to sell books using sensationalist ideas, and language. Keynes also named the treaty a Carthaginian peace, a phrase which caught on very quickly in Britain, as many felt the treaty was unfair. Also on the side of the victors, many US citizens believed that the treaty was helping France and Britain get rich at the expense of Germany, and they disagreed with the USA helping them do this. However, this criticism was not fair, Germany were paying two thirds of the cost of the war, meaning Britain and France (and the other nations receiving reparations) were still losing money. The losers of the war, namely Germany in this instance, also criticised the treaty for having a reparation cost that was too high, and also believed that this high price of reparation would have a huge negative effect on Germany’s economy, and the European economy as a whole. This was true, and the hyper-inflation of the Deutsche mark is the evidence for this, but at the time, this criticism was argued by many to be unmerited, as the allied powers did not have all of their costs covered, and they had received more damage than the central powers in the first place. Overall, it is very hard to find a straight answer as to whether this criticism was completely justified, therefore it must be said that the criticism was only partly justified.

The social aspects of the treaty of Versailles, namely the guilt clause and the clause on self-determination, again received wide spread criticism from both the winners and the losers of world war one, and this was completely justified. The war guilt clause was a very controversial, part of the treaty of Versailles. Never before had any peace treaty contained a clause placing blame upon a nation, and it received a lot of backlash for doing so. The German foreign minister, Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, claimed that “Such a confession of guilt in my mouth would be a lie”, and this distaste was mostly agreed with by the German people. However most of the allied powers stood in support of clause 231, and saw it as a routine addition, mostly surprise by the anger shown by the Germans toward this clause. They saw it as simply a way of being sure that Germany would be responsible to pay the reparation costs and not break the rules set out by the treaty. The clause on self-determination was pushed by Woodrow Wilson as he believed fighting among occupied states, for example Serbia which was occupied by Austria, to be a major cause of world war one. However what Woodrow Wilson failed to see was the negative impacts of creating many small states of countless ethnicities, which Rohan Butler argues was a ticking time-bomb, and it was always going to cause a problem in eastern Europe. He was correct in saying this as this action of creating small states actually had the opposite result of Woodrow Wilson’s plan, and caused many wars within these states, for example the Croatian uprising against the Yugoslavian government in 1932, resulting in the assassination of the Yugoslav King Aleksandar in 1934. The clause on self-determination received much criticism from the central powers, and very little from the allied powers, however this criticism was completely justified. The clause on self-determination was mainly criticised by almost bankrupt Austria, who (under their newly formed democratic government) voted as one of their first decisions, to join Germany. However, this clause on self-determination did not apply to Germany, and they were not allowed to join together, this created a lot of criticism from both Germany and Austria, who (as the same ethnicity) could not form together, and become a stronger state. The criticism of these two clauses came from a very one-sided viewpoint, while the central powers greatly detested these clauses, the allied powers believed that they were good, however in this case, the criticism of these clauses was very much justified, and the impact of them was only really negative.

The treaty of Versailles also demanded a drastic reduction in Germany’s armed forces, they were allowed 100,000 men, and 6 ships, (as well as no troops in the Rhineland) this sparked criticism mainly from the losers, but the criticism was not particularly warranted. As AJP Taylor argues, the treaty was designed to provide security from German aggression, and this reduction in armed forces gave the allies control over Germany, and stopped them from being able to grow into a larger power without breaking this clause. The lack of troops in the Rhineland was particularly important, as this allowed France to be easily able to push into Germany at any time, giving them a ‘stranglehold’ over the German government. Germany disputed this claim saying that no country of their size would be able to defend itself from external threats due to the minuscule size of their armed forces. However, this criticism is not particularly relevant, as the only real ‘threats’ to German security were the allied nations themselves, and the allies did not have any real plans to invade Germany (except if they did not comply with the clauses of the treaty. The allies evidenced the necessity of this clause by stating that the actions of Germany during the war were enough for the Germans to not be allowed certain privileges after it. Due to the sinking of passenger ships, Germany was not allowed U-boats, and due to the bombing of London (among others) Germany was not to be allowed any planes. Overall the criticisms of the military related clauses in the treaty of Versailles were not justified.

While many criticisms were placed upon the treaty of Versailles by both the victors, and the losers of world war one, often times these criticisms came without justification. As this essay has evidenced, the criticisms of the social areas were justified, the criticisms of the military areas were unjustified, and the criticisms of the economic areas were only partly justified. However, it is very hard to determine whether or not this treaty was a success or failure, as it is hard to say what could have been improved within it.


“The Versailles Treaty was criticised by both winners and losers.” How justified was the criticism?
“It was an ambitious and optimistic effort that ended in failure.” The views of Corona Brezina in her book The Treaty of Versailles, 1919: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty that ended World War 1 are the views of the majority of Historians. This major influential treaty, signed by the Germans on the 28th of June in 1919, and the basis for World War II, may have been the origin of some horrible events in history, but ultimately was the best that could be created under the circumstances.
The Treaty of Versailles did have many faults. This was predominantly due to the fact that the leaders who lead the conference, US. President Woodrow Wilson, Britain’s Prime Minister David Lloyd George and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, each had their own agenda. Margaret MacMillan argues this in her book Paris 1919, writing about the desires of each. Wilson’s main agenda was to create a League of Nations for Europe, and based all of his arguments on the Fourteen Points he had created in order to gain world peace. He harboured the least amount of anger for Germany of the three, due to America joining the war later, and the fact that North America is a far distance away from Europe. Lloyd George’s main objective for the Peace Conference was to take Germany’s Navy and hence make sure that Germany could not attack them by sea, as well as expand their empire further by claiming its colonies. He harboured some anger towards Germany. Clemenceau was by far the most angered of the three, due to the damage France faced. According to Martin Frederick in his book Being an American…is O.K.!, France lost 1.4 million people to the war, the most of any of the allies apart from Russia. Anthony Clayton in his book Paths of Glory: The French Army 1914-1918 writes about the devastation of France. “The withdrawal was one of exhausted and emaciated men in uniforms all ragged and dirty, through villages still blazing or shattered by shellfire with dead men by the roadside, roads jammed with panic-stricken refugees and military transport.” Here, Clayton argues, using description, that the war for France was horrible, and Germany should be blamed. However, this historian fails to consider and compare the losses of France to the other countries in the war, and therefore is not entirely justifiable. Clemenceau also wanted Germany to pay for repairs, and eventually succeeded, as seen in Article 232 of the Treaty. “The Allied and Associated Governments, however, require … that (Germany) will make compensation for all damage done …”. With the three men all having different goals, it meant that it was extremely difficult for them to agree, and what was eventually decided appeased nobody, resulting in further conflict between the countries. Margaret MacMillan argues that the disagreement between the big three was one of the reasons that the Treaty of Versailles was unsuccessful, and therefore worthy of the criticism.
Another of Margaret MacMillan’s arguments towards the idea that the criticism for the Treaty of Versailles was justified, is the lack of involvement of Germany in the negotiations. This meant that the Germans had no say in the decisions made. Originally, Germany signed the armistice on the 11th of November, 1918, on the basis of the fourteen points. They believed that they would be treated fairly during these negotiations. However, the big three were angry at the losses they gained, and did not involve Germany in any decisions. Therefore, when Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles on the anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on the 28th of June 1919, they were deeply enraged towards the blame they received for the war and the unfair measures they were hence forced to take. Article 231 states, “…Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to… the Allied and Associated Governments...” The German newspaper, Deutsche Zeitung, wrote “The disgraceful treaty is being signed today. Don’t forget it! We will never stop until we win back what we deserve.” Hence, the Germans were angry at the humiliation they received, with the Treaty being signed in the same place as the creation of the country itself in 1871, and at what they were forced to give up. This treaty eventually led to Hitler’s rise of power and the Second World War, due to this betrayal of German trust. Therefore, the Treaty of Versailles was flawed, due to Germany’s lack of involvement. But what Margaret MacMillan fails to consider in her argument are the opinions of others at the conference. In a letter to his father, written in the month of June 1919, Harold Nicolson, a member of the British delegation to Paris, wrote about how unfair he feels the Treaty is. “I have every hope that Lloyd George…will succeed in…imposing some modifications in the terms… There is not a single person among the younger persons here who is not unhappy and disappointed at the terms.” It shows that there was some sympathy among the people for the Germans, following the harshness of some of the articles. So perhaps the Treaty was not as horrible as is often thought.
The Treaty of Versailles was indeed useful, and not worthy of the criticism, as it was the best that could be made under the circumstances. The problem that the representatives faced was the amount of time they had. Those involved in writing the Treaty were only given six months to come up with all the terms that would secure Europe. This is not a long amount of time, considering the fact that this was meant to be the Treaty for global peace, and that the document ended up being 440 articles long. This is actually Margaret MacMillan’s main argument, overtaking the previous negative points in the last two paragraphs, as it is featured in the title of her book Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World and referred back to throughout her entire work. This proves that she actually thinks of the Treaty in a positive light, due to it being as successful as it could be. Therefore, the lack of time given to the representatives meant the articles were rushed. Also, the Treaty of Versailles is important as it created the League of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation. Its principle mission, as stated by Christian Tomuschat on the seventy-seventh page in his book The United Nations at Age Fifty: A Legal Perspective, was to maintain global peace. Henry Lawson, an Australian poet, wrote a poem about the creation of the League, titled The League of Nations. In it, he talks about his hope for future peace.
“Light on the towns and cities, and peace for evermore!
The Big Five met in the world's light as many had met before,
And the future of man is settled and there shall be no more war.”
This poem shows the opinion of the people towards the League, being all for it. However, it is interesting when one considers that the poet was actually Australian. It is even more so when one learns that he did not take part in the war. Australia was, in 1919, still a colony of Britain. They therefore fought on Britain’s behalf during World War 1. However, the League does not directly affect them, as Australian is not a part of Europe. As an Australian myself, I cannot help but wonder where Lawson’s interest in the League of Nations came from. Perhaps it had something to do with his stay in London between 1900 and 1902, or perhaps he just wanted a better life for his children. Whatever the case, this poem demonstrates that even those that were not directly affected by either the League or the Treaty itself still had hope that it would create world peace. Therefore, the Treaty of Versailles was actually successful when one considers the lack of time given to get it done, and that it did indeed create the League of Nations.
The Treaty of Versailles was flawed from the very beginning, with the main representatives Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau unable to agree and Germany’s representatives unable to attend the conference. However, due to the fact that the big three were only given six months to create world peace through the document, and that the Treaty did have its strengths, such as the construction of the League of Nations, the quote “The Versailles Treaty was criticised by both winners and losers” is both incorrect and unjustified, as people were all for it. Hence, the ideas of Henry Lawson, and Margaret Macmillan show that there were, and are, people out there who appreciate what was achieved in the year 1919 in Paris at the Palace of Versailles.


Signed in the Hall of Mirrors of the Versailles palace, the Treaty of Versailles did not reflect the pure vision of the expected peace but rather the destructed illustration of a peace that scapegoated one nation upon the demands of personal wishes of the treaties leaders. The painting, “The signing of peace in the Hall of Mirrors”, painted in January 1919 by Sir William Opern, critically mimics the exhaustion and indecision of the leaders of thirty-two countries, representing between them some three-quarters of the world’s population, assembled in Paris. Just two months previously, after four years of unremitting and savage conflict, an armistice had finally brought the Fist World War to an end. The task of creating a treaty was one of formidable complexity and difficulty, in view of the intractable nature of the issues to be resolved as the number of seemingly contradictory viewpoints and aspirations needed to be reconciled. The criticism by both the victors and the defeated, supporters and opposers, foreshadowed the failure of the treaty. This essay will examine different perspectives on why the treaty was more of an unsatisfactory compromise between the “Big Three’ to destroy Germany instead of ensuring an enduring peace as an apology to the exasperated nations and the resulting consequences and how justified criticism was.
The respected historian and the niece of David Lloyd George, Margret McMillan, in her book “Paris 1919” questions whether it is tolerable to criticize a treaty that was more of a compromise between its leaders than a peaceful future solution when it was created in a time when its biggest leaders followed different aims. In her book, she describes President Woodrow Wilson as a brilliant, naïve idealist in his vision for the future of world politics. His fourteen points, first introduced in a speech on January 8, 1918 tried to translate his domestic progressive ideas into foreign policy, accentuating free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination. At the opening ceremony of the conference, Wilson clearly expressed these desires to “lift from the shoulders of humanity the frightful weight which is pressing on them, so that humanity, released from this weight, may at last return joyfully to work”. The League of Nations, like McMillan described, should illustrate a world in which there were no secret deals, but rather open diplomacy where different nations could keep peace and protect each other. However, this romanticized idea was strongly criticized by the leaders of The Big Four as their fear of president Wilson denying Germany’s spoils of war, increased. This feeling of panic took the leaders of France and Britain to sign a secret treaty carving German territories, including colonies in Asia and Africa. Herbert Croly, a prized publicist of American war times, illustrated the Allies ingratitude of the “modern St. George” or his attempts to slay the “dragons of reaction” in Europe. Europeans believed that Wilson “had bought his seat at the peace table at discount”. Even in Washington, Wilson did not receive the necessary support as the congress wanted Wilson to be remain home and solve the problems in their country, rather than European problems. In an article named “The League of Nations”, published by the Metropolitan Magazine in January 1919, Theodore Roosevelt openly criticized, “If the League of Nations is built on a document s high-sounding and as meaningless as the speech in which Mr. Wilson laid down his fourteen points, it will simply add more scrap to the diplomatic waste paper basket. Most of these fourteen points mean anything or nothing”.  When commenting on the contest between the French and the Americans, Lloyd George metaphorically depicted, "The old tiger [Clemenceau] wants the grizzly bear [Wilson] back in the Rocky Mountains before he starts tearing up the German Hog,". The French, like most nations, had suffered tremendous loses during the war; it had 40 million citizens at the start of the war, but after 1918, six out of ten Frenchmen were dead or permanently maimed. The conflict and deep indignation felt between the French and the German extends itself before the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. Clemenceau wanted to seek revenge and punish the Germans for being a reason of their long suffrage through the treaty. Especially important to the was the continual territorial fight about Alsace-Lorraine as a symbol for their pride and nationality. Clemenceau followed three main aims in the treaty, most of which turned the French aims into making the treaty an armistice, punishing Germany for its powerful existence. His primary aim was to extend the security of France’s borders based on the protection of the Rhine, and a clear boundary to its enemy, Germany. The aim was both political and military as it was based on the creation of one or more autonomous (Foch) or independent (Clemenceau) states. However, the British and the Americans rejected and opposed such proposal, therefore he adopted a more moderate stance which entailed only a temporary occupation of the Rhineland. His plans were to evacuate the land every five years, as well as bridgeheads on the right bank. His second ambition was to conserve an entente between the democracies comprising the winning camp, to enhance the physical border of the Rhine to a political border to Germany. This being the only reason he favored the League of Nations, as McMillan stated in her book. Clemenceau wanted to guarantee full security of France at a European level, by containing German influence and destroying their foreign and domestic authority. However, they did not disclose the idea of a federal Germany in which Prussia would have a reduced role until after the revolution in Bavaria, April 1919. However, the only reasons for France’s support of the state’s creation between Germany and Russia were found in economic and political pragmatism and not the right of people’s self-determination. France supported the creation of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania, also not on the bases of Wilson’s naïve ideals, but rather to weaken the relationship between Germany and these countries. McMillan refers to these perceptions as economic aims which were continued in the liquidation of the German steelworks in Lorraine, the Saarland and Luxembourg. With all their aims, their primary perspective was to viciously destroy and make Germany pay, pushing them into a whole of economic destruction, so that the French were safe from invasions and political threats. Clemenceau’s hateful and bitter attitude undermining Germany, is exemplified by the well-known quote, later employed by Hitler expressing Germanys international reputation, “There are 20 million Germans too many in the world”. Unlike Wilson and Clemenceau, Lloyd George stood on the side of generosity and moderation. His aims opposed the utter destruction of the German economy and political system as Clemenceau demanded as this would take away one of Britain’s most valuable trading partner. In The Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes, Lloyd George was given the title of a “half-human visitor to our age from the hand-ridden magic and enchanted woods of Celtic antiquity”. This name was given to him on behalf of his creation of the Free City of Danzig, which he did not hand over to Poland as was expected, but rather allowed self-determination to create a valuable and economical ally. Lloyd George sought to build a strong France and to ensure German purchases of British exports, slowly trying to rebuild a system of trade in Europe. Although Britain’s aims were primarily based on maintaining their own security, unity and interests, Britain expressed a willingness to follow Wilson’s proposed Fourteen Points, as long as one key reservation was met. The British vetoed the freedom of the seas “in peace and war” because of fear of a German rivalry and the work put in during the war to preserve their command of the sea. However, Lloyd George, after the treaty was signed, himself admitted that “I do not claim that the Treaty is perfect in all respects”. Lloyd George sarcastically answered a question to a journalist about his efforts at the peace conference by stating, “I think I did as well as might be expected, seated as I was between Jesus Christ and Napoleon Bonaparte”, referring to Wilson and Clemenceau. The question must be asked, if a key stakeholder of the Treaty and a world politician was unsure about the future visions of peace, how could this peace be maintained? McMillian argues that exactly this is the reason for why the Treaty cannot be criticized, as this is the best they could achieve in a time of six years. Even Keynes argues that, “The Treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe - nothing to make the defeated Central Empires into good neighbors, nothing to stabilize the new States of Europe, nothing to reclaim Russia...   The Council of Four paid no attention to these issues, being preoccupied with others - Clemenceau to crush the economic life of his enemy, Lloyd George to bring home something that would pass muster for a week, the President to do nothing that was not just and right”. The Peace of Versailles was an unsatisfactory compromise with little change of ensuring an enduring peace. Each of the Big Three had different aims which had to be modified in order to reach an overall compromise, therefore one can say that the Treaty of Versailles was the best that could be achieved in six months, and it rather only pointed out everything that was malfunctioning in Europe already, hence justifying criticism.
After the Treaty of Versailles, Ferdinand Foch indignantly described the dictatorial terms imposed on Germany as not being peace, but rather “an armistice for Twenty years”, which lead to Keynes allusion to the Third Prunic War and comparison of the Paris Peace treaty to a “Carthaginian peace”, depicting the punitive conditions Germany was forced into. On 7 May, when faced with the conditions dictated by the victors, including Article 231, the “War Guilt Clause”, German politicians wrote to Clemenceau, Wilson and Lloyd George: "We know the full brunt of hate that confronts us here. You demand from us to confess we were the only guilty party of war; such a confession in my mouth would be a lie”. This clause stated that Germany had the full responsibility of having caused the war and that they created all the “loss and damage”. The clause further required the German government to accept all the punishment imposed by the allies, which not only ruined the country politically but also took away German pride found in “Deutschland über alles”. Sax and Kuntz, in their book named “Inside Hitler’s Germany” depicted that “Article 231 identified Germany as the aggressor nation, which was there for liable for reparations payments to the Allied countries for their losses in the war. This demand placed a tremendous burden on a nation that suffered massive devastation in the war”.  What Germany took from France 30 years ago, in the Franco Prussian war, Alsace Lorraine, was returned to France as an immediate response from the treaty. Belgium was given Eupen and the Malmaedy, whilst the League of Nations received the right to administrate the industrial Saar region for 15 years. Denmark received Norther Schelswig. The demilitarization of the Rhineland meant that no German military forces or fortifications were allowed to be placed there. Poland received parts of West Prussia and Silesia, whereas Czechoslovakia received the Hutching district from German and the large German city of Danzig became a free city under the protection of the Wilsons League of Nations. Lithuania received the control of Memel, a small strip of territory in East Prussia by the Baltic sea. The German Colonial Empire ended with the peace treaty, and Germany was forced to hand over its colonies, such as Rwanda to Belgium. In total, the treaty resulted in Germany’s loss of 13% of its European territory and one-tenth of its population. The preamble Part V of the treaty states: "In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval and air clauses which follow."
German armed forces were to number no more than 100,000 troops, and conscription was to be abolished. Enlisted men were to be retained for at least 12 years; officers to be retained for at least 25 years. German naval forces would be limited to 15,000 men, 6 battleships, 6 cruisers, 6 destroyers and 12 torpedo boats. No submarines were to be included. The manufacture, import, and export of weapons and poison gas was prohibited. Armed aircraft, tanks and armored cars were prohibited. Blockades on ports were prohibited. These decisions would render Germany defenseless against external attack. Its territories were placed at the mercy of a vengeful France in the West and a thrusting newly independent Second Polish Republic in the East. However, in view of the growing threat of Revolution in Germany, the Allies decided to allow the Reichswehr to retain 100,000 machine guns for use against the German working class. These weapons were used by the fascist Freikorps to suppress the revolutionary movement in Germany. The German representatives were systematically humiliated before being brought into the Hall, where they were confronted for the first time with the stony-faced victors. The terms of the Treaty were then read out to them. There was no discussion, they did not even obtain the right to question certain elements.  Philipp Scheidemann, Germany’s first democratically elected head of government, resigned rather than sign the treaty. In a passionate speech before the National Assembly on 21 March 1919, he called the treaty a "murderous plan" and exclaimed, “Which hand, trying to put us in chains like these, would not wither? The treaty is unacceptable”. Many historians refer to the treaty as “the Diktat” as Germany was forced to sign the treaty without any opportunity of negotiations.  One small nation suddenly became the scapegoat of a war caused by a series of international misinterpretations and failure of politicians.  Harold Nicolson's account describes the motion of the forced signing of the treaty, “And then, isolated and pitiable, come the two German delegates. Dr. Muller, Dr. Bell. The silence is terrifying. Their feet upon a strip of parquet between the savonnerie carpets echo hollow and duplicate. They keep their eyes fixed away from those two thousand staring eyes, fixed upon the ceiling. They are deathly pale”. The treaty was an unjust and dictatorial simplification of what peace should reflect, therefore criticism is justified.
The economic devastation of Germany, resulting from the treaty as an official document for Allies punishment, provided the opportunities for Adolf Hitler to come to power, which can be exemplified through McMillan’s famous quote, “Blame everything on the Treaty of Versailles of what happened in 1930 and 1940”. Germany was economically devastated after the draining defeat in World War 1. Germany was forced to pay incredibly sizeable reparations to France and Great Britain, 132 billion Reichsmark and thirteen percent of its land was given to the Allies. Although Germany began transportation projects, modernization of power plants and gas works, unemployment was still at an extensively high rate, resulting in the increase of social spending.  In 1913, one year before the war, the German government spent approximately 20.5 marks per resident, this increased to 65 marks by 1925, and reached its peak in 1929 with over 100 marks per resident. Keynes argues that this elevating amount of money and the decrease in revenue continued deficits and lead to final financial municipal collapse in 1930. Keynes further implies that the collapse was not caused by the debts, but actually the failure of the municipal officials and politicians to restore budgets. Additionally, the revenue tax began to fall from 50% of the government income to 28%. This resulted in the dependence of the government on state trade and property tax, and profits made from municipal utilities. Although these economic difficulties acted as an additional burden to Germany, this alone would not have resulted to their initial failure to pay the war reparations set upon the treaty. The Allies places protective tariffs on Germany’s goods, taking away their income Germany could have only gained by selling goods in foreign countries. The devastating economical state forced the German banks to print exaggerated amounts of money, throwing Germany in a state of super inflation. Millions of marks became worthless to a point of where having a box full of money would mean that the box had greater value than the actual money. Cartoons often depicted Germany’s citizens with wheelbarrows full of money who could not afford a loaf of bread. As the United States reached the great depression, they forced Germany to pay back the loans it had before given to them, which pulled Germany further in the dark hole of economic misery. Without the income from American loans, Germany was unable to pay its war reparations to England and France.  Germany was at its weakest and most vulnerable point as in 1923 Adolf Hitler attempted to overthrow the German government. The German people longed for an opportunity to blame their difficulties on. The treaty and the allies were not sufficient enough to build this blame.  Hitler, whilst being imprisoned for nine months for his failed attempt to take over the German government, suggested, in his autobiographical book, “Mein Kampf” that there were easy solutions to the complex problems that German people faced in the 1920s. Hitler not only blamed German’s problems on its weak government by the “stab in the back” but also on the Jewish people that were scapegoated because of their financial prosperity. The simple two reasons of why German people accepted Hitler were that he provided someone to blame for the economy and he had a simplified plan to economic recovery. Keynes illustrated Hitler’s plan to “outline his four-year vision that would completely eliminate unemployment throughout Germany” to be highly effective, even though this plan did not permit the increase of income and enrichment of its economy. However, the plan provided change, which the German people gleefully accepted to increase their military strength (actually forbidden by the peace treaty) and to regain Germany’s victory. In a speech held in 1926, Hitler said, “Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat”, which depicts the hope he set upon the German citizens to detest the terms of the treaty and regain strength and build a stronger Third Reich. The historian Robert Gerwarth, in his book “The Vanquish”, similarly to many other historians, strongly advocates that the diktat set upon Germany and their resulting economic collapse resulted in the rise of Hitler, therefore criticism is justified.
The Treaty of Versailles can be criticized for its prejudice, discrimination and cruelty towards Germany, however one cannot forget that the Treaty was primarily created by three leaders in a minimal period of time, and that it therefore represented a compromise of its leaders rather than the expected solutions and miracles for peace. Lloyd George foreshadowed Europe’s brutal future when he said, “We shall fight another war in 25 years” on behalf of the treaty. Although the treaty is criticized by both its winners and its losers, McMillan, towards the end of her book Paris 1919 illustrates that the nations that exist today, for the good and the bad, only began to grow because of the treaty. Germany, although it was weakened, destroyed and humiliated, said, “We will never stop unit we win back what we deserve”. One can argue that the treaty tried to create what could only be created 37 years later: The European Union and hence provided the initiation points of such great creation. To label the criticism by both the victors and the defeated, supporters and opposers, right or wrong straight away would result in the same drastic simplification that leads to miscreation’s as in the treaty itself.


The Versailles Treaty was criticised by both winners and losers.  How justified was this criticism? 

Following an Allied victory of the First World War, the remaining fighting Central Power Nation, Germany, requested for an armistice based on Wilsons promised Fourteen Points for world peace. In January 1918, the Allies needed to put the war to rest and thus met in Versailles to put together a peace treaty, but this led to the creation of a treaty where peace was not the outcome, where nations let their hate for Germany loose and strived for vengeance and territorial gains rather than the peace in Europe as the meeting in Versailles had been originally intended for. This essay will discuss how justified the criticism of Germany’s loss of all their colonies, their mass reduction of their military, and the reparations and guilt that had to be accepted by Germany for the entirety of the war.

As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany lost all of her colonies from Alsace-Lorraine to Namibia. This had been done as a means of punishment, for the people of Britain and France were outraged with the Germans and wanted revenge for the deaths of their loved ones. The representatives of each nation understood what had to be done to satisfy their country as Germany had to be punished. They stripped Germany of all her colonies as well as 13.2% of her land in Europe to ensure peace but as put forward by Commander Foch, it was a 20-year armistice and not the end to the war. These actions didn’t ensure peace within Europe. As stated by John Terrain, the Germans resented the treaty and it only made them more nationalistic, willing to follow anyone who was able to give them a glimmer of hope to get themselves out of this situation of being punished for the war through territorial losses and by splitting a tenth of their population (6.5 million people) up into separate nations. The treaty was criticised, and in this case, rightly so, as it gave the German people even more reason and motif to hate the Allies and to find a way to make themselves the power of Europe once again.

One of the largest and harshest outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles was the reduction and removal of the German military. The German’s were forced to remove their Navy, allowing Britain to be the powerhouse of the sea once again, completely remove their air force, and finally reducing their military to 100,000 troops along with the Rhineland being completely unoccupied leaving no protection from French invasion. From a colonial perspective, Douglas Newton, an Australian historian, argues that the punishment on the Germans was harsh, but that a victorious Germany would have also been harsh. This shows that even though the outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles were especially strict on Germany, a loss of the war would have seen the same treatment, if not worse, upon the rest of Europe, and that when this is taken into consideration, it demonstrates that the Allies acted upon the Germans in a manner that would have been acted upon them if the outcome of the war had been reversed. Newton’s argument identifies that the criticism of the Treaty of Versailles does not take into consideration how harsh Germany would have been on the rest of Europe if they had won the war. However, John Scherer argues that the treaty weakened Germany, but not enough so that they could not rise again to threaten the balance of world power. Scherer takes a view that if you are going to punish a nation, you do so in a way that they would never be able to rise again and threaten the world powers. Although Germany was treated harshly, they were aided in rebuilding themselves by the USA who lent them huge sums of money in order to rebuild their economy. This allowed the German Government to return to their wealthy state they had been in before the war, by the 1920s. Scherer argues that if you are going to punish a nation, then you either do so fully, or not at all, as the half-hearted approach “Provided a powerful stimulus for German nationalism” whilst also giving them the opportunity to rise once more and fight against the nations who sentenced their country to such a fate. The outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles were harsh and the criticism that it faced were partially justified as it purely didn’t do enough.

Finally, the most controversial aspects of the Treaty of Versailles itself, Article 231, the German guilt clause forced Germany to take blame for the entire war as well as pay reparations to the Allies amounting to 132 billion gold marks (US$33 billion) for civilian damages that had occurred during the war. In the words of John Terrain, the war guilt clause “was a stigma on the entire German nation.” This was as Germany were not the only Central Power nation to be part of the war, and they certainly weren’t the ones who began it. There was an uproar when the German’s read the treaty and as stated by AJP Taylor, “Germany didn’t take signing seriously” as it was so outrageous and in the end was only signed to end the British blockade that had killed thousands of their people from starvation and malnutrition. When discussing the Treaty of Versailles, AJP Taylor, a historian who never disguised his hate for Germans, seems to take somewhat of a sympathetic view towards them when he stated, “The treaty seemed to them wicked, unfair, dictation, slave treaty.” This demonstrates that even a historian who does not hide his negative views of Germany would go to criticise the Treaty of Versailles for being unfair on them and that the treaty treats them like slaves. This is in the sense that Germany had no say concerning their nations future as well as having their ability to defend themselves taken away from them. From the views of AJP Taylor and John Terrain, the criticism of the Treaty of Versailles was completely justified as the guilt clause completely humiliated the nation leading to the rise of Hitler and the outbreak of war in 1939. On the other hand, Margaret Macmillan, a Canadian historian gives a different view on the treaty. She argues that in the six months that the Allies had to come up with a document that would ensure world peace considering the short length of time that they had, what they eventually came out with was the best that they could have done. People seem to forget that the creation of the League of Nations, and the start of collapsing empires, which allowed nations to gain their freedom were all outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles, and for such decisions to be made in such a short span of time makes it hard to justify the criticism that was received due to the circumstances in which it had been put together made it quite plausible that any decisions had been made at all.

All in all, the Treaty of Versailles was harsh on Germany but in the end, the people from Allied Nations wanted Germany to suffer for the deaths of their fellow loved ones and their country representatives had no choice but to meet the demands of their people. Especially as a solution to world peace had to be reached in six months, the Treaty of Versailles was the best that it could have been and the criticism that it received was not as justified as the ones making the claims believed it was.


The Versailles Treaty was criticised by both winners and losers. How justified was this criticism?

“History is written by the victors” as claimed by Walter Benajmin, a German Jewish philosopher, is extremely evident in the case of the Treaty of Versailles. 27 countries gathered in the Hall of Mirrors to negotiate a punishment to the forcefully absent Germany. The renowned historian Margaret Macmillan argues that after six months of conferring with so many countries this was the best possible compromise. Whilst the victors were left not fully satisfied, the losers were in peril. Germany specifically was suffering, as they had lost over two million soldiers in the war and due to the British blockade over 800,000 people had starved. On top of losing close to 4% of their population they are now expected to sign a treaty that forced them to pay 33 billion US dollars in reparations, prevented them from performing the ‘Anschluss’ with Austria, seized large portions of land, and greatly capping their military. The winners criticised the treaty for not satisfying their concerns for peace and safety, whilst the defeated exerted critique due to the harshness of this document in addition to the defeated suffering after the war. This essay will explore if the treaty was justified in order to prevent further wars, if it was too harsh on Germany who was already suffering. Moreover, was the globally accredited historian AJP Taylor correct in saying that the Treaty of Versailles did not only fail in preventing more wars but caused the horrific events of the Second World War?

As victors of the war, France and Britain, strongly believed that the Treaty of Versailles was a necessary step “to protect the future against a repetition of the horrors of war”, to quote David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Britain, who attended the conference. Yet for some it was not harsh enough. The French had lost millions of men and until the late 1950s priority seats were reserved for the countless disabled and crippled soldiers of WW1. The French and British were key players in the creation of this treaty and made up two thirds of the ‘Big Three’ yet apparently they could not form a majority in order to pass their harsher punishment onto Germany. Britain and France both agree that part V of the treaty, put in place to disarm Germany, was not strict enough and allowed Germany to create a Second World War, exactly what the treaty was trying to prevent. The historian AJP Taylor argues in his book The Origins of the Second World War that Germany, whilst losing man power and resources during the First World War, left the war in a stronger position than before, as there only rival, Russia, was now too busy with revolution and civil war. He further argues that if Germany were to regain power, her neighbours would be, once again threatened by Germany and there would be nothing in the Treaty of Versailles to safeguard against the re-emerging power of Germany. Taylor's perspective, while persuasive at first glance, is severely limited due to a contemporary lack of transparency, as many of the archives were still closed when he published his book. Another British historian, Anthony Lentin, believes that Germany benefitted from the Treaty of Versailles as her neighbours saw the peace as unsatisfactory and that due to this the treaty was neither strict nor harsh enough to ensure that Germany could be prevented from gaining power again. Britain and France both believe that the Treaty was too lenient and allowed Germany to keep gaining power. Overall whilst Britain and France were major players in the creation of the document they both exert criticism due to the fact that they believe that the treaty was not harsh enough and did not have steps in place to prevent Germany from rising and therefore the criticism was justified.

Germany was the main victim of this treaty and therefore it comes to no surprise that she was critiquing this document. Germany was part of the Central Allies that lost the First World War, which already caused strain on the country through the loss of 4% of its population and also the ongoing British Blockade. Germany was humiliated by the clauses in the treaty and found that they were unacceptable specifically the Clause 231 and 232 also known as the War Guilt and Reparation Clause. Protests were being held outside of the German Reichstag to prevent the loss of 10% of her land, all of her overseas colonies, and most importantly 20% of its coal and nearly 50% of its iron industry all on top of having to pay for the reparations of damages caused during the war. Germany, a nation which thrived and was the largest producer of iron could not economically handle such an intense loss of jobs, and resources and therefore it is understandable that the Germans criticised the harshness of this treaty. Furthermore, according to the acclaimed historian William Carr, Germany “resented” the treaty as it was a “Diktat” but were forced to sign it due to the British Blockade which would only be stopped if they signed the treaty. Due to being forced to the treaty and not being allowed to take part in the negotiations, it is without a doubt that the treaty was devalued greatly and, according to Anthony Lentin’s book Guilt at Versailles, had no purpose apart from humiliating Germany. The scale of reparations was a main reason why Germany critiqued the treaty so heavily. German officials refused to pay the reparations and stated that Britain and France were trying to starve German children to death by forcing such an economic burden on them. Yet as there were no direct mechanisms to enforce the clauses of the treaty on Germany, France was forced to intervene in Germany in the event dubbed the Ruhrbesetzung. Through this we can see that the signature on the treaty meant nothing to the Germans, they did not comply with the treaty and were violently forced to due to the flaws of the treaty. This evidently and undoubtedly shows that criticism of the Treaty of Versailles was justified as Germany was already suffering the consequences of the war, and was only humiliated by the treaty and only suffered short term consequences, or tried to evade any consequences due to the missing enforcement of the treaty. These are all very understandable reasons why the critique of the Treaty of Versailles is utterly justified.

Overall the treaty is mainly criticised due to the fact that it did not prevent Germany from being able to start a Second World War. The French Marshall Ferdinand Foch said directly after the Treaty of Versailles that it “is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years”, he couldn’t have been more right, as nearly 20 years later war had once again broken out in Europe. The Treaty of Versailles clearly did not prevent Germany from spending more than it would have had to pay in reparations in rearming the German Army. Alone that Germany was able to rearm shows that the Treaty had failed and should be critiqued. Furthermore, America never managed to ratify the Treaty as it did not pass through their thorough law system in the congress as it did not address any of the key issues that the United States wanted to mend. On the contrary Margaret MacMillan states that it “became fashionable to denounce the treaty” and that the treaty was “merely a convenient vehicle” for Hitler. She does not blame the Treaty of Versailles for the Second World War but the short sightedness of the politicians of the time. As stated before she believes that the treaty was the best possible outcome from the peace conference and therefore believes that it was necessary to keep the Germans inline and does not blame the document on the rise of Germany and the Second World War. Yet MacMillan is the granddaughter of David Llyod Geroge a key stakeholder, and signatory in the Treaty of Versailles, which may be a reason why she is in favour of this treaty. Through this it is clear to see that whilst many critique the Treaty of Versailles for not preventing the Second World War due to the leniency in the treaty, others argue that it should not be criticised as it was the best outcome possible and is just used as a vehicle for Hitler’s rise in power.

Throughout the essay we have explored the justifications of critique on the Treaty of Versailles by both the winners and the losers of the First World War. After having 27 countries negotiate for half a year a great compromise was made and the Treaty of Versailles was created and Germany was punished severely. Yet as we have seen throughout this essay both the victors and the defeated in the war critiqued the treaty. The Big Three (France, Britain, and the USA) justified criticism on the treaty by stating that it was too lenient, did not contain any mechanisms to enforce any of the clauses onto Germany, not preventing the Second World War, and not satisfying their concerns for peace and safety. The defeated nations exerted critique due to the harshness of the document which only added to their debt of being destroyed during the war.  However, some historians argue that it was merely used as an excuse for Hitler’s rise and was not the cause of it. Overall it is clearly evident that the Treaty of Versailles was heavily critiqued and overall it is justified as the purpose of the document was clearly to enforce peace onto Germany and peace did not last and failed in 1939.


On his return to Great Britain in June 1919 David Lloyd George was given a hero’s welcome with the king awaiting him at the train station in order to greet him while all the German representatives who signed the Treaty of Versailles were killed in the following years. The nations who had attended the conference all left Paris with mixed feelings, some thinking that the terms imposed on Germany were too harsh while others believed that Germany was not punished hard enough. Every country had their own views on the economic, territorial, and military implications set up by the Treaty of Versailles.
Josef Huggenberger famously wrote in his poem Bettelarm “Wir haben uns gebeugt der Macht, Das hat uns Nöte viel gebracht. Nun sind wir worden bettelarm”. This poem can be seen as a general representation of the German population’s feeling in 1920 towards the Treaty of Versailles as it expresses how Germany was forced to give up their dignity by signing the treaty and was because of that now extremely poor. After the Saar had been ripped from German possession vital parts of her coal industry had been lost and the penalties, which came with the reparations made it seem to the Germans as if they would never be able to recover again and that they would certainly go bankrupt. What made it even more difficult for Germany to accept the reparations was that they felt as if they had never lost WW1. Even though John Maynard Keynes represented Great Britain at the Treaty of Versailles his opinion matched that of the German population as he also thought that the economic sanctions posed on Germany were too harsh and that it would lead to an economic crisis all over Europe. On the other hand, however Etienne Mantoux a French economist argues the opposite. He argues that by 1929 Germany’s coal mining industry had increased by 30% compared to the figures of 1913. This makes it seem as if at least this part of the economy had recovered fully by 1929 and had even increased. Mantoux opinion that the economic sanctions set up by the Treaty of Versailles were not to hard is backed by the fact that in 1927 the German state was wealthy enough to introduce income guarantees under welfare legislation. Furthermore, in the years following 1931 German expenditures for the re-armament program significantly exceeded the 2.4% of Germany’s national income, which they spent on the reparations in the years between 1921 and 1932. When considering Mantoux’s argument one has to be aware of the fact that he is French meaning that he could want Germany to look better off than they actually were since one could in that case consider more out reaching demands for reparations, which at that time was one of the main demands, which the French population put forward. German poetry from 1929 also paints a decisively different picture to that of 1920. When looking at the poem Junges Deutschland by Rudolf G. Binding he describes Germany as once again prospering and one can be proud to be German again and if they continue they will once again be rich. This poem portrays an entirely different picture to that of 1920 and it proves that not only on paper the German state was doing well again but that also the average people were once again in good shape. When considering that Germany had at least partially recovered from most parts of the sanctions and reparations they had to pay, by 1929 and that they were once again a stable country after the most devastating war by the standards of the time one can conclude that Germany’s critique of the economic aspects of the Treaty of Versailles was not justified.
Not only did the main loser nation Germany criticize the Treaty of Versailles for the too hard economic sanctions but also the French criticized it for not being harsh enough with the Germans in general however their biggest reason for criticism was that the territorial concessions, which Germany had to make did not go far enough. At the Treaty of Versailles, the French delegation led by Georges Clemenceau would have liked to see the Rhineland taken away from Germany and given to France. In addition, they would have also liked the gain possession of the Saarland especially because of prosperous coalmines located there, which could have greatly boosted France’s economy. This would have also ensured that Germany would not be able to attack France in the foreseeable future as at the time most of German’s wealth depended on the coalfields located in these two areas. The French population would have also approved this sanction as they thought that this was the only way Germany could be punished adequately for the damage they had done to France while fighting over the Western Front, which was mostly located in France. Clemenceau’s opinion was further backed by Ferdinand Foch who was in charge of the allied forces and was of the strong belief that if these areas should not be taken away the Treaty of Versailles would simply be an armistice for twenty years. However, neither Woodrow Wilson nor Lloyd George were of Clemenceau’s opinion and Lloyd George even went as far as calling Clemenceau Napoleon for requesting the possession of the Rhineland and the Saarland. In the end the Treaty of Versailles created a compromise, which stated that the Rhineland would have to be a demilitarized zone and that the Saarland would be occupied by the French for fifteen years. Even with this compromise France was not content and criticized it however this criticism was not justified. If this area should have been completely ripped from German control they would have no industry strong enough to pay for the reparations. Seeing this it could have strengthened France’s economy however it would have made it virtually impossible for Germany to pay their reparations. In addition, it would have probably created a peace, which would have been even shorter than the one between WWI and WWII. This is supported by Margaret MacMillan as she argues that “what may seem like a reasonable way of protecting oneself can look very different from the other side of the border.” This is very applicable to this situation as France would have taken this area to protect itself however from the German side of the border this would have been an extreme provocation and it would have certainly created a huge crisis in the aftermath. When looking at France’s extreme requests for the possession of the Rhineland and the Saarland and the generous compromise found in the Treaty of Versailles the obvious conclusion is that France’s critique of this point is in no way justifiable.
A further point, which was greatly critiqued by the German government and of the population was the army was limited to only 100 000 soldiers. On top of that Germany was not allowed to possess any submarines, no air force, and only six battleships in order to control sea territories. These restrictions were widely criticized as they made Germany extremely vulnerable to any sort of attack. The German army of the time with the number of enlisted soldiers was comparable to some police forces of other nations. These reductions angered the people as they felt as if their interests could no longer be kept safe and secured. What enraged the population further was that all neighboring countries and especially the allies all kept their armies without reducing their old armies in any way making Germany look extremely vulnerable. This criticism by the Germans was in some ways justifiable. When considering that in the years following 1919 Germany was never attacked and never threatened in a manner that could have meant war on a large scale the reduction of the army was meaningless as a larger army would have simply been a threat to other countries but was not necessary to keep national security. On the other hand, however one could argue that this criticism was justified as first of all the peace that followed 1919 was not guaranteed and in the case of a war Germany would have been completely defenseless and secondly the presence of a larger army could have possibly prevented cases of rape, which occurred in the Saarland. In the Saarland women repeatedly reported being raped by French occupants. These cases could have possibly been prevented if Germany’s army would have been more present and could have posed a more serious threat to the French after the cases of the rape. When reviewing the disarmament of Germany now it is obvious that all went well and the absence of a larger army never posed a severe threat to the German population however at the time the criticism was justified as there could have always been an incident, which would have led to Germany feeling the need to defend themselves and the army could have possibly prevented cases of rape in the occupied areas.
After the Treaty of Versailles was signed the criticism for it was immense both on the side of the winners and of the losers. This criticism reached so far that the US Senate did not sign the Treaty and the German population’s anger went so far that all German ambassadors who signed the treaty were killed. Of course some of the criticism was justified and some of the clauses may have been unreasonable however considering the time period and the circumstances in, which it was created it was the best the allies could have done as Margaret MacMillan argues.


The Treaty of Versailles was a “peace which fell short of ideals of reconciliation”, according to Douglas Newton, a British author and historian. The treaty served more as a legal basis to punish Germany for the damage it caused and the responsibility it bore for the First World War; it did not, however, ensure a peace that would prevent alienation and contribute to stability and co-existence on the European continent. However, there is also the notion that the Treaty of Versailles was not even harsh enough on Germany, given that it had previously imposed harsh treaties on France in 1871 and Russia in 1917 (Brest-Litovsk), which eventually lead to its speedy recovery by 1927 and eventually, a new world war. It is believed that the Treaty of Versailles was mostly ineffective in securing peace in Europe due to the treatment of Germany as an outcast nation rather than as a partner and the policy of ceding territories to squabbling and expansionist minorities. However, one could say that the treaty was not harsh enough, as it left Germany with the sufficient strength to return to economic preeminence in Europe and eventually start another war.
Douglas Newton argues that “the absence of any genuine peace negotiations made all of Germany believe that the Weimar Republic had been treated shabbily”, which lead to fierce German animosity towards the victors and resulted in a second World War. What Newton meant by the lack of “genuine peace negotiations” were the massive reparations Germany had to pay as formulated in clauses 232-236 and most famously, article 231 (the “war guilt clause”) in which Germany had to assume all responsibility for the initiation of WW1 and the damage it brought. This meant that Germany had to pay 132 billion gold marks, equivalent to 47,000 metric tons of gold and 340% of Germany’s GDP. In comparison, the US only held 8133 metric tons, which emphasizes how unrealistic this sum was. It was a sum that Germany simply could not pay in its current state. Combined with the fact that Germany was not even invited to partake in the negotiations and that the German delegate Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau was forced to sign the treaty in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, suggested to the German people that the treaty was a “Diktat”: a harsh penalty and a statute, instead of a negotiation that should genuinely secure peace. To capture the sentiment of the German people in response to this treaty, the Deutsche Zeitung wrote on June 28 1919: “Vengeance! German people! Today the shameful peace has been signed in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles!” and that “the German people will reconquer the place, which is their due among the nations!”. Rather than provide a realistic foundation for peace, the treaty of Versailles simply created more animosity amongst the German people. It brought upon them a sense of unresolvedness and humiliation; something the Germans wanted to reverse. One must not forget that these were similar conditions with which France was faced following its defeat in 1871: followed by World War I four decades later. Even Marshall Foch, the Allied commander, argued that “this is not a peace treaty: it’s a 20 years’ truce”. Twenty years later, Germany was at war with France once again.
Furthermore, the implementation of one of President Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points, the right to self-determination, only created more ethnic tensions with new nation-states such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria and in Germany itself. First and foremost, the prohibition of having ethnic Germans (most notably in Austria and Sudetenland) unite was not only a complete contradiction to the right of “self-determination”, but actually stirred the animosity of Germans in both Germany and Austria. Austrian provinces such as Salzburg and Tyrol had 98-99% majority in favor of uniting with Germany, but were forbidden to do so as per the Treaty of Versailles. Austria lost 75% of its territory and people, which had been invaluable assets to its economy, particularly the industrialized areas of Cisleithania and the Pannonian basin (Hungary). With millions of Austrians displaced in the lost territories and the dependency of Austrian goods on the German market, the prohibition of uniting with Germany was a terrible blow to Austria and only served as a build-up to violence in the Austrian civil war of 1934 and finally, to the Anschluss (unification) with Germany in 1938. Therefore, in this respect, the Treaty of Versailles only delayed what was inevitable and caused so much more suffering on top of it. In addition, the creation of the new states of Poland and Czechoslovakia caused ethnic problems: in the new territories that now formed Poland, the ethnic minorities of Ukrainians, Jews, Belorusssians and Germans were hostile to the state, due to the “Polonization” of these new areas. According to Aviel Roshwald, professor of history at Georgetown University, Warsaw was supposed to protect these minorities under the Treaty of Versailles, but were not interested in doing so. In addition, Jozef, Pilsudski, the Chief of State, adopted expansionist policies in the form of “polonizable” territories. This led to numerous wars with Lithuania (1919-1920), Ukraine (1918-1919) and the Russian SFSR (1919-1921) causing 130,000 deaths. The encouragement of the Allies for the various ethnicities of the fallen empires to create their own nation-states did not create equality: it created even more ethnic problems. The Polish conquest of these areas added 4 million Ukrainians, 2 million Jews and 1 million Belorussians into Poland, all discriminated against by Polish nationalism. In addition, another state created by the Treaty of Versailles, Czechoslovakia, caused problems by breaking agreements with Poland, in which it seized territories West of the Olza River. 60% of Czechoslovakia’s population was Polish, compared to 25% Czech. Therefore, the Treaty of Versailles created nothing but more ethnic tensions in Europe, which was the very opposite of what it sought to achieve. The creation of these bickering nation-states created another series of wars after the “war to end all wars” and only made it easier for these weakened countries to be conquered by Hitler during the Blitzkrieg.
However, one could say that the Treaty of Versailles was also not harsh enough in that it did not neutralize Germany as a future threat to peace and was actually quite tame in comparison to treaties enforced by Germany in the past. Margaret Macmillan argues that “the real problem was that the treaty [of Versailles] was never really properly enforced so that Germany was able to rebuild its military and challenge the security of Europe all over again”. Even though reparations were enforced upon Germany, which on paper seemed to be ridiculous sums, Germany only paid a portion of it; it still remained the preeminent economic power of Europe even after it had wrought so much destruction in its invasions of Belgium, northeastern France and Eastern Europe. Margaret Macmillan argues that in order to neutralize Germany as a threat, it should have been broken up into its pre-1871 constituent states, so as to shift most of the blame to the militaristic Kingdom of Prussia. In addition, the reparations would have been spread more evenly among the states, with Prussia bearing the brunt of the payments. In addition, the smaller German states would not have been faced with as large an arms restriction, since they would not pose a threat as large as a united Germany would. Furthermore, Germany only paid one third of the reparations for the destruction it had brought to the invaded territories; Germany, with a larger population and economy, combined with the help of the Dawes Plan, was back into ushering in a “Golden Age” as soon as 1924. France, in comparison, with a smaller population and economy, roughly the same war costs (32 billion to Germany’s 37 billion) and with destruction suffered on the most industrialized part of the country, arguably suffered even more than Germany. In this respect, the Treaty of Versailles should have been enforced more militantly in order to assure that the losing powers would, at least equally, pay for the damages caused on Allied territory. In the end, most, if not the entirety of WW1 was fought on Allied territory and thus, the Allies had every right to demand reparations from the Central Powers. One must keep in mind that the Central Powers were rightfully the losing side of the war, and thus had to face the consequences accordingly. Germany, for instance, had no qualms with imposing harsh terms on Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which annexed all its industrially significant territory (Ukraine, Baltic states, Poland), caused the loss of 80% of Russia’s coal mines (essential to heating), 50% of other industries and a follow-up of 6 billion marks in reparations. In addition, Germany paid less reparations than France in 1871, which the latter had to pay within 3 years. Therefore, the fact that Germany got off so lightly after the war in comparison to what could have been done to it, emphasizes that the Treaty of Versailles was lenient for a country that had no qualms with embarking on conquests and imposing harsh treaties itself. In the end, one could say that the Treaty of Versailles did not sufficiently punish and monitor Germany’s actions and gave it the impression that it had never lost the war, which ultimately led to World War II.
In conclusion, it is mostly believed that the Treaty of Versailles caused more problems and tensions in post war Europe than it actually solved. The animosity that was stirred in the German people by what they perceived was forced and humiliating demand for surrender, rather than actual peace negotiations, only built up Germany’s desire to engage in a reversal of this treaty 20 years later. In addition, the ethnic tensions that were offset by the insistence that ethnic minorities be given “self-determination” ultimately caused even more conflicts, including the aforementioned wars between Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. However, the treaty of Versailles was also not harsh enough in that it allowed Germany to recover its strength to ultimately completely ignore the treaties demands and embark on a new war in 1939. The comparatively tame terms of Versailles in contrast to Germany’s past treaties emphasized how much harder Germany could have been punished. In the end, the treaty was in some respects too harsh and too tame.
Extended Essay in History

To what extent did the creators of the Treaty of Versail
les, 1919, create a harsh and short-sighted peace?


In the aftermath of the First World War, against the backdrop of millions of soldiers’ deaths and the traumatising of an entire continent, the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919 (Boemeke, Feldman and Glaser 177). The complexity of debate surrounding it is intimately connected with the everlasting ‘War Guilt’ (Graebner and Bennett 48) question, but the prominent views on the Treaty are that it was both harsh and short-sighted. This essay aims to evaluate these views, answering the question ‘to what extent did the creators of the Treaty of Versailles create a harsh and short- sighted peace?” In order to do so, it considers not the effects that can be seen with hindsight and judgement in the present day, because, as E.P. Thompson argued, we must judge the Treaty ‘on the terms of those who created the document, rather than ours’ (Thompson 12). As such, the essay takes into consideration the circumstances in 1919 and the years preceding it, arguing that most of the Treaty’s terms, such as the reparations to the Allies, were not harsh because they were justified by German aggression before and during the war, which had provoked or dragged the Allied Powers into war, causing the desolation in their nations. It argues also that the Treaty was not short-sighted since many of its terms, such as the donation of land from Germany to France as well as reparations to the Allied Powers and demands for disarmament, were designed to cripple the German war machine in the long run so as to prevent Germany from creating future hostilities. Finally, the essay considers the socio-political situation that many consider a reason the Treaty was harsh, and concludes that Germany’s actions preceding 1919 fully justify the Terms of the Treaty. As such, the essay concludes that the Treaty of Versailles was neither harsh nor short-sighted.
Word count: 297

Signed on 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles is one of the world’s most influential and most debated documents. It was created in the aftermath of the Great War of 1914 – 1918, its most prominent and influential creators being the American President Woodrow Wilson, the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and the British Prime Minister Lloyd George (Andelman 204), among delegations from 27 nations (Lentin 84) which excluded the vanquished, with Russia equally absent from negotiations. Naturally, each nation held a different aim - but the Treaty’s main purpose was ending the conflict and preventing future hostilities. Its critics have attributed it blame for creating the unforgiving conditions that favoured the rise of right-wing extremism in Germany in the years following its completion, and it is therefore often described as harsh. The treaty has also been criticized for being short- sighted, as D. Walbanks argues: “...it was a treaty made without thought ... or consideration as to what its effects might be.” (Walbanks) The debate on this is intimately connected with the debate on whether or not Germany was responsible for causing the damages it was made to pay for, since responsibility for damages is typically followed by reparation. With historians like Fritz Fischer arguing Germany was to blame, with the logical consequence of repayments, and others arguing the Treaty was harsh and short-sighted, to what extent did the creators of the Treaty of Versailles create a harsh and short-sighted peace?
It is important to evaluate the treaty ‘on the terms of those who created the document, rather than ours’ (Thompson 12), as E.P. Thompson argued, because its effects can only be observed with hindsight and this frequently dictates if a treaty is considered harsh and short-sighted or not, while the creators of the document were only able to predict the effects of their treaty. Thus, the treaty’s harsh- and short-sightedness will be examined with regards to the context of 1919 and the years preceding it.
In order for the treaty to be defined as harsh, it will include many unnecessary demands that are not justified by or related to the offence. This assessment will be based on personal interpretation and can therefore be discredited as subjective, so to mitigate this, the justifiability of the Treaty’s terms will be examined according to two criteria: (1) whether the terms are related to the offence, or whether they were included arbitrarily or to insult; (2) if the terms are related to the offence, whether the damages or issues they present solutions to were caused by Germany. In order for a treaty to be short-sighted, it will be unsustainable in the long run, and will not consider the long-term impact of the treaty. In the light of this, examination of the terms of the treaty and the responsibility for Germany’s socio-political situation at the time will show that the Treaty’s terms were largely justifiable given German aggression at the start of the war, and its architects did indeed place much importance on the long-term effects of the Treaty, with their political aims in mind. As such, the Treaty was neither harsh nor short-sighted.
The War Guilt Clause
Subjected to countless criticisms, the War Guilt Clause forced Germany to accept all responsibility for the loss and damage to the Allied governments and their nationals. This article is both justified and necessary, even if it caused escalated bitterness in Germany, with Hitler fermenting this resentment and fuelling the stab in the back myth (Gonen 8) in order to win German support. The response to the War Guilt Clause in 1919 was resentment in the German population, as a German MP indicated in a speech to the Reichstag in 1919: “It is inflicting the deepest [emotional] wounds on us Germans as our world lies in wreckage about us” (Clare) – Germans considered the war self-defensive, and therefore found it intolerable to accept war guilt (Von Wegerer xiv). It can be argued that the clause was unnecessary and thus harsh since there had been no real victor in combat – 11 November 1918 saw only the signing of an armistice (Simonds 351). It can also be argued also that there is no possibility of charging Germany with sole war guilt as all European Powers had collectively caused the conflict, making the clause unjustified. Firstly, however, the War Guilt Clause was crucial in the treaty; without it, no defeated party could be established and no responsibility could be appointed to any nation to pay reparations. It was the basis of all other points in that it laid the foundation and justification for the rest of the articles, and was therefore highly necessary. The article is justified in that it states Germany shall assume responsibility for the damage inflicted upon the Allied Powers; German aggression caused the creators’ countries’ involvement in the War– Germany having invaded France on 3 August 1914, Germany having agitated Britain by the execution of the Schlieffen Plan through Belgium, thus inciting Britain to declare war on 4 August, and, by German agitation of the Americans with the sinking of the Lusitana in 1915, involving America. Germany had furthermore caused incredible damage in France, destroying 40% of its coal and 58% of its steel output (Boemeke, Feldman and Glaser 173). It is the result of myth and propaganda that Article 231 has been nicknamed the “War Guilt Clause”: as Margaret MacMillan argues in Peacemakers, the clause does not attribute blame for the entire war to Germany, but rather blames it solely, and justifiably, for the damages Germany inflicted upon the Allied Powers as a result of its aggression in 1914. She argues this due to the phrasing of the Article: “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected ... (The Versailles Treaty)” Published in 2001, the reliability of the arguments presented in Peacemakers benefits from hindsight and the author’s in studying history and international relations, but though it is beneficial given that MacMillan may have had access to his reasoning and views on the Treaty, it must be taken into consideration that MacMillan’s great-grandfather is David Lloyd George. Furthermore, in 1919, Allied delegations “regarded the clause as non-problematic, because its intention was to limit German liability with regard to reparations” (MacMillan 570), and therefore, on the terms of its creators, Article 231 is neither harsh nor short-sighted.
Loss of land: Sections IV and V
Sections IV and V regarding the donation of the Saar coal basin along with the provinces Alsace and Lorraine to France are some of the most important and criticised of the points regarding reparation costs to be paid by Germany. Even if they caused German economic problems after the signature of the treaty, they were necessary and also justified by Germany’s actions at the start of the war which caused the incredible damage to France’s resources in particular and should therefore not be considered harsh. Section IV of the Treaty outlines the donation of the Saar coal mines to France as compensation for the destruction of coal mines in the North of France for 15 years, after which a plebiscite would allow the inhabitants to decide under which government they would like to be placed (see Appendix A). The section itself proves its necessity by stating the coal mines will be donated as compensation for the damage in France: most of the fighting on the Western front was located in France, destroying 40% of the nation's coal and 58% of its steel output (Boemeke, Feldman and Glaser 173). These resources were located in provinces Germany had invaded in 1914, and were destroyed by German forces, justifying the donation of the Saar coal basin to France. Germany’s blame for the outbreak of the war (and therefore its responsibility for the repercussions) was underestimated greatly by revisionist and Marxist historians during the 1920s and 1930s, giving rise to the belief that the Treaty was therefore harsh. Opposing the orthodox view that Germany caused the War, revisionist historians of the 1920s and 1930s, fuelled by the pacifist and anti-conflict sentiments of these years, developed a theory that described a complex set of causations that led to the outbreak of the War, where other nations were equally guilty. The Marxist analysis of the War’s origins explains that it signified the “historical bankruptcy of the capitalist system (World Socialist Web Site)”, and, in these years, this interpretation was vocalised to perpetuate and encourage the support for Marxist ideologies, and discredit capitalism. However, as Fritz Fischer argues in Griff nach der Weltmacht in 1961, Germany was mostly to blame for the outbreak of the war (and completely to blame for involving France in hostilities, having implemented the Schlieffen Plan and invaded France), and as such the inclusion of Section IV is wholly justifiable.
The section, furthermore, was sustainable in the long run, and therefore not short- sighted. It describes the need for France to recover some of the 40% of its coal output lost in the war, as well as the decision to let the population of the land decide, after fifteen years, under which government they would like to be placed. Firstly, the article considers the long-term impacts of having or not having the Saar basin, both on France and on Germany alongside the impact this has on the population of the area.
 France, having lost so much of its coal output because of German aggression in 1914, was in need of resources to build up the nation, and the article is therefore long- sighted in that fifteen years allows the nation to recover some of the coal resources it lost. After 15 years the population was to decide under which government they would like to be placed, which considers the long-term impact on the people living in the area and gives them democratic freedom. As for Germany, the long-term impacts are also considered: one of the main aims of the Treaty, particularly of Georges Clemenceau was to limit Germany’s ability to create war industries and the capacity for war (Ambrosius 65): losing the Saar coal basin was crucial in doing so and was therefore not short-sighted. Allowing a referendum after fifteen years also created the possibility of the area’s reunification with Germany, with positive long-term effects on the inhabitants of the region and the Germany itself. It is also, admirably, an example of the execution of the principle of self-determination that was so encouraged by Wilson in his Fourteen Points (Gathorne-Hardy 11).
The return of Alsace-Lorraine outlined in Section V, too, is justified not only by France’s need for resources and land, but also by the history of the provinces. France suffered the most losses of land and resources during the war, most of which were caused by Germany: Germany had not only involved France in the war by invading it on 2 August 1914, but also caused most of the Western front to be in France with the failure of the Schlieffen plan. Furthermore, the section itself mentions the population’s French roots (see Appendix B). The province was originally part of France and had, according to the Treaty, protested heavily against separation from their country to be included in the new German Empire at the Assembly of Bordeaux (The Versailles Treaty) in 1871, rationalizing the clause. With the loss of Alsace- Lorraine, Germany sacrificed three-quarters of its iron resources (Craig 428), justified by the Allies’ aim of preventing future hostilities caused by Germany since iron is essential for war industries, as well as France’s need for iron production to recover from the huge losses of resources [having lost 40% of its coal and 58% of its steel output (Boemeke, Feldman and Glaser 173)] and damages [having lost 1.3 million men in the war (WWI Casualty and Death Tables)] it incurred at the hands of German aggression in 1914.
Reparation costs
Article 233 describes the creation of an Inter-Allied Reparation Commission, which was to agree upon the final amount Germany owed the Allied Powers (see Appendix C). Although the amount finally decided upon in 1921 was hugely excessive and unjustifiable, being 132 billion gold Marks (Craig, 442), the notion in the Treaty of Versailles that Germany was to pay reparations to the Allied Powers is justified as Germany was the reason all Allies had become involved in the conflict, a statement echoed in Fritz Fischer’s Griff nach der Weltmacht and proven by Germany’s actions in 1914 and during the war: France was invaded by Germany in 1914, Britain declared war on Germany for violating the Treaty of London of 1839 by invading Belgium, Italy joined the war as a member of the Triple Alliance, instigated by Berlin, and America declared war after the sinking of the Lusitana, an American cruise ship, in 1915, and the Zimmermann telegram of 1917 to Mexico which promised German support if Mexico were to attack America. Therefore, German aggression had, through involving all powers in the war, been responsible for the losses they faced. Moreover, reparations were highly necessary: the Allies had lost around 6 million soldiers (WWI Casualty and Death Tables) and France had lost 40% of its coal and 58% of its steel output. Even though Germany lost around 2 million soldiers (WWI Casualty and Death Tables) and, naturally, incurred costs as a result of the conflict, German aggression before and during the war had caused the Allied Powers’ losses, and the notion of Germany paying reparation costs to them is justified.
One of the most noted contemporary responses to the treaty is The Economic Consequences of the Peace of 1920 by John Maynard Keynes, in which he predicts the financial strains of the reparation costs would “ruin” Germany. The ruination of a country cannot be justified, rendering the Treaty unjustifiable. However, the aim of the conference was largely to severely limit Germany’s ability to start a war, and financial strains would do so, justifying the costs imposed on Germany. These are also justified by the actions of Germany, most notably in 1914, that caused the immense costs to its enemies. Furthermore, the Treaty was not harsher on the population than an alternative; in fact, William Carr argued in 1991 that no less harsh alternative treaty could have been made: “...If Clemenceau had had his way, the Rhineland would have become an independent state, the Saar would have become a part of France, and Danzig would have become part of Poland.” (Carr 228) Wilson’s Fourteen Points would have been the basis of a more conciliatory peace, but they were unrealistic as they did not include reparation costs, and their inclusion in the Treaty is justified in that Germany was the cause of these costs.
Many argue, among them Keynes, that the reparation costs set by the Allies were short-sighted as the amount was sure to plunge Germany’s economy into debt. However, keeping in mind the aims of the main statesmen who created the treaty, the reparation costs were not short-sighted: these aimed for the limitation of Germany’s capacity to wage war. Reparation costs were not only justified, but their impact is considered in this aim: when such problems were faced, Germany would have no economic resources to initiate combat. The creators also proved their knowledge of the effects of the reparation costs in article 232, which states “The Allied and Associated Governments recognise that the resources of Germany are not adequate, after taking into account ... diminutions of such resources which will result from other provisions..., to make complete reparation for all such loss and damage.” (The Versailles Treaty), indicating they recognized the effects of the treaty and considered its long-term impacts, making it far from short-sighted.
The overwhelming response to the Treaty of Versailles by historians is that it failed because it neither conciliated nor destroyed Germany, as A.J.P. Taylor argued in his book The Origins of the Second World War. He reasoned that the flawed Treaty of Versailles was ‘sufficiently onerous to ensure that the overwhelming majority of Germans would always hate it, but insufficiently onerous in that it failed to destroy Germany's potential to be a Great Power once more’ (Taylor 187). In this way, A.J.P. Taylor proves the Treaty’s failure was not due to its being too harsh: the Treaty was not onerous enough to cripple Germany in the long run. This is further supported by the fact that most general articles, such as article 231, the ‘War Guilt Clause’, and Part V regarding disarmament, are justified.

Clauses regarding disarmament
Part V of the treaty is also heavily criticized as it outlines the imposed disarmament of Germany, which would result in the reduction of the German army to seven divisions of infantry and three divisions of cavalry, which would render possible the reduction all nations’ armaments (The Versailles Treaty). It is considered unjustified because all other powers never disarmed, and it caused escalated resentment in Germany where militaristic prowess was considered essential. However, at the time of its creation, Part V of the treaty was entirely justified as it was designed to limit Germany’s ability to initiate another war: reducing Germany’s military capacity was essential in doing so. The intent in 1919, encouraged heavily by Woodrow Wilson, was for all nations to begin disarmament programmes: even if this did not occur after its signature, the article must be considered justified at the time of its creation as the it outlines the possible reduction of armaments of all powers. The argument that Part V is harsh because it prevented Germany from defending itself in the event of a further war is thoughtless, at least on the terms of the Treaty’s creators, because the intent was to reduce armaments of all powers, and an overriding aim of the Big Three was to prevent future wars in which case no defence would have been needed. It could further be argued this demand was harsh because it was only stipulated that the Germans should reduce armaments, but this argument does not take into account that the Versailles Treaty dealt with solely Germany, and not other states.
Isolation: what the past had shown
Many of the articles were designed, with their effects in mind, to isolate Germany by limiting its resources and prohibiting it from joining with Austria. Recent history had shown, in the case of France (the main aim of German foreign policy before 1914 having been to isolate France in fear of aggression following the Franco-Prussian war, 1870 (Cooper, Laver and Williamson 301)), that isolation does not have productive long-term effects in that it causes bitter resentment towards other nations, thereby

making a cooperation and the fulfilment of the Treaty less likely, and the Treaty was therefore short-sighted on these terms. However, France’s isolation was based on an alliance system that was in turn based on events where nation’s allegiances rapidly changed and was therefore short-sighted, while Germany’s isolation was grounded in international law with the support of the League of Nations, and was meant to endure unless the treaty, and international law, was annulled.
Germany in 1919
Although the terms of the Treaty were neither harsh nor unjustified, considerations could surely have been made by the Big Three regarding the socio-political situation in Germany at the time. Never had the German population seen such political upheaval as occurred between 1918 and 1919. While “German society [had been] clearly undergoing a period of change” (Kitson 55) in the years preceding the war, with the people of Germany slowly acquiring more political power and became more politically active (Kitson 55), nothing could match the changes that occurred politically towards the end of the war. Germany’s control had lain almost exclusively in the hands of its Kaiser, as John Röhl wrote in 1995: "the Kaiser, the royal family, the Kaiser's circle of friends, the [imperial entourage and the court form[ed] the heart of this system on which the very highest officials of the Reich and state bureaucracy were psychologically dependent." (Röhl 83) Now, in 1919, however, the Kaiser had abdicated, the new, democratic Weimar Constitution had been signed, and political power had shifted in favour of the people of Germany (while the old constitution of imperial Germany started with “His majesty the King of Prussia...”, the Weimar constitution began with “The German people” (The Weimar Constitution)). While modern interpretation of it is positive given today’s preference for democracy, it must be considered that these changes caused huge upheaval in German society. Political extremes, for instance, gained huge popularity, culminating in the Communist Spartacist Rising in 1919. German morale was greatly weakened due to the hardships of the war: “So it was all for nothing- the millions of dead, the millions of wounded, the starvation at home... The bread got still worse, the milk got thinner...” (Toller). Given the situation in Germany, it would seem as though any more hardship imposed in the Germans would be both harsh and unjustified. However, while it cannot be refuted that the German people suffered at the end of the war, and had experienced incredible turmoil, it was ultimately Germany who had caused itself to be involved in the conflict, having invaded France in 1914, violated the Treaty of London of 1839 by invading Belgium, and having provoked America into joining the war after the sinking of the Lusitana in 1915 and the Zimmerman telegram of 1917. Not only was Germany evidently to blame for the effects of the war on its population by provoking and declaring war, but in doing so it caused the Allied Powers to become involved, resulting in those nations’ losses, justifying the Treaty’s terms further.

A treaty that is to be labelled “harsh” will contain many unjustifiable terms, unnecessary demands not related to the offence. The War Guilt clause is wholly related to the offence and justified in that, as Fritz Fischer controversially argued, Germany was indeed that source of conflict that dragged the Allied Powers into war. Furthermore, without this clause, the rest of the Treaty’s terms would have been hugely unjustified given that without it, the Allies and Germany would not have recognised Germany’s responsibility – and given that it was indeed due to German aggression that the Allied Powers were forced into war, those clauses that Article 231 is the foundation for, such as those regarding repayments, were highly needed. The loss of land alongside reparation costs, too, is not harsh for the same reason.
In order for a treaty to be short-sighted, it will be unsustainable in the long run, and will not consider the long-term impact of the treaty. Alsace-Lorraine was given back to France with the aim of giving her back some of the population she had lost in 1871 to account for the huge loss of life she faced during the war: this was, evidently, with the long-term benefit of France in mind. Similarly, the Saar was to be in French possession for 15 years to account for the large amounts of industry lost, with the long-term benefit of the French economy in mind; a plebiscite after 15 years would make it possible for Germany to regain the land. Reparation costs, too, were long- sighted in that the architects of the Treaty aimed to hinder any German aggression in the future, and in focusing the German economy’s efforts for the following few years on repaying these reparations, this long-term aim would be achieved.
The Treaty’s most important and most controversial points, including the War Guilt Clause, the reparation costs, and the donations of land from Germany to France, have been subjected to many criticisms, yet, considered on the terms of its creators, its demands are justified and therefore not harsh, and its points were designed to cripple Germany in the long run, making it far from short-sighted. The answer to “to what extent did the creators of the Treaty of Versailles create a harsh and short-sighted peace”, thus, is that they did not.

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Appendix A: The Donation of the Saar Coal Basin
Article 45
Section IV:
As compensation for the destruction of the coal-mines in the north of France and as part payment towards the total reparation due from Germany for the damage resulting from the war, Germany cedes to France in full and absolute possession, with exclusive rights of exploitation, unencumbered and free from all debts and charges of any kind, the coal-mines situated in the Saar Basin as defined in Article 48.
Article 49.
Germany renounces in favour of the League of Nations, in the capacity of trustee, the government of the territory defined above.
At the end of fifteen years from the coming into force of the present Treaty the inhabitants of the said territory shall be called upon to indicate the sovereignty under which they desire to be placed.
(The Versailles Treaty)

Appendix B: Alsace-Lorraine
Article 51.
The territories which were ceded to Germany in accordance with the Preliminaries of Peace signed at Versailles on February 26, 1871, and the Treaty of Frankfort of May 10, 1871, are restored to French sovereignty as from the date of the Armistice of November 11, 1918.
(The Versailles Treaty)

Appendix C: The Inter-Allied Reparation Commission
Article 233.
The amount of the above damage for which compensation is to be made by Germany shall be determined by an inter-allied commission, to be called the reparation commission and constituted in the form and with the powers set forth hereunder and in annexes ii to vii inclusive hereto.
This commission shall consider the claims and give to the German government a just opportunity to be heard.
The findings of the commission as to the amount of damage defined as above shall be concluded and notified to the German government on or before may 1, 1921, as representing the extent of that government's obligations.
The commission shall concurrently draw up a schedule of payments prescribing the time and manner for securing and discharging the entire obligation within a period of thirty years from may 1, 1921. If, however, within the period mentioned, Germany fails to discharge her obligations, any balance remaining unpaid may, within the discretion of the commission, be postponed for settlement in subsequent years, or may be handled otherwise in such manner as the allied and associated governments, acting in accordance with the procedure laid down in this part of the present treaty, shall determine. (The Versailles Treaty)