History 104: Western Civilization since 1648
Lecture: The Great War and Russian Revolution

The Peace to End All Peace click here for audio

This title comes from the book by David Fromkin, a historian who has set out a convincing argument that the peace arrangements following the Great War paved the way for greater violence and disaster, including World War II. While we can't study these arrangements in detail, we can examine the difference between the goals of Woodrow Wilson, the American president, and the final results.

bookWorkbook document: Wilson's Fourteen Points

You'll notice that Wilson starts with "open covenenants": no more secret treaties. You'll notice also a provision that lets colonial peoples participate in their destinies. Both of these deny the practice

The Big Four: David Lloyd George (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy), Georges Clemenceau (France) and Woodrow Wilson (United States)

of European countries in dealing with their own power. Britain and France had no intention of giving their empires any form of self-determination. At the peace conference in Versailles, the representative of Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy determined the peace. Although Wilson's Fourteen Points represented the American goal, Britain and France had their own ideas. France wanted Germany destroyed, and Britain wanted to gain colonies and not be involved in more wars. Italy was ignored, having offered Allied support only late in the war, hoping to gain territory. The Treaty of Versailles (there were many treaties, but this one dealt with Germany) left Germany with minimal military, responsibility for the war ("war guilt") and the requirement to pay reparations.
bookWorkbook document: The Treaty of Versailles (Excerpts)

This Treaty humiliated Germany; if you look again at the Fourteen Points, that was the opposite of what Wilson wanted to happen. The Treaty and its aftermath paved the way for the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

MapIn the Ottoman Empire during the Great War, the British had promoted a unification of Arab tribes to overthrow the Turks, promising an Arab state in the Middle East after the war. The tribes had succeeded in destroying the Ottoman Turks in 1916, but at the Treaty conference their wishes for a pan-Arab state were ignored. Britain and France divided the Middle East, creating mandated colonies for each of them: Palestine and Iraq for Britain, Syria and Lebanon for France. Moving swiftly, Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal prevented the same happening to Turkey (the small core of the old Ottoman Empire), and removed it from European influence.

Similarly, the empires continued as before, but instead of colonies, they were administered as mandated territories controlled by the new entity for peace: the League of Nations. The League permitted the original conquering power to supervise the mandate, thus leaving the imperial map intact.Eastern Europe 1919

In Eastern Europe, they didn't do any better. The empire of Austria-Hungary had imploded during the war, torn apart by the competing nationalisms of Austrians, Magyars, and Slavs. The Treaty victors attempted Wilson's self-determination, but in some cases just created new states. The perfect example was Yugoslavia ("land of all Slavs"). Cobbled together from the old Serbia and other Balkan nations, what happened in the Balkans has provided such a poor example of divvying up things that we call such debacles "Balkanization". Czechslovakia was similarly created by artificially fusing the Czechs with the Slovaks. All of this will dissolve after three generations of creating new nationalisms.

Fromkin's title is a play on the term "the war to end all wars". The organ for international peace was the League of Nations, the only point of Wilson's that came to pass. The U.S. Senate, however, refused to ratify the Treaty and thus the U.S. wasn't a member of the League, weakening its power. Women's international peace groups and many around the world counted on the League to prevent future wars, but it would prove unable to do that.

6. Russia Before the Revolutions ->