The Treaty of Versailles Questions and Answers
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Core Assessment 2
1. What did Wilson hope to achieve from the Peace Settlement of 1919-1920? (4)
Woodrow Wilson was an idealist and hoped to achieve the 14 points at the peace settlement of 1919-1920. One point that he wanted to achieve was self-determination for all nations but specifically for smaller Eastern states. Another thing in which he wanted was to set up the league of nations and, among other things wanted Alsace-Lorraine returned to France and freedom of the seas. He also wanted to stop any more secret treaties from being made, and disarmament across all countries. A big thing that Wilson wanted was not to treat Germany too harshly as he did not want any future wars.
2. Why did Clemenceau and Lloyd George disagree over how to treat Germany? (6)
One reason why Lloyd George and Clemenceau disagreed over how to treat Germany was because of how their countries had been affected economically. Lloyd George did not want to treat Germany too harshly as he wanted to resume trade with Germany as soon as possible mainly because Germany had been its 2nd largest trading partner. Lloyd George wanted to use the money that Britain made from trading with Germany to fund the growth of the British Empire. He also wanted to keep Germany politically stable so that extremist groups would not form in Germany, take control and start another war. No one wanted any further conflict as the war was so devastating. However, Clemenceau wanted to punish Germany very harshly through forcing them to pay reparations to France in money and if they don't have that then they would take land from Germany. The reason for Clemenceau wanting such a strong punishment was because France had suffered very high civilian casualties which were far higher than what the UK had suffered. This was because most of the war had been fought on France's land and this had made France loathe Germany and want revenge on it, this had also greatly lowered the morale of the French people. Also, France had suffered particularly large economic and industrial problems and so it wanted to use the reparations provided by Germany to resolve these problems and improve the morale of the French people.
Another reason why Lloyd George and Clemenceau disagreed over how to treat Germany was because France saw Germany as a hostile and powerful threat to their country. This was because most of World War 1 had been fought on French soil and in 1871 in the Franco-Prussian war Germany took Alsace-Lorraine away from France. France had 1.7 million casualties by the end of World War 1 which was 2/3 of all the men that had fought for it in the war, this meant that the public of France wanted Germany to pay as they had all lost someone special and they held Germany responsible for this. Clemenceau wanted to cripple Germany so that it no longer posed a threat to France. On the other hand, Britain had sustained far less physical damage and so it was not seeking to cripple Germany for revenge. Lloyd George still wanted to make Germany pay but he did not want to be too harsh on it. This may have been because France shared a border with Germany whereas Britain was only connected to Germany via the sea and so the threat was much greater and nearer to home for France than it was in Britain. Therefore, this was why Clemenceau and Lloyd George disagreed over how to treat Germany.
3. The Treaty of Versailles was a fair settlement. How far do you agree? (10)
Some people think that the Treaty of Versailles was a fair settlement and there is evidence to support both sides.
Many of these people think that the Treaty of Versailles was a fair settlement because Germany was blamed for starting the war. This meant that as they were responsible for causing the destruction of land, buildings, economies and people's lives, they should have to be the ones who paid compensation to the allied countries in the form of reparations. The Treaty of Versailles also formed a demilitarised zone in the Rhineland and Alsace Loraine was given to France. To many people, this was seen to be fair as it prevented Germany from being aggressive towards France again like it had been in the past such as in 1871 in the Franco-Prussian war when Germany took Alsace-Lorraine away from France. The Rhineland is the German part of land between itself and France and so by not being allowed to have any military in this area it provided France with some reassurance that Germany would no longer pose a threat. The restrictions in Germany's army, navy and air force was also seen by many to be fair as it reduced the threat of war and made other countries such as Britain feel slightly safer as Germany was limited to only 6 battleships which would mean that Germany would not have the strength to attack Britain through the seas. Finally, lots of people believe that the Treaty of Versailles was a fair settlement as when Russia decided to pull out of the war, Germany punished it very harshly through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and so it was only fair that Germany have the same level of punishment. All of these reasons make many people believe that the Treaty of Versailles was a fair settlement.
However, other people may not think that the Treaty of Versailles was a fair settlement because of Article 231, which placed all of the blame for starting the war onto Germany. They argue that the war had actually started because of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand leading to Austria-Hungary going to war with Russia and that Germany was only defending her ally Austria-Hungary. These people also think that the reparations in which Germany was made to pay were very unfair. This is because if it were not for the young plan of 1929, Germany would not have finished paying off its reparations until 1984. This was 66 years after World War 1 had ended! Other people also feel that the limitations on Germany's army, navy and air force were very unfair as they had been Germany's pride and joy and by losing this she felt weak, humiliated and vulnerable to other countries surrounding her which had not been forced to limit its army. By having its navy limited to only 6 battleships, Germany felt that this left its waters un-defendable especially to Britain which had the largest navy in the world which was mainly due to the fact that it is an island. Furthermore, some people feel that stripping Germany of its raw materials and industry was very unfair because of the long term effects in which it would have on its economy. The Treaty of Versailles made Germany lose 12.5% of its population which meant that it lost a lot of its workers and it lost the Saar coalfields to France. This had provided Germany with 16% of its coal and so it was no wonder that some people, particularly Germany, felt that the Treaty of Versailles was a very unfair settlement.
In conclusion, it could be argued that the Treaty of Versailles was a fair or unfair settlement, however, the above arguments suggest that the Treaty of Versailles was overall unfair towards Germany. This is proven by history as the young plan had to be formed in 1929 due to Germany not being able to otherwise pay off the reparations demanded by the allies until 1984 and the fact that in 1945 there was a second world war and so it is hardly surprising that many people believe that the Treaty of Versailles was an unfair settlement.
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