Events Calendar
Oct 17 - Nov 14
10:30 - 12:30
A Flawed Peace? The Treaties of 1919-23
short courses

Dates: 17, 24 October; 7,14 November 2018

Wednesdays: 10.30 – 12.30

Course code: 18TON353

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This course examines the Allies' expectations of the Treaties (Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and the USA) at Versailles, Neuilly, St. Germain, Trianon, Sevres and Lausanne, and considers the feelings of the major powers about the eventual terms.  We will also reflect on the problems that arose from the terms in the post war years until 1933.

This course examines the treaties signed between1919 and 1923 after the Great War.  The expectations of each belligerent are a good starting point, for example the yearning by France and Belgium for revenge and compensation from Germany, Britain's support for a balanced settlement and America's quest for a peace based on the worthy principles in President Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points.  Germany had signed the armistice, believing that Wilson's proposals would prevail.

The actual treaty terms, for example the Treaty of Versailles, showed that America's allies usually achieved harsher terms than Wilson had wanted.  The other treaties were less controversial:  except for those imposed on the Ottoman Empire. The second Turkish treaty (Lausanne) carved up the Sultan's Middle Eastern empire in favour of the Allies.  The peace settlement was no doubt a compromise, but it left almost all parties dissatisfied:  France and Belgium still felt insecure, the USA retreated into a policy of isolation and Germany felt bitter.

We shall discover how international tension persisted and how Germany did her best to evade the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  We shall learn to what extent Hitler's rise to power was caused by German resentment of the terms imposed in 1919.  Could the settlement have been much different, given circumstances in 1919?       

Week 1.  What attitudes did the Powers bring to the talks from January 1919? (The USA, France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany).  President Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points and Germany's expectations of a "just" peace need discussion.  What were the chances of an agreed peace?

Week 2.  There were 6 treaties, and we need to look carefully at the terms of each one:  Versailles, St. Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, Sevres and Lausanne.  How popular were the terms with all of the belligerents?  What were the chances of them being kept?

Week 3.  International relations from 1923-29.  We look at the tense events before 1925:  the German inflation, the 1922 Rapallo Treaty, the Franco-Belgian invasion of the Ruhr of 1924.  On the other hand there were some successes for the new League of Nations, and in 1925 the key Treaty of Locarno was signed – we need to ask whether this was such a great success as all that.  All this (the "Locarno Honeymoon") came to an end in 1929 with the Wall Street Crash.  But why was international stability so dependent on the world economy, particularly that of the United States?

Week 4.   The events of the 1929-33 period will show in detail the precise impact of the Great Depression on world peace.  Events will include the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and Hitler's eventual seizure of power in Germany by 1933.  Thus the question arises:  to what extent were these events – especially the last one – brought about by the flaws in the 1919-23 treaties, and how far by other factors?

Recommended reading

M. MacMillan, "Peacemakers" (J. Murray, 2001)

D. Reynolds, "The Long Shadow" (Simon and Schuster, 2014)

D. Stevenson, "World War One and International Politics" (Oxford 1999)

Additional information

This course is suitable for all, no prior knowledge is required. It allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment. 

Verbal participation by discussion during the course is encouraged.

Intended learning outcomes

  • To acquire an understanding of the attitudes of all the powers to the peace talks.
  • To be able to explain the compromises that eventually emerged.
  • To be able to indicate the areas of concern following the treaties' signature.

About the tutor

Edward Towne graduated in European Studies from the University of East Anglia, and later achieved a PGCE from Cambridge, an MA in Early Modern English History from the University of London, and MSt in Twentieth Century British History from the University of Oxford. His professional career was spent teaching History in state and independent Secondary Schools, finally as Head of the History Department. Currently, Edward lectures independently to adults in a variety of organisations, and acts as a reviewer and tour leader on historical topics.


United Kingdom



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