The first part of the paper provides an overview of the conditions in Europe in the aftermath of the First World War and demonstrates how those conditions and experiences informing the three allies’ motives in negotiating the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. …
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Historical accounts of the Paris Peace Conference 1919 typically portray France as seeking revenge against Germany or at the very least unreasonably demanding reparations as a solution to its economic and war-torn conditions. Historical accounts also represent a disparaging conference with France mounted against an Anglo-Saxon team represented by US President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister George Lloyd. Conclusions drawn tend to point to a vengeful France and a united Anglo-Saxon front with the later rallying for sustained peace and more realistic sanctions against Germany.
In order to fully assess the underlying motives of France, Britain and the US in negotiating the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 it is necessary to identify the post-war conditions and experiences of the France, Britain and the US at the time. It is argued, that while France wanted reparations regardless of the cost to Germany, it was primarily motivated by a need to rebuild a war-torn France. It is also argued that France, like the US and Britain also wanted to rehabilitate Germany, although in a different way. The US and Britain wanted a strong and stable Germany united with Europe. France wanted to ensure that Germany was unable to rise to power again. In this regard, it can be argued that France was just as committed to safeguarding world peace as the US and Britain. France merely had a different vision as to how to prevent the rise of tyrannical power and its threat to world peace. For France, the answer was isolation, punishment via reparation in way that crippled Germany. For the US and Germany, the answer was political and economic reform that would ultimately strengthen Germany and unite it with the rest of Europe.
In order to demonstrated that France was not altogether determined to humiliate Germany and that the US, France and Britain were united in principle relative to preventing a second world war, this paper is divided into two main parts. The first part of the paper provides an overview of the conditions in Europe in the aftermath of the First World War and demonstrates how those conditions and experiences informing the three allies’ motives in negotiating the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The second part of this paper provides an analysis of the negotiations and the final agreement at the Paris Peace Conference. Post World War I and Conditions in Europe The post-war period beginning in 1919 represented the initial stages of an on-going 20th century effort to stabilize Western Europe.3 The need for stability in the aftermath of the First World War was particularly urgent given the conditions in Europe immediately after the war. Allies were forced to think ahead in terms of preventing another catastrophic war, and in the short term as conditions in Europe commanded immediate solutions. European infrastructure had been destroyed in the war effort. Thus economic disruption was obvious. In the meantime, the Austrian, Turkish and Russian empires had been demolished indicating political instability in Europe. Germans and many other Europeans were suffering from food shortages. Germany was particularly hard hit as a result of the British blockade during the war which blocked food imports to Germany.4 It would therefore appear that although the First World War had ended, immediate peace was threatened as political and economic unrest indicated that the conditions were incapable of sustaining peace. Not only was there a need to alleviate suffering immediately, but a need to implement reforms and reparations that would ensure sustainable peace and stability. These conditions and factors and the threat of immediate crises as well as crises in the future were necessarily driving forces for the negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference on 1919. Out of the three states, France, US and Britain, France took a more direct and brutal hit from Germany. Not only had
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