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History Source based questions - Treaty Of Versailles - Essay Example

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History Source based questions - Treaty Of Versailles
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Section A Answer all parts of question In answering the questions you should use your knowledge and understanding of the period to help you interpret and evaluate the sources. You should use the sources to which you are specifically directed, but you may use any of the other sources where they are helpful.
1 This question is about the Treaty of Versailles.
Study the sources and then answer the questions.
Source A: A British cartoon produced in 1919 after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
Peace and Future Cannon Fodder
The Tiger: "Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping!"
Source B: Lloyd George speaking to the House of Common, before the Peace Conference.
We want a peace which will be just, but not vindictive. We want a stern peace because the occasion demands it, but the severity must be designed, not for vengeance, but for justice. Above all, we want to protect the future against a repetition of the horrors of this war.
Source C: A photograph showing Germans demonstrating against the Treaty of Versailles, May 1919
Source D: Sir Eric Geddes, a government minister, speaking to a rally in the general election campaign, December 1918.
If I am elected, Germany is going to pay...I have personally no doubt that we will get everything that you can squeeze out of lemon, and a bit more. I propose that every bit of [German-owned] property, movable and immovable, in Allied and neutral countries, whether State property or private property should be surrendered by the Germans.
Study Source A
Using details from the cartoon, explain what the cartoon is trying to show.
The cartoonist is trying to tell us that the Treaty of Versailles would lead to another war. The four men in the foreground represent (from right to left) Woodrow Wilson, the President of the U.S, Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, the Prime Minister of Italy and Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Britain. These were the Big Four who drew up the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed by Germany in the Palace of Versailles near Paris on June 28, 1919. "The Tiger" refers to Clemenceau, who exercised powerful leadership with his slogan “I make war!” and became known as “The Tiger of France”. The cartoonist is suggesting the treaty was too harsh on Germany, because it severely punished it, forcing it to accept responsibility for causing World War I, and blackmailed the German government to sign the Treaty under threat of invasion by the Big Four; because of these biased impositions on the Germans, there will be another war in the future. The title of the cartoon suggests that the peace will result in "cannon fodder" in the future because the supposed-to-be ‘peace’ brought about by the Treaty of Versailles actually resulted in total humiliation heaped on Germany; the humiliation was too severe for it to withstand for long, and when it could stand it no more then German cannons would boom again (the cartoonist was right – it took just 22 years from the end of the First World War in 1917 to the beginning of the Second World War in 1939). Clemenceau’s words: “Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping!” shows that he (and the other 3 leaders of the Big Four) feel that Germany has got a fair deal in the Treaty of Versailles; the treaty should therefore make them happy that they were not punished more heavily. It is for this reason that he cannot understand why the child (representing the German nation) is crying, while in fact it should be rejoicing. The child who is weeping over the peace treaty is labeled "1940 class" implying that the child and children of the same age will have to fight another war in 1940. The child represents the German nation which is crying at the degradation and humiliation heaped on it by the Treaty of Versailles – an injustice it would ultimately violently rebel against in 1939 by starting the Second World War. The cartoonist is nearly right by the label “1940” class because the Second World War in fact started in 1939, and not 1940. The source seems to be highlighting the detrimental effects of the Treaty and that these effects would work favourably towards later German leaders (Hitler in this case) in gaining support from the Germans to prepare to fight back against the Allies.
Study Source B
Can you trust what Source B says about the Treaty of Versailles? Explain your answer.
Yes, I can trust Source B to a small degree. According to the source, Lloyd George wanted to ensure that Germany would be justly punished so that it would not become a future menace not only to its European neighbours, but also to the whole world. This can be seen in the phrase that the British wanted "a peace which will be just". Many historians believed that the clause requiring Germany to accept full blame was reasonable in that it reflected the harsh terms Germany had negotiated with Russia. In addition, the reparations did not seem excessive to many independent analysts like William R. Keylor in “Versailles & International Diplomacy” who wrote: “A relatively moderate increase in taxation and reduction in consumption in the Weimar Republic would have yielded the requisite export surplus to generate the foreign exchange needed to service the reparation debt.”( But I cannot trust Source B to a larger degree because of the background behind formulation of the treaty: simply put, the Big Four wanted to punish Germany; France wanted revenge, Britain wanted a relatively strong, economically viable Germany as a counterweight to French dominance in Continental Europe, and the U.S wanted the creation of a permanent peace as soon as possible, financial compensation for it military spending as well as the destruction of the old empires. With these aims as the main base, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were definitely heavily vindictive and were undoubtedly cloaked in the spirit of vengeance because it forced Germany to accept responsibility for causing World War I – a clause that caused shock and humiliation to the Germans. Other terms included Germany losing quite a substantial portion of its territory to certain surrounding nations, and it was stripped of all its overseas and African colonies. Another clause imposed strict restrictions on German armed forces – the size of its army was limited to 100,000 men with no tanks, heavy artillery or German General staff; its navy could have no more than 15,000 men, 6 battleships, 6 cruisers and 12 destroyers, with no submarines allowed; it was not permitted an air force at all. Germany was forced to make reparations for war damages – the economic problems that the payments brought, and German resentment at their imposition was arguably the most significant factor that eventually led to the outbreak of World War II.
Study Sources C and D
In what ways are the two sources different? Explain your answers.
e.g In Source C, it shows that the German people were demonstrating against the Treaty of Versailles. From the photograph, we can see that even children participated in the demonstrations. This could suggest that the treaty must have had a great impact on the German populace, affecting not only the adults but children as well. The presence of children is also indicative of the fact that the feeling of injustice was inculcated by adults into their children, thereby slowly stoking the fires of vengeance, which would ultimately erupt, when they grew into adults in the year 1940, into the Second World War. The source seemed to indirectly indicate that it was the harsh terms of the punishment that was the one, single reason that would cause hatred to be ingrained in the minds of the German people.
Source D tells us that the British minister felt that Germany must be made to pay at all costs, " Germany is going to pay...I have personally no doubt that we will get everything that you can squeeze out of lemon". He felt that the Germans had not been punished enough and should be given heavier punishment.
The purpose of Source C is to alert us about the seriousness and harshness of the peace treaty. The mass demonstration of the German public illustrates the point that they view the peace treaty terms as unfair and they felt that they are being too severely punished by the Allies. The bitterness and anger of the German people indicates that the treaty would bring about another war in the future because it caused most Germans to harbor vengeance against the Allies.
The purpose of Source D is to persuade the British people that the German people ought to be more severely punished because the terms of the treaty were too lenient on them. This can be seen from the sentence, "I propose that every bit of [German-owned] property, movable and immovable, in Allied and neutral countries, whether State property or private property should be surrendered by the Germans". This is a political ploy by Eric Geddes to get the British public to appreciate his stance as a strong anti-German and induce them to vote for him in the coming elections.
The two sources are different because they represent totally different situations. In Source C, the oppressed Germans are demonstrating against the harsh terms of the treaty, trying to draw the world’s attention to the plight they have been reduced to, with the hope that the Big Four would relent and retract (or at least soften) some of the terms of the treaty. In Source D, Eric Geddes speaks not of alleviating the burdens imposed on the Germans by the treaty, but in fact increasing that burden by confiscating all property owned by Germans, be it State or private property, anywhere in the world. The conclusion therefore is while Source C represents Hope, Source D promises more Punishment.
Study all sources
"The Treaty of Versailles was too harsh on the Germans". How far do the sources agree with the statement? Explain your answer.
Agree with the statement
e,g, Source A agrees with the statement. According to the source, the peace treaty was too harsh on the Germans that it subsequently led to another war. The cartoonist thinks that treaty does not ensure peace instead it is "fodder" for "future cannon". This implies that the terms were too harsh on the German people; they would struggle under the yoke of the terms until they could bear no more – thus the unjust terms of the treaty represented the main single cause that sowed the seeds of revenge against the Allies in the minds of the struggling German populace. The child labeled "class 1940" who is weeping at a corner represents the state of Germany, vulnerable and helpless against the Big Fours decision. Eventually, the child would grow and wage a war on the four adults who punished him. The cartoonists message is ominous - that the treaty was too harsh and the harbinger of a future war with Germany. In actual fact, this did come about because the unfair terms of the treaty, particularly the heavy war reparations Germany need to pay in spite of its already battered economy were the crucial factors that led to the growth of Nazism, its wholehearted acceptance by the disillusioned people, and eventually to the outbreak of World War II.
e.g. Source D agrees with the statement. The mass demonstration by the German people illustrates the point that the treaty was too harsh and the terms unfair to Germany. The photograph depicts the strong emotions felt by the Germans about the treaty; it provoked in them a sense of resentment against the Allies, as they felt it was unreasonable and merely a peace dictated by the victors according to their own terms and conditions. From what we have learnt, the Germans particularly resented a clause in the treaty that they should accept the sole responsibility of Imperial Germany and its allies for starting the war. Moreover, Article 231 (‘the war guilt’ clause) of the treaty held Germany solely responsible for all loss and damage suffered by the Allies during the war, and required it to make reparations to certain members of the Allies to the tune of 132 billion marks. Germans felt that these reparations were exorbitant to the point that the country could not recover from the damages of the war and rebuild their economy. As it later turned out, the Treaty of Versailles did cripple Germany’s economy in the early 1920’s and left it vulnerable to the equally devastating Great Depression of the 1930’s, which in turn became the forerunner of the advent of Nazism, which immediately received full support of the people.
Disagree with the statement
e.g. Source B disagrees with the statement. In the source, Lloyd George mentioned that he wanted a "peace which will be just, but not vindictive". Also, Source B acknowledges that World War One was very destructive and massive in its losses. Hence the peace settlement had to be "stern" to act as a deterrent. To Lloyd George, the Germans were being fairly treated. He claimed that the terms were compassionately set by arguing that the "severity must be designed, not for vengeance, but for justice", meaning that the terms were based on a system of sound justice and were not intended to impose revenge on the Germans.
e.g. Source C disagrees with the statement. Eric Geddes, the British government minister declared that the terms of the treaty were too lenient compared to the losses incurred and more could have been obtained out of the Germans. This can be seen from the sentence, "I have personally no doubt that we will get everything that you can squeeze out of lemon, and a bit more". Geddes wants to go as far as confiscating all private and State property of Germans anywhere in the world. From contextual knowledge, although no fighting took place on British soil, the huge casualties of World War I created an tremendous impact on public opinion in Britain and many politicians knew that they would be able to gain popular support if they upheld the terms of the treaty and even (as in this case) strongly recommend adding heavier penalties.
Walsh, B. (2001). Modern World History, London: John Murray.
Walsh, B. (2002). Essential World History, London: John Murray.
Revision History Elective, Redspot Publishing, 2004.
Colin. S & Keith. S. (2005). Re-Discovering The Twentieth Century World - a world study after 1900, London: Hodder Murray.
Ben. W & Wayne. B. (2006). GCSE Modern World History, London Hodder Murray. Read More
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