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The Versailles Peace Settlement Notes

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The Versailles Peace Settlement and the End of World War One

The Armistice to end World War One was signed on 11th November 1918. Germany sees it as an unconditional surrender.

Germany had a new Weimar government, facing violent attacks from the left and the right. The Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires were collapsing, leaving many small successor states struggling for survival. In Russia the Bolsheviks had won a civil war despite troops and funds being sent by Britain and France to aid the whites against Lenin. There was hostility in Western Europe towards the Bolsheviks after they allowed Germany to station its troops in the west by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

- Lost only 5% of its male working population.
- Had an army of 5.5 million men, an air force with 20,000 planes and a navy with 55 battleships.
- Had received help from colonies and maintained a healthy payment balance.
- The economy had been flexible, industrial output hardly falling.
- Had few rivals, USA and Japan are allies, much of Europe in disarray.

Its economic position was threatened by Germany and the USA. War had cost £24 billion (£7 million/day), 11 fold increase in national debt. Forced to sell overseas investments, damaging payments balance. Industrial capacity damaged. Loss of lucrative markets (e.g. Latin America to USA, Far East to Japan). Unemployment problems.

1.7 million wounded, 750,000 dead. The Navy overstretched in maintaining the empire.

Germany lost 15% of its males. France lost 10% as well and 10% of its territory (21,000km2 in the north-east) had been destroyed.

Talks began officially on 18th January 1919, between 32 countries. The defeated powers were excluded. People complained of secret diplomacy and the fact that large powers dominated small ones. There was also great pressure from home countries put on their leaders. At the same time there was widespread famine and economic chaos in Europe as empires collapsed. Leaders were also aware of the Bolshevik threat, conflicting treaties and that decisions had to be made quickly.


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