tv Treaty of Versailles Its Impact on World War II CSPAN February 18, 2019 1:30pm-2:36pm EST
terms, and the expectations of germany and the allies at the end of world war i. ms. mcmillen is the author of "paris 1919: six months that changed the world." this one-hour talk was part of a three-day conference hosted by the national world war ii museum in new orleans. >> welcome back to the symposium. as we heard from dr. reynolds earlier today about the legacies of the great war, we're now going to hear about the ending of the war and how it had great and awful effects on the world that it left in its wake. this is the symposium's general raymond e. mason jr. distinguished lecture on world war ii. he served under general patton and worked his way through the ranks following the war, including an important posting
at the pentagon. after his military career, he was a successful businessman, and in concert with his wife margaret became a generous philanthropist. a gift from the mason foundation created an endowed lecture series here at the museum. margaret mcmillen is a professor of history at the university of toronto and the former warden of st. anthony's college. her most recent book is "the war that ended peace" and her other books include "nixon in china: six days that changed the world," "the uses and abuses of history," and "paris 1919: six months that changed the world," for which she was the first woman to win the samuel johnson prize. it's this book that forms the basis of the talk that we're all very fortunate to hear. so please join me in welcoming
dr. margaret mcmillen. [ applause ] >> thank you very much for inviting me to speak. and i'm wondering if they opened the doors down there so you can escape quickly if you need to. it's a great pleasure to be here in this extraordinary museum and in this very beautiful city. as we have heard from other speakers today, the war came to an end in 1918 with what was for many involved in it and for many of the statesmen at the time surprising swiftness. the expectations at the start of 1918 were that the war would continue. it was not at all clear which side would win, and i think both sides were preparing to fight on
into 1919 and possibly even later. as we have heard, the great german attacks wore themselves out and exhausted the german armed forces in the summer of 1918. the arrival of american troops helped to dishearten german forces and german allies. by the autumn, it was clear that german armies were defeated on the battlefields and german allies were starting to sue for peace. bulgaria and then germany itself asked for an armistice. austria, hungary, and finally the ottoman empire. so the war ended, perhaps quicker than most people had expected, and suddenly those on both sides had to contemplate peace and how to make peace. this was something they had not really been able, for obvious reasons, to give much thought to. now they faced questions about
what sort of peace it was to be and how they were to make it. st. augustin said a long time ago, peace, as it has often been repeated, is the end of war. in other words, you should try and end a war and make a peace in a way that will not produce future wars. george clements, the french prime minister in 1918, who was of course by no means himself a saint, said making peace is harder than waging war. and i think he was right. making peace at the end of something so massive and so destructive and so all-encompassing as the first world war, the great war, was not an easy process. it has been common place, i think, since the peace was made, and the peace consisted, of course, of the treaty of versailles, the treat y signed with germany on the 28th of june, 1919, but four or
treaties, one with austria, one with hungary, by this point separate countries, one with bulgaria, and one eventually with the ottoman empire. a number of other agreements were made during the paris peace conference, an a greements abou colonies, agreements about mandates, even agreements about things like international waterways and international aviation. so collectively, what happened in paris formed the paris peace settlements. but what i'd like to do is concentrate on the treaty of versailles, because in many ways it was the most difficult to negotiate. germany remained the biggest of the defeated powers, and it is the one that has tended to be blamed for the slide that the world took towards a second world war in the 1930s. the common view of the treaty of versailles is still very much influenced by a writing by a
british economist part of the british delegation to the paris peace conference. he became disillusioned with the decisions made in paris. in the summer of 1919, he wrote very quickly, in six weeks, a book that is still in print. it has gone through many editions. it's been translated into many languages. it has a very boring title "the economic consequences of the peace," but it is absolutely inflammatory in its depiction of what was happening in paris. he portrays those three great peacemakers, the three great figures at the heart of the paris peace conference, as stupid, shortsighted, vindictive, or a mixture of all three. the french prime minister is portrayed as an ape who sits in a chair with his hooded eyes thinking only of destroying germany. lloyd george, and he actually cut some of the ruder bits about the british prime minister out
of the book. his mother said it was a bit unkind, so he took some of the ruder bits out. even the bits that remain are pretty vicious. he described lloyd george as someone who's not really human at all. lloyd george, he says, is half goat, half man. he comes out of the mists of wales, a magician weaving his spells around the ape, the chimpanzee. and woodrow wilson, the american president, who he portrays as a booby, someone who's so deceived and muddled and spun about by the europeans, he doesn't know which way he's coming. and what do these three peculiar and inhumane and disgraceful figures do while they sit there in their overheated rooms in paris? what they do is make a vindictive peace. they fail to do what is necessary to get europe moving again. they fail to treat germany and the other defeated powers fairly. they fail to understand that the most important thing to be done is to get the economy of europe
going again to try and do something about the misery, which is affecting wide parts of the european continent. now, it's a very forceful attack. it's a very persuasive attack. and that is the view which tends still to be held of the peace settlements, and in particular of the treaty of versailles. that it was a monumental act of folly and vindictiveness, which led directly to the second world war. i don't agree with it, and i'm going to spend the rest of my time saying why i don't agree with it. to begin with, my short answer is what was everyone doing for 20 years between 1919 and 1939? in other words, there were many governments, many people in power, many decisions that were made between 1919 and 1939 which made a difference about whether europe and the world was going to go towards war or peace. and there were certainly indications in the 1920s, a decade that perhaps we've tended to neglect because we have tended to see it only as a fore
runner to the 1930s, and we all know what happened in the 1930s. we've tended to neglect the 1920s and tended, i think, although historians have certainly researched it, we've tended to overlook the very real recovery that was happening in the world in the 1920s. the promise of economic recovery and more than a promise. by 1925, european production was up to pre-war standards. world trade had revived on a very large scale. it also, such an interpretation tends to overlook that in the 1920s very real steps were made towards international agreements, towards getting the league of nations up and running, and towards significant disarmament in washington, for example. there was a major naval disarmament conference between 1921 and 1922, which did, for at least ten years, prevent a naval arms race in the pacific. and so i think to argue that 1919 leads directly and inexorably to what happens in
1939 simply is to miss a lot of what was happening in the 1920s and indeed even in the 1930s. i think, secondly, what we must do is ask ourselves what we would have done in the same situation. it's very easy to look back at the past because we know what is going to happen. it's very easy to look back at the past and say, well, they made a mistake. they made a mess of it. they should have known in paris that there was a young german corporal lying somewhere in a german military hospital who was deeply wounded, deeply hurt by the treaty of versailles. they should have known that adolph hitler was going to devote the rest of his life to trying to undo the treaty of versailles they couldn't know what was going to happen. i think we have to be very careful. and what we have to do, i think always, when we look at the past, is ask ourselves what would we have done in the same circumstances. if we think people in the past should have done better, then i think we need to come up with
alternatives. what i think we must remember when we look at the peace settlements at end of the first world war, and they were by no means perfect, but what we need to do when belowe look at the p settlements is remember what it was that they were dealing with. i think there are three things in particular that are very, very important. one is the nature of the war itself. the second is the way in which the war ended and the making of the armistice. and the third is the peace conference and the challenges which it faced. i'd like to look at all three of these. first, the nature of the war. this was a war unlike anything the world had seen. there had been dreadful wars before in the history of the world. the 30 years' war in the 17th century ravaged much of the center of europe and drew in local powers and also drew in external powers, rather like what is happening in somewhere like syria today. it was a war that involved local
conflict which got mixed up and super imposed by power and conflict. it was a dreadful war which devastated large parts of europe. lots of europe was not devastated by it. the technology in those days was not enough to kill on the scale that later on became possible in the late 19th century. it was a war that drew in the resources of the nations fighting it. in a way, what it did is turn europe's tremendous industrial and scientific and technological advances against the european society itself and against any other society that got involved. we look back on the europe of 1914 and we are struck by what tremendous progress it had made. everywhere, of course, and not everyone had shared in that progress, but tremendous overall progress that was made in the course of the 19th century. europeans had enjoyed wealth on
a scale that they have never expected before. they had enjoyed progress, economic progress, scientific progress, technological progress, political progress on a scale they hadn't expected before. they had come to dominate much of the world. european nations either wrote directly or indirectly over most of the surface of the globe. and europeans can be forgiven. they were wrong, i think, but they can be forgiven for thinking they deserved this progress, they deserved this power, that they were on the forefront of civilization, that they were actually more civilized, more advanced than other peoples in the world. what the great progress that europe brought, however, it brought a couple of things, which were going to make it difficult for european powers when it came to making war and peace. one of the things that the enormous progress of europe brought was greater and greater public engagement, more and more people were in communication with each other thanks to modern communications, thanks to the telegraph, which in its own way was as great a technological
innovation as the internet. the capacity to link with other parts of the world, the capacity to get news from around the world almost instantaneously was something which for the europe of the 19th century and the world of the 19th century was, of course, unprecedented. in some ways, very, very serving. more and more people were reading and writing. more and more people were going to school. more and more people were living in cities. more and more people were beginning to get a right, at least to have some say in the government of their countries. in most european countries, there were elections. there was at least a limited franchise. there was something called public opinion. and what this meant was more and more europeans -- and it was true of other parts of the world as well -- felt an engagement and felt an expectation they would be engaged with the affairs of their own country and took an active interest in the success of that country, both at
home and abroad. it wasn't something that statesmen always welcomed. ward salisbury complained once. he said, it's like having a lunatic asylum at my back, constantly pushing me. the public is constantly pushing me to do things i don't want to do. there was an absurd conflict and possible confrontation over the samoan islands in the 1890s between the germans, the american, and the british in which people were getting extremely very agitated, demands they must get their fair share of the samoan islands. as one german statesman said, if you went to the average german who is shrieking we must have our own samoan island, they couldn't tell you where it is, but it has become very important for them. so there is a really important shift in europe, both in its capacity to make war and to mobilize the resources of society for war, but also the
capacity and the interest of publics in waging war. and when the first world war breaks out, virtually every country involved in it manages to persuade itself and persuade its own people that it is the innocent party. for the germans, they were being attacked by russia. for the hungarians, they were being menaced by serbia. for russia, they were being attacked by austria/hungary. for the french, they were being attacked by germany. for the british, their interests in having a continent not dominated by one great power, and i think also their support for neutral nation like belgium, was under attack. so there was -- and it was to remain, in fact, surprisingly strong throughout the war years, tremendous public support in pretty much all the european countries engaged in the war. i would say possibly with the exception of italy and some of the balkan nations. otherwise, the major powers had publics who supported the war effort. one of the things that's striking is just how long that support was going to last.
the war brought governments mobilizing resources including man power on a scale which they hadn't expected that they would ever be able to do. before the first world war, governments were moving very gradually towards an income tax, but i think the highest rate in britain was something like 1/20 of annual income on the highest earners in the country, and that was considered to be dangerously high. what the first world war did was show governments how much they could squeeze out of societies and how much they could organize societies to direct the production of those societies to the war effort. so in all the major powers, governments began to direct the economy, began to direct factories to produce goods that were needed for war, began to direct where labor should go, began to ensure that people with skills that were needed in war production were not conscripted. what you also got, of course, was a tremendous use of government propaganda to support and to encourage the war effort, to encourage support for the war effort.
but that wasn't just governments manipulating their peoples and their economies. a lot of it came from below. a lot of the propaganda that was made was local, local initiative, people making propaganda for themselves. there are many examples of postcards that peoples made in france or britain or quilts that people made or pictures that people drew in order to support the war effort. of course, the key resource or one of the key resources that governments needed for the war effort was man power. the first world war, and we've heard about it earlier today, was enormously wasteful of man power. partly because it was possible to put armies into the field, keep them there, keep them supplied, and keep on providing the weapons they needed. the weapons required less and less training. they were easier and easier to use. what was important was to have the equipment and you could keep on supplying the soldiers to operate that equipment. the losses, the costs, the expense on all those levels naent by the time the war ended,
there were tremendous expectations that something good would come out of it. those expectations were great, and they were often conflicting. what people wanted, and it was understood, was they wanted someone to pay for it. there was, and it had started almost as soon as the war started, an attempt to find out who was to blame for it. what was called the war of the documents with governments involved in the war beginning to release documents from their own foreign offices began as early as 1915 as each government began to show it had not started the war, someone else had done it. you also got tremendous public demand for someone to pay. when you think of the costs of war, when you think how much money and how much blood and how much human life had been spent on the war, you can understand why publics wanted someone to blame and someone to pay. the french have often been seen as vindictive and grasping.
but when you think, as david reynolds was mentioning earlier, when you think of what happened to france in the course of the first world war, the highest proportion of men of military age killed with the possible exception of serbia, large parts of the north of france occupied, and fought over, and even as the germans left, they blew up mines, they destroyed railway bridges, they destroyed railway junctions. a lot of french industry and mining had been concentrated in those areas. the french, very hard to estimate, but the french estimated they had lost something like 40% of their industrial capacity as a result of the war. and so that, i think, we have to remember, that there was a longing on the part of the publics, and of course particularly those on the winning side because they were the ones who were in a position to have a say in dictating peace, someone should come out of it, someone should pay, someone should be held to blame but what was also there, and it
was contradictory was a longing for a better world, a sense that this had been a dreadful catastrophe, a con vulsion, which had drawn in not just many european conditions but in the end had drawn in countries from around the world. my own country canada lost in fact, more men than the united states was going to lose in the first world war. we had a population about a fifth of the size. australians, and indo-chinese had come to fight in the war, indians, laborers in china helped dig and supply the trenches on the western front and you can still see the chinese graves along the western front. so there was also i think a feeling and a hope that something, a better world would come out of this, that a world could not afford to do this again. if you had said to people in 1918 we're going to have another even worse war, an even more devastating war in 1939, they would have probably thought it impossible. if it were possible, they would have thought it would be the end
of civilization on earth as we know it. so these impulses, these longings that publics had, and they had to be listened, to and virtually every politician that was going to be in paris had to worry about the next election and what the press was saying and had to worry about support at home, so what you had on the one hand was a very understandable desire for revenge, recompense, something to be punished, someone to pay. on the other hand, you had this hope, that something special would come out of it. and of course, woodrow wilson, the american president, was going to express those hopes, the hopes of a world free from war, hopes that the war had actually been a war about ending war, the hopes that the war would make it possible to build a world in which more people enjoyed the bep benefits of representative government, more people enjoyed the benefits of trade, more people were able to share in human progress, that the war would produce something on earth, an international order, which would help to make it impossible to ever have such a war as this again.
but sometimes i think a myth, that woodrow wilson was the only person who felt like this, among the leaders, that he came to europe, and this was promoted, i think, by a number of wilson supporter, that he came to europe like a medieval knight dressed in shining white, came to europe bringing the gift of a better world, and the europeans were waiting for him black-hearted as usual and war-like as usual and simply purned it. that is not true. the europeans certainly have their own views of what sort of world order they would like, but i think many europeans shared the views of woodrow wilson which he expressed so eloquently, that a better order, a better world could be built. when he arrived, in europe, he was greeted in many countries, as a sort of savior. people called their children after him. they called the streets after him. you can still go to streets and squares around europe which are called rue woodrow wilson stras
woodrow, well, not stras woodrow wilson but certainly in europe there would be woodrow wilson. when his boat landed in late 1918, he took a train to paris, and his doctor, who was on the train, got up at night, and greeted him, someone said by virtually every person including cats and dogs who lived in the city. huge crowds turned out. the train then went to paris, through the night and his doctor got up in the night, and looked out the window, and there along the railway tracks, just stabbedi, standing there silently french men women and children wanting to see the train go by and i think there was tremendous support for his ideas and building some sort of international world order in which nations of the world would cooperate, support for a league of nations, which was to be the center piece of the new world order, that he envisioned. and so the ending of the war, we always have to remember what the war itself was like and what sort of expectations it aroused.
the second thing i think that happened, was the nature of the armistice itself, and this was to become something that remained certainly in germany, an object of suspicion, of contempt, and around which a great many myths as we have heard were going to grow up. the armistice was asked for by the german high command. german high command had kept the civilian government virtually in the dark about what was happening on the battle fields, and the german public remained in the dark about what was happening on the battlefields. unless you were very pers pi cacious and actually looked at the map and saw where german victories were happening and noticed that german victories were happening closer and closer to the german border, you didn't really understand that germany and german troops were being defeated on the battlefield and were retreating back to the german borders in the west. the civilian government which had been kept really in the dark by the military, who effectively
had established a sort of military dictatorship in germany was suddenly told at the end of september the situation is desperate, you must get an armistice immediately. this is something they later denied. lewdendorf, and hindenberg, the two great commanders panicked and demanded the civilian government, threw it in the laps of the civilian government and said you must get an armistice immediately and lewdendorf, the great big civilian general, put on the clothes and scuttled to sweden wearing dark glasses and whiskers, noticed at the railway stations, rather obvious. woodrow wilson possibly at this point made a mistake. and it's easy to criticize him in retrospect. but he negotiated with the civilian government who had been thrown this responsibility. and it has been argued, and i think interestingly, in a recent book by george leonhard, history of the first world war, that he should, wilson should have insisted on negotiating with the
generals, who had effectively been running germany. as it was by negotiating with the civilian government to make an armistice, the generals were let off the hook, and the high command later on were able to say that the armistice was none of their making, they hadn't wanted it, and it was the civilian government that had actually lost its nerve. at any rate, i won't go into the making of the armistice. it went, of course, back and forth, it was done in public, it was done by an exchange of notes between the german government and woodrow wilson. at a certain point, the european allies, the united states, always called itself, an associate power, to show that it was somehow different from the european power, but the european ally, the british and the french and the italians in particular, became concerned that woodrow wilson was conceding too much. and began to try and intervene in the process. an any rate, 5r78 stice was signed as you knowing on november 11, 1918, and it was, i think, a surrender.
if you look at the terms of that armistice, and bosch i think it was very insistent, germany surrenders all of its war making capacity, surrendered the heavy field equipment, agrees to move its troops back to within the board efrs germany, it surrenders its high seas fleet, and it surrenders its submarine phillipe. and so the capacity of germany to wage war which was already deeply compromised. by the fall of 1918, german commanders were complaining that they were running out of men, they were running out of things like aviation fuel. they were running out of the equipment that they needed to carry on the war, but it is a surrender in november, 1918. unfortunately, the nature of the armistice, and the way in which the armistice was made, and this exchange of notes with woodrow wilson, led to expectations and assumptions within germany which were going to undermine later german accept affirmative action treaty of versailles.
i think there were a couple of things. the germans later came afield, and this with was going to be quite assiduously fostered by those in the high command and their allies, came to feel that they had agreed to an armistice on the understanding that they would be treated fairly. they believed that there would be, as woodrow wilson has said, not a pune tive peace, that there would be no retributions. this was to misunderstand wilson's opinion. wilson's view was the germans had indeed been responsible for the war and he did feel that they should be punished. he felt that eventually, when they were punished, and when they had established constitutional and democratic government, that they would become a different sort of nation and they would be able to join the league of nations. he felt a period in which they actually reformed themselves and got rid of their old government, would be very important, before they could become a member of the family of nations. but in germany, around the
armistice, we see myths coalescing, myths that germany could have fought on that, it wasn't defeated, and others have talked today about the at that time stab in the back theory, the idea that the only reason german troops couldn't fight on because they didn't have support at home and that support at home was undermined by the socialists, the jews, the liberal, the usual sorts of suspects. this is absolutely false. but this is what began to gather around the armistice, that germany was not defeated, on the battlefield, that it could have fought on, that it was the cowardly civilians who were not worthy of the great german nation. and what you also get around the armistice was the idea that germany was somehow promised by woodrow wilson that if it became a constitutional republic, on the model of the united states, or another type of constitutional democracy, it would be treated differently. if it got rid of its old
government, if the kaiser went, and the kaiser of course had gone by november 11th, and germany had become a republic, that it would be a different germany, that it would be a new germany and that germany would not have to pay for the sins of the old germany. and so the very way in which the armistice was made, and i think the way in which the high command, who had effectively been running germany, not just running the german war, but running germany itself, the way in which they were able to avoid taking responsibility for the armistice, and for the defeat was to be very damaging in the long run for germany. and so we have two things that are going to come together with the peace talks, we have a sense in germany, only just beginning to grow, but a sense in germany they were promised something, they were promised they would be treat different, fairly treated. and why some people in germany actually thought with self determination, we might become a bigger country because the german parts of the oet australia-hungarian empire might be able to join us. so you have a set of unrealistic
expectations and myths growing in germany, that somehow they had changed, they were different, they had been offered something by woodrow wilson and they were not any more responsible for what had happened before november 11th, 1918. and you also had these contradictory public expectations on the side of the winning powers. someone was going to pay. someone was going to be punished. but the world was also going to become a better place. then hut third factor which i think also makes it complicated and again i we have to ask ourselves what would we do and that is the nature of the peace conference itself. i would like to make a few general points about the endings of wars because i think there are some things which tend to occur at the end of every war and one is that war time coalitions very rapidly fall to pieces once the war is over. nations will come together. to make war. against the common enemy. but it doesn't mean they submerge all their interests into one. it doesn't mean they forget that they have very different interests. and that was true even dpurg the
war, but once the glue, the common enemy that holds a war time coalition together disappearance, then you get of course the national interests coming out and national interests came out very quickly indeed. the british and the french, for example, had different ideas of what sort of peace they wanted and had different ideas about what each hope to get out of the peace. the core of the british, french rivalry, of course was going to be in the middle east, who was going to get the arab territories, of the ottoman empire. there were conflicts about what was going to happen to the german colonies. and we should remember the british french friendship was very recent indeed. and it had only been formed in 1904, and the british and the french of course had built on that, and they had fought in the first world war ii together but they had a lot of other sorts of memories. they had memories of long, long rivalry, around the world, they had memories of a search years
war, they had memories of conflict in africa, conflict in the middle east in the 19 the century. and the british and the french were going to, not fall out, but they certainly were going to begin to take very different perspectives on what they wanted and they had very different concern, the british effectively had got what they wanted out of the peace, by the time they came to the paris peace conference. the two things that the british had been concerned about, especially when it came to germany, was german colonies and the german colonies had either been captured by subsidiary parts of the british empire, the south africans had captured, southwest africa, today's namibia, the australians, new zealanders had captured german islands in the south pacific, and so from the british point of view, they didn't want everyone the german colonies, they had already more or less got them, and the other thing of course, the great worry of the british, had been before the first world war, was the germany navy and the germany navy was now neutralized and sitting safely in british ports. the british did not want to get involved if they possibly could in the continent.
they never have done what they wanted was a balance of power there and they were prepared to see france as strong borrow, po they're not particularly prepared to support french demands against germany. they were synthetic bsympatheti going to engage themselves too 34u67. what the french wanted above else was security. he was a young man when the german confederation had invaded france in 1807 and he had seen what that war had done to france and he had become prime minister at the darkest days of the war for france and had helped to keep the country together. and what fashwanted, whatever french person who thought about it wanted was security from germany. what they wanted was not to be invaded again. what they wanted was to have some way of rebuilding themselves. and what they had was a very great fear. they knew that germany was there on their most eastern boundary. they know that germany had a
higher birth rate than the french birth rate. they knew there were going to be more german soldiers coming along in the future than french soldiers. this is something they couldn't do much about. they tried to encourage the french women to do their duty and have more french soldiers but the french women were not doing it. this was a fear for the french. the german infrastructure had not been damaged. germany of course had been hurt by the british blockade, it had been hurt by its own policies during the war but it still remained pretty much intact. very little, almost none of the war had been fought on german soil, and so from the french point of view, there was germany, looking unscathed, with a bigger population, and a history which was not one to reassure the french. the italians had their own views. they wanted territory. they wanted territory to complete, as you saw in the italian national project, even if that meant running up against
what the british and the french were thinking or running up against woodrow wilson himself. and so i think what you began to get at the pairs pizza conferen peace korchz was naturally national interests coming out. then the united states. the view of the runs it was not an associate, it was not an ally and it was not going to get dragged into what it saw as the european quarrels although woodrow wilson was certainly determined that germany should pay something for what had happened in the war. he was prepared to impose reparations on germany, he was prepared to impose, in the end, a fairly firm, i would perhaps say even harsh treaty on germany, but the united states, i think, su itself as coming, helping to build a better world but not wanting to remain involved in europe forever and this of course was going to be one of the issues at the end of the war which made it difficult i think for the europeans to begin to rebuild. the united states came in, already i think thinking of how it would be able to disengage
itself. and there were other issues that the paris peace conference had to, if not deal with, certainly had to take cognizance of, they were dealing with a continent that was in tremendous turmoil. this is very different from the big conference that had taken place in vienna at the end of the poleonic wars. at the end of then, europe was ready for peace. the heavals that had taken place had taken place. the changes that had taken place had taken place. the revolutionary war that was set up by the french revolution had more or less burned themselves out. so making peace in 1815 was very different from making peace in 1919. what was happening in europe was the disintegration of old political structures and was still not very good at dealing with ends of empires and we still haven't really worked out how you deal with nations that emerge from the wreckage of empires and how you try and sort out competing boundary claims.
russia had disintegrated of course. austria-gather disintegrated at the end of the first world war. everyone knew the ottoman em mire was at the verge of disdisintegrating and germany which was an empire had lost its polish territory ors appeared to be losing its polish territories whachls was emerges was a mix of older nations such as bold but also newer nations who were trying to establish themselves on the map of europe and then some of them hoped to establish themselves in the caucuses, and possibly establish themselves in the middle east, and this was not an easy process. i mean it has often been said that the paris peace process created all of these nations, which in fact, it did not do. a lot of these nations were creating themselves on the ground, and of course, what they were doing is looking back at their past, all of them had past, and looking at what they had once had. and it was a very unusual nation that would look back and say why don't we nice be a nice little
small compact company like switzerland, what they did is look back to their times of the greatest national borders and you can imagine what the greeks were thinking or what the italians were thinking. if you were serb, you were thinking of an empire in the 13th or 14th century. if you're bulgarian, you were thinking about something back then. if you're hungarian, you might be thinking further back. if you're polish, you would be thinking about the polish lithuanian commonwealth which was very large indeed. so what you had breaking out was a whole series of small wars as these old and new states struggled to grab territory from their neighbors and establish themselves on the map. as winston church hill said the war of the giants has ended and the war of the pygmies is starting. and so you had ethnic national imps, these new nationalisms royaling europe. you had in many parts a collapse of economic structure, which meant that food stuffs and supplies that had once flowed freely for example throughout austria and hungary suddenly
weren't moving. so vienna in the winter of 1918, 1919, saw starvation and disease, because the viennese were not getting the food which would have come from places like romania and hungary in the old days. these were now not moving into the end of the, the coal they needed, which might have once come from bold was no longer coming. the railways were disuptrd. nobody know where the rolling stop was. the boats on the dan you ube which used to carry goods up and down were not working. were not working very much. and so you had political collapse, but you also had economic and social collapse. and what you got was not just the ethnic nationalisms and the circumstance, you also got revolution. you got people saying now, is our chance to build a better society. and real fear in pairs that the revolution that had started in russia was now going to spread westward into europe and some evidence that it was. europe might be on the edge of total upheaval, total breakdown of society. hungary had a communist
government for six months between 1919 and 1920. vienna saw an attempted communist insurrection. bulgaria had a communist government for one week but enough to scare people. in berlin there was an attempt in 19d 19, about the communist insurrection. on may day in paris, 1919, a day when labor traditionally marches, the whole peace conference more or less had to shut down, because there were pitch battles in the streets between violent left wingers and the authorities. and so this was something also that the peacemakers had to think about in paris. and so i will not defend what they came up with, but i think we simply have to remember, they weren't just dealing with the usual differences among coalitions at the end of the war. they were also dealing with this tremendous feeling that the world is about to go even worse than it already has been. finally, what was happening is their power was shrinking and the people who met in paris were
enormously powerful. they controlled huge armies and huge navys and controlled in some cases growing air forces but those were shrinking day by day and months by months, people at home didn't want their people, their men, their sons and their fathers and their brothers, to remain in uniform any longer than they had to. treasuries didn't want to go on paying. taxpayers didn't want to go on paying. so the actual power of the allies meeting in paris was much less by june, 1919, than it had been at the beginning of january, 1919, when the peace conference opened. there were attempts made to deal with this problem, and there was a moment when poland and sheck slovakia, were fighting over a bit of territory each wanted. and the council of four, lord george clemmen and woodrow wilson, and the italian prime minister called in marshall fall shall to say we must bring in troops to stop the fighting and faush said as he intended to,
yes i will follow your orders i'm a soldier and then raised the objections which he was bound to raise, i would send troops but i'm not sure i can rely on them. anyway, we don't have the rolling stock. i'm not sure i can get them there. in fact, there is no way we can project our power into the center of europe. and lloyd george, they were rather disconsulate and lloyd george said i have a solution, and the alternative was a certain amount of relief, we will send both sides very strong telegrams. which give you an indication of the limits on the power of those who met in paris. well, the peace conference was meant to be a preliminary peace conference and it turned into the real thing, because they took so long to come up with shared peace terms that they didn't dare call it anything else and go through it again. the whole idea was to get peace terms cobbled together and call the germans and others in and have a full scale negotiation. and that couldn't happen, because it had taken them so long to get the peace terms they
wanted. and so what they did was cobbled together a treaty, presented it to the german, and give them two weeks to send any comments in by writing. and if something the germans resented. and i think there had also been an unrealistic feeling in germany that when the treaty was not going to be that bad, i guess the question is how bad was it. we talked about it a bit today. it gave germany a small army. but that was meant to be preliminary to worldwide disarmament. which in fact, was not going to happen. although there were attempts made in both the 1920s and the end of the, the beginning of the 1930s. did it really make a difference to germany? there was widespread evasion of the terms of the military terms of the treaty. the germans were meant to monitor it themselves. i think there was a very small british commission, two or three officers, who were meant to go around germany and make sure the germans weren't doing things they weren't supposed to be doing but of course everybody knew that germany was simply ignoring many of those provisions. germany did lose territory but
most of that territory was inhabited by nongerman speakers. it did lose population. but again, most of that population was nongerman. i don't think germany would have liked any treaty, people who lose court cases don't usually say how fair the judge was and how they think the judgment was perfectly reasonable. and the germans i think had persuaded themselves they were not going to be treated harshly. the real issue for the germans was reparations. that they should have to pay for the damage done to gum abelgium to france and the other allied countries. >> from belgian and french point of view, germany should pay, they had attacked them. they had not attacked germany. and from the british point of view, if they doesn't somehow get into the calculation, they wouldn't get much out of it, and the british were partial. they would have to lend money to the italians and the french to fight the war and they had to
borrow money from the americans to pay for that. lends, and to pay for their own war effort. and they needed funds from somewhere. and so the british wanted their share of reparations but they were also prepared to support the french, the belgian, the italians, and others, in demanding reparations from the defeated nations, in particular, germany. they knew that they would not get that much out of germany. and so what they did was a fudge. and it was really i think lord george's fund but it seemed to satisfy public opinion and the allied countries. what they did, they set a bill, they set in the treaty the responsibility for germany it pay. this was the infamous article 231 which says germany accepts responsibility, germany and its allies accepts responsibility for starting the war. and that came to be known as the war guilt clause. which the germans resented deeply. what they then said is how much germany will pay will depend on how much germany can pay, and how much the bill actually and so the figure was not to be set
until commissions had met, to look at these issues. in the end, what they came up with was a real fudge. there was a certain amount that germany had to pay immediately in gold and kind. that was the a tranche. the b branch were bonds to be issued by the german government, that was a slightly bigger slice. the c tranche which is by the far the biggest would not be due until germany paid the first two, so can you imagine what happened, germany had no incentive to pay what they paid the first, no incentive to pay the second, the b tranche, and it never paid all that much. but again, perception, was hugely important. the germans felt they were being ground down. they felt that they were paying too much. they felt that they were being punished for the war. and in the 1930s, increasingly, the star origins came under skrut ny, the german foreign authors cultivated certain foreign historians includen an american henry elmer buns and give the impression that the war had not really been started by
anyone. and increasingly that view began to become the view, at least in the english speaking countries that europe had sligtserred into the war, nobody was responsible. if nobody is responsible, then why should germany pay? and so the armistice hoped i think in its very making to provide ammunition to undermine german acceptance of the treaty. the peace conference itself i think did what it could, what it came up was imperfect, in very difficult circumstances. and the germans themselves i think showed no willingness to pay the treaty, and so i think haynes attack was unfair. i think he didn't recognize the political difficulties of trying to come up with a peace treaty. i don't think the treaty of versailles led to the second world war. and i think we should ask ourselves why did the settlement post 1945 not lead to equal resentment in germany? germany was treated an awful lot
worse at the end of 1945 than it was at the ends of 1918. germany was occupied. it had to surrender unconditionally. it was divided. anything that could be moved was removed from at least the russian zone of occupation. and we don't i think hear anything by the way of the complaints that we got after the first world war. so i think i'm going to continue to disagree with john maynard keynes. thank you. >> professor mack millen, to your left. >> thank you. so along with the reparations, the british after world war one got a very big empire. and a very small army. it was a growing growing japanese empire a bitter germany. did they believe that that was not going to blow up on them in some point? there was a bunch of occupied, there was india, there were other country, there was burma,
did they believe that that, along with the view of world peace, that that was sustainable? >> not all british believed it was sustainable. but i think most british would have been surprised by how quickly it was going to disappear. the british empire was very big. there was certainly independent movements in various parts of it and various parts of it like me own country canada had moved a long way towards full independence although we did see ourselves tied by sentiment and interests very much to the british empire. in india there was a very large independence movement but i think the british assumed that the empire would be there for some time to come. and of course, they weren't that worried about the japanese in the 1920s. japan had been an ally in the first world war. the british had a treaty at least until the washington naval conference with japan. and japan was ruled by liberal governments up until the beginning of the 1930s. which wanted to be part of a world other. which wanted to participate in things like the league of
nations. and so i think there was hope that the world could become a more stable place. and there was hope i think in britain that the old british/german relationship, which had been good at one point, in some ways, a national alliance, between the greatest land power in europe and greatest naval power in the world, and some hope that the german british friendship would grow again and german british trade would grow again, as it did. and i think we have to remember that in germany, in the 1920s, you did have governments, particularly the straz government, which were committed to try to fulfill the terms of the peace, and to work within a european order, and a world order, and germany in fact, joined the league of nations, in the mid 1920s, and so i think, if you look back, you can see at least some hope, and the british, i think, could be forgiven for thinking their empire would go on for some time. >> to your left still. >> yes, ma'am. i wanted to ask what you thought were the mistakes woodrow wilson
made when he was in paris, and what could he have done better to avoid the results. >> well, perhaps two mistakes. in paris, i think, he, it was proposed to him by lloyd george, that some of the need for reparations could be removed if the americans would cancel the debts. if the americans would write off the money they had lent to britain, in particular, but also through britain to the other european powers, britain would not then need to try and collect from the french and the italians, the french and the italians and the belgians would not need reparations so much, and so in a way it would be like a bit, a bit like what happened at the end of the second world war wa the marshall plan that the americans would help to make possible the economic recovery of europe. and the view is very simple, you borrowed the money, shoe pay it. and i think possibly if he put his political weight behind that, he might have been able to do something. my second, i think the second thing he did, was not manage the
pass average the treaty of versailles, which included the league of nations in it, it was the first few, the first section of the treaty of versailles, he didn't manage the politics of it well enough to get it through the senate. he was a sick man. but he was also a very stubborn man. and the treaty went through the senate, and came out with reservations attached. which the european leaders later on said they probably could have accepted. who knows. but he said to his own democrats, i will not accept the treaty with reservations on it. these are sort of riders attached. take this course to mean this or that. and so the treaty was defeated in the senate by hard line republicans, and some of woodrow wilson's own democrats. and so i think politically, he could have done better. i mean what roosevelt did, franklin delanor roosevelt did, was make the post world war ii settlements a bipartisan affair. woodrow wilson made it a democratic affair right from the beginning. so annoyed the republicans unnecessarily. if you look at what roosevelt
did, he always included republicans when he was talking about things like graphon woods and talking about united nations. and he worked very hard to get it through congress. wilson didn't. and i think that made a real difference. but what really i think made the big difference at the end of the second world war was the soviet union, the way it was behaving in the center of europe. that really helped persuade the americans they better stay in and help rebuild europe and they didn't have quite that pressing fear after the first world war. >> we will stay to your left. >> how was the treaty viewed by the other great power in the war, the soviet union, by that time, they had obviously, russia was taken over by the come mists, did they view that as anything at all? >> the russian view, the view from moscow, which was now becoming the capital, was that the capitalist world was doomed
anyway and they didn't really care about any treaty. lennon thought that what had happened in russia was the spark that was going to create revolution around the world. and they didn't really give that hope until about 1922. and so russia was simply waiting there waiting for the capitalist world to collapse, and they didn't really care what happened to germany all that much. when it became clear that the capitalist world wasn't about to collapse, then they thought they might actually find common ground with germany and they did actually make a couple of deals in the early 1920s. other nations, i mean most people at paris, thought the treaty was not bad, they thought they had done a fairly good job. they thought germany should be punished. when the three great leaders saw each other for the last time at versailles, as the treaty had been signed, and they said to even other, we doesn't do such a bad job, we didn't do such a bad job and woodrow wilson says, look, if there are things that aren't great in it the league of nations can sort them out, we'll have a league that can deal with it. it is really only later, and a
lot of it is to do with the german propaganda effort that the treaty came to be seen as very, very unfair. you know, my view is it wasn't that unfair. and the reparations burden was deeply exaggerated. but it is what people think, perceptions are very, very important. and it was seen in germany as very unfair. and of course, it was enormously important attack on the treaty, in getting the right, the more paufrm, the nazi, helping the nazis to grow and one of the great attacks that hitler and the nazi diswas on the dictate, and he did, clause by clause and bit by bit. >> a question to your right now. >> could you compare the league of nations with the united nations? was the league fatally flawed or were there other circumstances that really caused things to unravel? >> i guess any of these organizations are only as good as their membership.
it is like a constitution. you can have a wonderful constitution, but unless people want to make it work, it's not going to work very well. and i think the league was damaged when the united nations didn't join. and that really left the british and the french and the italians as the three most powerful nations in it. i mean ultimately, of course, when the germans joined, that was going to make a bit of a difference. we tend to write the league off as a failure. and the league council didn't have the powers that the security council of the united nations had, but it did do quite a lot of what the united nations then later on picked up on, international labor organization, it dealt with international economic issues, it tried to deal with international arms trade and international slavery. it did manage in the 1920s, to settle a couple of issues which could have turned into outright war. and so i think it was a hope. my own view is it was a step forward in international relations, but if it didn't live up to its promise, i think that is partly the fault of the british, who turned away from europe, and who were more engaged with their empire.
partly, i thinks the fault, not the fault but a result of the united states not joining. and feeling in the end it had to deal with people who wanted to pay no attention to it. i mean what was dangerous in the 1930s, was you got too many nations who prepared to violate all international agreements and norm, and the international system doesn't have a police force. it doesn't have a way of enforcing order and so it depends on people accepting the rules of the game. and you can have one person, or one nation break the rules of the game, perhaps, but when you get too many breaking those rules, then it is simply the whole international order gets weakened and others get encouraged to behave in the same way and that was happening in the 1930s, with the italians, with the japanese and with the germans and with the hungarians and other powers. >> we'll go over our time with one final question to your right. >> the question that i have is if the senate would have ratified the league of nations, and the one country that lost a
few men but wasn't scarred as much as all of the european nations were, again, if the united states was in the league of nations, could a second world war have been prevented? >> i don't know if we'll ever know. but i think if the united states had been in the league of nations, it would have been a stronger organization. and might have more effectively dealt with aggressive nations. i mean the united states did continue to cooperate with the league of nations. there were american observers at the league council meetings in geneva and the americans often, you know, the americans were not as isolationist as they're sometimes portrayed and the americans were much engaged in what was happening in europe in the 1920s. i think it's possible, the united states would have had more obligation, and the american people would have felt more obligation, i think, to be engaged in world affairs. of course, the real thing, i think that helped to propel the world war, the second world war,
was the great depression because what it did, it drives political extreme, whether extreme socialism, naziism, fascism and made nations turn yind inwards and decide they couldn't afford to worry about what was going on elsewhere in the world, they had to look after their own people first and they erected highly damaging trade barriers which made the economic situation worse. so i think if the united states had remained in the league of nations, it might have done more to help mitigate the economic crisis. i mean it was there at the geneva conference, but perhaps in a controversial decision, frankli franklin roast, the new president, had decided not to support the new agreement. if the united states had been in the league, i think it would have been more engaged and perhaps the american public would have been more involved in trying to maintain the peace. as far as we can tell, there was a lot of support in the united states for the league. there were no public opinion polls in the early 1920s, but
evidence seems to be, just looking at the number of people who joined pro-league organizations, as opposed to those who joined anti-league organizations, far more people were in support of the league than were against it. and so i think it is possible, we'll never know, but i think it is possible that the world might have seen a different outcome. >> thank you very much, professor mackmillan. interested in american history tv? visit our web site, c-span.org/history. you can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, and watch college lectures, museum tours, archival films and more. american history tv, at c-span.org/history. american history tv is on c-span 3 every weekend. features museum tour, archival film, and programs on the
presidency. the civil war, and more. here's a clip from a recent program. >> now, jeffson does convince washington to announce a design competition and they will do this for the president's house and for the capitol building. so this actually, this comes from a newspaper, they announce it in march 1792, and the president's house doesn't have nearly as many requirements, i think it is much more open-ended, as to the architect's preferences and what they want to design. ultimately, it is james hoban who wins that design competition. the white house very much based off of linster house in dublin, and that irish georgian tradition. but there is not any clear decisive winner picked in july. but just to give you an example of washington's involvement, when the deadline is approaching in mid july, to select winners, who makes a stop down in the district to oversee the commissioner's proceedings?
well, it is president george washington. so you have to imagine for a moment, your boss tells to you pick a winner, and then he's standing in the room with you, and he says you know, i really like that one. which way did the commissioner goes? well they picked james hoban. and the interesting part of that is that hoban had actually arrived earlier in washington to take a look at the site, he had been working at soughters for quite a while, the commissioners had gotten to know him and when he arrived he came with a letter 7 of recommendation from george washington, introducing him to the commissioners, and you can read between the lines, on that one. you can watch this and other american history programs on our web site, where all our video is archived. that's c-span.org/history. next, on lectures in history, texas women's university professor katherine landdeck teaches a class about the ways american women contributed to the war effort.
during world war ii. she details the expectations for women on the homefront, to write letters to soldiers, plant victory gardens, and work in factories. she also compares what options there were available to women for service, with each military branch. her class is about an hour and 20 minutes. >> well, good to see everybody today. i appreciate you coming to our space here. today, we're going to talk about american women and world war ii. and this is obviously a huge topic, we can spend an entire semester just on this topic alone. so we're going to try to break it down into three different spaces and we're going to look at a lot of images to kind of fit in with the other things we've talked about. so we are going to talk about american women in three ways. we're going to talk about women at home. women at work.