Peacemaking 1918 - 1919 and the League of Nation

History B GCSE

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  • Created on: 23-05-11 20:09

Peacemaking 1918 - 1919, and the League of Nation

The war against Germany ended with the armistice; Germany signing a cease-fire. The allies had defeated Germany. In the west war had been fought mainly in France and Belgium. Much of their land had been devastated. Military losses for Britain and the empire totaled around 1 million, for France this was 1.4 million and the USA just over 100,000.

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The Paris Peace conference

The delegates of 32 states attended the Paris Peace Conference. None of the defeated powers attended the conference, nor did Russia which was in the middle of a civil war. The main decisions were take by the big three, which were George Clemenceau of France, Theodore Wilson of USA and Lloyd George of Britain.

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Aims of the Big three

George Clemenceau - He had seen Germany invade France twice in his life time, in 1870 and 1914, and he was under great pressure from the French public who wanted revenge on Germany. He wanted revenge, and to punish the Germans for the war. Clemenceau also wanted to make Germany pay for the damage done to France during the war and weaken Germany, so France would never be invaded again.


David Lloyd George - He had led Britain to victory in the First World War. At the general election after the cease-fire George's election campaign slogans included, 'hang the Kaisers’ and 'make Germany pay' and the British public also wanted to punish Germany, however George did not share the views of the British public. He was afraid that if Germany was punished too harshly, the German people may turn to communism and he realise that Britain depended on trade for its health and Germany was one of Britain's main trade partner.


Woodrow Wilson – He was the president of USA, he was an idealist and wanted to make the world safe.  He wanted to end war by making a fair peace. In 1918, Wilson published ‘Fourteen Points’, using the policy of self-determination; the belief that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status to state what he wanted for the world. However most of the USA did not want to get involved with European mess and Wilson’s party started to lose its support and as a result the US started to distance itself from Europe.

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Summary of the Fourteen Points

1. No more secret treaties.

2. Freedom of the seas.

3. An end to customs duties.

4. All countries to reduce armaments.

5. Freedom for colonies.

6. The German Army must leave Russia.

7. Belgium must be independent.

8. France should be fully liberated and should get back Alsace-Lorraine

9. Self-determination for Italians.

10. Self-determination for all peoples in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

11. Self-determination and independence for the Balkan nations.

12. Self-determination for Turkey, and for all peoples in the Turkish Empire.

13. An independent Poland with access to the sea.

14. The formation of an association; the League of Nations, to guarantee peace

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Treaty of Versailles

The treaty of Versailles was signed on the 28/06/1919. The treaty of Versailles used four points for the punishment of Germany, BRAT

Blame: The war guilt clause; clause 231, forced Germany to accept responsibility for the war.


Reparation: It was agreed that Germany had to pay for the damage of the war. A sum of 6.6 billion would have to be played each year for 42 years.


Army: Germany’s army was limited to 100,000 men and conscription was banned. Germany was not allowed to have tanks or military aircrafts. German navy was limited to 15,000 men, no submarines and only 6 battleships. The Rhineland was declared to be a De-remilitarised zone and it was to be occupied by the allied troops.

Territory:  Alsace-Lorraine was restored to France. The Saar coalfields were to be run by France for the League of nation for 15 years, after which a plebiscite would be held. Belgium was given Eupen and Malmédy. Denmark was given North Schleswig. Poland was given West Prussia, Posen and Upper Silesia. Germany lost all the land it had taken from Russia at the Brest-Litvosk treaty in 1918. Danzig was to become a free state. All German colonies were surrendered and given to the victorious powers as mandates by the League of Nation.

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Why Germany resented the Treaty of Versailles

Germany hated the terms of the treaty because they felt it was unfair. It was a 'Diktat' – dictated peace.  They had not been allowed to take part in the talks – they had just been told to sign. Germany believed they were not to blame for the war and the Kaisers were to blame. The Germans hated reparations; they said France and Britain were trying to starve their children to death. Germany had lost 16 percent of its coalfield, 10 percent of its land and half of its iron and steel industry. They felt that the Treaty went against the policy of self determination as some Germans ended up living in non German speaking countries.

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Strength and weakness of the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles brought peace to Europe and set up an international organization- the League of nation, to preserve the peace. However it left Germany with many grievances, some of which contradicted the fourteen points.

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Aims of the League of Nation

1. To discourage aggression from nations.

2. To encourage countries to co-operate, especially in business and trade.

3. To improve the living and working conditions of people in all parts of the world.

4. To encourage nations to disarm

5. Policy of collective security, members of the League would act together to ensure any member threatened with war was protected by other members.

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Structure of the League of nation

1. The head quarter of the League of nation was in Geneva, Switzerland.

2. The role of the Assembly was to recommend actions to the council and vote on budgets and new members entry.

3. The council were a smaller group, who met several time a year and for emergencies. It included permanent members; Britain, France, Japan and Italy; although USA was suppose to be a fifth permanent. It also involved non permanent members’ elected by the assembly for a three year period. If any country was considered to have started war by an act of aggression, the League would take action against the aggressor in three stages:

·        Moral condemnation – Pressure would be put to the aggressor in order to shame it to stopping the war.

·        Economic sanctions – all countries would stop trading with the aggressor.

·        Military Force – all countries in the League of Nation would contribute to an armed force that would act against the aggressor.


4. The role of the Secretarian was to keep records of meeting and prepare reports, the staffs were linguist but the main language spoken was English and French.


5. The role of the Permanent court of international justice was to help settle disputes peacefully. The court was based in Netherlands and it was made up of judges from the member countries, however it had no way of enforcing its rulings.

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Manchurian Crisis

Events – Japan had been dissatisfied with the peace settlement at the end of the First World War. The population of Japan was increased and the depression caused by the Wall Street crash in 1929 had led to a reduction in markets for Japanese goods and increased poverty and unrest in Japan. Many, including the army, thought that the answer would be the expansion of Japan into Manchuria. This would give room for the surplus population and be a sure marker for the Japanese goods.

Since 1904 Japan had been allowed to have soldiers in Manchuria guarding the south Manchurian railway. In September 1931 the Japanese claimed that there had been an explosion on the railway line at Mukden, which they said was sabotaged by the Chinese; this gave the Japanese army an excuse to invade Manchuria, China. The Japanese army quickly defeated the Chinese at Mukden, this action led to the increase popularity of the Japanese army and the army gradually taking control of the Japanese policy.

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Actions taken by the League of Nation

The League sent a group of officials led by Lord Lytton to study the problem, the report, published a year later found that Japan was at fault and the League condemned Japan and recommended that Manchuria should be a self-governing state. In February 1933 it ordered Japan to leave Manchuria, but this led to Japan leaving the League of Nation and later occupying the Chinese province of Jehol.

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Effect of the Manchurian Crisis on the League of N

Weaknesses of the league of nation were revealed as Japan was able to invade china and get away with it. Economic Sanctions were useless as Japan’s main trading partner was the USA, which was not in the League and therefore collective security did not apply to them.

All the countries did not want to get involved in the league of nation, even permanent member such as Britain who was looking afters its trade with Asia and was not prepared to risk its fleet against Japan in the far east and France had no intention of sending troops to the far east.

Nearest county to Japan was the USSR, but it could not send troops as it was not allowed to join the league of nation at the time.

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Abyssinian Crisis

In December 1934 a clash occurred between Italian and Abyssinian soldiers at Wal-Wal on the border between Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland in Africa. This dispute went to the league for decision, but it was clear that Mussolini was planning war as the Italians built their forces in Italian Somaliland and the Abyssinia border. The British foreign secretary, made a speech which made it appear that Britain would support the idea of collective security in the event of any act of aggression. In spite of all this, Italian forces invaded Abyssinia on October 1935 – Mussolini claiming he was trying to bring civilisation to Abyssinia. The emperor of Abyssinia Haile Selassie fled the country before the Italian soldiers got to the capital city. Selassie travelled to Geneva, where he spoke to the League of nation and protested against the failure of the League to protect Abyssinia from aggression.

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Actions taken by the League of Nation

Mussolini’s invasion was a clear example of an act of aggression, committed by a larger country against a smaller one The League talked to Mussolini – but he used the time to send an army to Africa. Britain and France did not want to lose the alliance of Mussolini and therefore he League suggested a plan to give part of Abyssinia to Italy.

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Effect of the Abyssinian Crisis on the League of N

Italy walked out of the League in May 1936 and sanctions were withdrawn in July. The Abyssinian crisis marked the end of the league of nation as a means of keeping peace, most of the members were gone and Britain, France and USSR were the only members left. The event also ended the Stresa front and Mussolini signed the Rome-Berlin axis with Hitler, which ended the hopes of France and Britain to keep Mussolini as an ally against Germany.

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Why the League Failed

The League failed in Manchuria and Abyssinia because it WAS DUMB!


Weak – the League’s ‘powers’ were little more than going ‘tut-tut’. Sanctions did not work.   It had no army.

America – the strongest nation in the world never joined.

Structure – the League was muddled, so it took ages to do anything.   Members couldn’t agree – but decisions had to be unanimous. This paralysed the League.

Depression – the world-wide Depression made countries try to get more land and power.   They were worried about themselves, not about world peace.

Unsuccessful – the more the League failed, the less people trusted it. In the end, everybody just ignored it.

Members – the League’s main members let it down. Italy and Japan betrayed the League.   France and Britain did nothing to help it.

Big bullies – in the 1920s, the League had dealt with weak countries. In the 1930s, powerful countries like Germany, Italy and Japan attacked weaker countries. They were too strong for the League to stop them.

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