The Fate of a Nation, on a Single Page

16 January 2019

Empire and Globalism | Politics | War and Conflict

Upon the conclusion of the First World War, the victorious countries convened for the Paris Peace Conference. At the conference, peace terms were stipulated for the defeated Central Powers. One of the major discussion points was the confiscation of the Central Powers overseas territories. The recently published The First World War: A Global Conflict contains the British delegation’s minutes from this historical conference. It was here that the Central Powers territories would be categorised into three classes of mandates and then divided out to the victorious nations.

Most of the territories that had made up the Ottoman Empire would fall under Mandate Class A. These territories, it was deemed, could be provisionally recognised as independent nations. German East Africa, the Cameroons and Togoland, would fall into Class B; being territories that, while mandated to another country, were responsible for their own administration. German Samoa would be classified as Class C, a nation ‘best administered under the laws of the mandatory state’.
Mandate Classes. British Empire Delegation: Minutes of meeting © The National Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
The mandating of German overseas colonies proved to be contentious. Australia, fearing increasing Japanese power, sought to limit Japan’s acquisition of Pacific territories. The dominions would eventually receive mandates for German overseas Class C territories, while Japan would acquire Class C territories north of the equator. Japan would also gain the Chinese province of Shandong, causing outrage from the Chinese delegation. In the end, it would be Great Britain, Japan, France and to some extent the dominions, who would gain most of the mandated territories. Other nations, such as Italy and China, would not have their demands met, acquiring only small amounts of territory.
Geographically, the Ottoman Empire proved to be an even more complicated task. The dissolution of the Empire, formally completed in 1922, would bring about questions of geographical and ethnic divisions. As noted from the minutes, it was proposed that Cilicia would be controlled by Syria or Armenia, and ‘Kurdistan may be joined to Mesopotamia or Armenia’. Anatolia, the ‘birthplace’ of the Ottoman Empire, would cause the delegations to even question the ethnicity of the ‘Turkish’ race; asking of Anatolia, ‘are these “homelands of the Turkish race” to be left as one independent State’.
The divisions of the Ottoman Empire. British Empire Delegation: Minutes of meeting © The National Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
The minutes taken during these meetings are vital in demonstrating the decision making process of the Allies. The mandating of territories would go on to be an influencing factor in the wars that would follow: The Second World War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Arab-Israeli conflict, to highlight but a few. Independence and nationalist movements would also spawn in mandated territories and still have an impact on present day geopolitics.
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About the Author

Ben Jeffery

Ben Jeffery

Since joining Adam Matthew in January 2018, I have worked on exciting projects such as World’s Fairs and The First World War. I have a Masters in Ancient and Classical History from Reading University. My interests include 4th century BC Greek and Macedonian military history and late medieval central Eurasian nomadic cultures.