The Treaty of Versailles: differing perspectives

28 June 2019

History | Politics | War and Conflict

This blog includes temporary access to two documents. Click to access Jacob Adams Emery, typewritten letters to his mother and The Amaroc News free until 28th July.

One hundred years ago today and after six months of protracted negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The treaty formally ended the war between Germany and the Allies and saw the formation of the League of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation with the mission of resolving international disputes.

Herbert A Olivier, Sketch of the Table in the Hall Of Mirrors, at Which the Treaty of Versailles was Signed © Imperial War Museums. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

 

The treaty also imposed terms on Germany. One of the many provisions was the controversial Article 231, later known as the War Guilt clause: Germany was to accept responsibility, alongside Austria-Hungary, for causing the First World War.

The treaty has been the subject of contentious debate among historians ever since. Some have pronounced it ‚Äėhistory‚Äôs most hated treaty‚Äô and blamed it for paving the way for the Second World War, and others, and sometimes both, have argued that that the peacemakers did the best they could in difficult circumstances.

But what did people at the time make of the negotiations and of the treaty? Our First World War resource reveals different attitudes in correspondence, diaries and camp newspapers‚Ķ

For instance, American soldier Jacob Adams Emery writes to his mother on the 11th August 1918 about the lengthy peace negotiations:

Image © Hoover Institution Library and Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

He also expresses anger at the proposition to postpone discussions surrounding the League of Nations until after the peace treaty:

Image © Hoover Institution Library and Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

To see this document in the collection, click on the above two images in the blog. 

In contrast, Canadian Medical Officer Harold McGill conveys frustration at US President Woodrow Wilson’s championing of the League of Nations in a letter to his wife from the 16th February 1919:

Image © Glenbow Museum. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

On the day the treaty was signed, an article in The Amaroc News maintains ‚ÄėFor they [the Germans] must pay, they must pay heavily, and they will pay‚Äô:

The Amaroc News, 28 June 1919, Image © National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

On another page of the same newspaper an article contemplates the situation in Germany and the efficacy of the treaty:

The Amaroc News, 28 June 1919, Image © National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

To see this document in the collection, click on the above two images in the blog.

A Global Conflict, the fourth module of our First World War resource, is now available. It covers the contribution of soldiers from all corners of the world, documents international events and battles, and offers an insight into the peace negotiations, post-war relief work and regeneration in Europe.

For more information on our First World War resource, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

Nicola Cattini

Nicola Cattini

I am a Development Editor at Adam Matthew, having joined the team in 2018. While my academic background lies in English Literature, I have worked on a few different subjects within academic publishing, including theatre and performance, film and media studies, sociology and law. I am now enjoying expanding my knowledge of history and working on a range of new projects at Adam Matthew.

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