Section A – Plan of Investigation
The Treaty of Versailles and its ramifications, particularly on Germany, have been subject to academic and political discourses for some time now. This essay joins the discourses by focusing on the question of “to what extent did the Treaty of Versailles treat Germany fairly? To effectively provide answers to this research question, the essay will rely on historical articles, journals and books on the Treaty of Versailles. Such a combination of sources is considered to be critical to attaining sufficient depth and breadth that is required in developing an effective analysis and answer to the research question. Factors such as the key players in the treaty, the various interests at play and the predicament of the German state will be considered while answering the question. Further, it is imperative to note that the research question holds great significance because it enables the history student to understand post World War 1 events, and how they impact Germany and the other nations involved.
Section B – Summary of Evidence
As its name suggests, the treaty took place in Versailles, Paris in the aftermath of the World War I. The treaty was intended to be a ceasefire between Germany and the Allied forces in a bid to broker sustainable peace following the devastating war. Whereas Germany was the main subject in the treaty, it was not represented and, therefore, did not have a role in the formulation of the Treaty. Consequently, “the Big Three”: David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, and Georges Clemenceau played the major role in deciding the Treaty of Versailles.
In the treaty, several restrictions and punishments were meted on Germany. To begin with, some military restrictions were imposed on the country, in a move to clip further military ambitions that Germany would have had in post-WWI. France also felt that the military restrictions would significantly minimize the German’s threat to the country. As such, the treaty required that the German military be limited to 100,000 soldiers. Those soldiers were not to be conscripted but had to join the military voluntarily. Additionally, the country was not allowed to possess military submarines, tanks, and aircrafts. The navy was only allowed to operate six battleships. These limitations essentially reduced the military posture of Germany, hence guaranteeing peace and security to France and other neighboring countries. Apart from the military restrictions, the treaty also conferred territorial restrictions on Germany. First, most of its colonies were taken over by the League of Nations which was significantly controlled by France and England. Second, territories such as Alsace-Lorraine; Eupen, Moresnet and Malmedy; West Prussia and Posen; and Danzig were returned to France, Belgium, Poland and the League of Nations respectively. These were part of several other territories that were taken away from Germany through the Treaty of Versailles. As a consequence, the population of Germany was reduced by about 12% as the German speaking communities were separated. The country also lost most of its minerals and raw materials for industries.
The outcome of the Treaty of Versailles was significantly shaped by the competing interests of the Big Three. Clemenceau wanted severe punishment for Germany to force it to cover the cost of the war damages. In other words, France, led by Clemenceau sought revenge on Germany for all the losses and suffering occasioned by the law. Wilson, on the other hand, was not keen on a harsh treatment of Germany because of his conviction that such an action would trigger future revenge by Germany. Instead, he wanted more effort to be placed on building a stronger democracy in Germany, particularly in the spirit of ‘self-determination’. On his part, Lloyd George was interested in maintaining Britain’s monopoly of the Navy Empire. He was also keen on preventing France from becoming too powerful to Britain’s detriment. Additionally, he saw Germany as a potential market for Britain’s goods and, therefore, was not interested in harsh punishment on the Germans. In the final analysis, the treaty required Germany to pay a reparation fee of 6.6 billion pounds to France and Britain as costs for the damages caused by the war. This was in a move to foster “war-guilt clause” as the ‘big three’ regarded Germany as the instigator of WWI.
Section C – Evaluation of Sources
One of the sources used in this investigation is “The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years” by Boemeje M.F., Feldman G.D. & Glaser E. Regarding the origin and purpose, this source is a historical evaluation of the circumstances surrounding WWI and the Treaty of Versailles as well as its ramifications. The source takes a strict historical perspective on the issue. The source is exceptionally valuable for this investigation because it provides a broad and comprehensive analysis of the Treaty of Versailles. It not only examines the process and content of the treaty, but also examined the period and events preceding the treaty as well as the period and events following the signing of the treaty. While the broad and comprehensive coverage of the issue in the source is useful, it is also a critical limitation. This is because it minimizes direct focus on the treaty and how it affected Germany. Additionally, the source borrows ideas from several contributors which could significantly limit the credibility of the source in general.
The second source is Brezina Corona’s “The Treaty of Versailles, 1919: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty That Ended World War I”. The purpose of this source is to provide a historic account of events surrounding the Treaty of Versailles. The origin of the source includes some primary sources such as newspaper articles, journals, diaries and accounts of people. This source is valuable to this investigation as it provides details of the key players and their motivation in formulating and implementing the Treaty of Versailles. One major limitation of this source is its reliance on primary sources such as newspaper articles which may be detailed deficient. In other words, such sources are also limited in perspective and depth of information.
Section D – Analysis
As observed in the evidence, the Treaty of Versailles was characterized by competing interests of the big three. This led to the emergence of a treaty that was harsh and relatively unfair to Germany. To begin with, Germany was a defeated state in the World War I. As such, it was impossible for it to possess the same negotiating power as the conquering nations. In other words, to expect that Germany and the other states would be at par in the negotiation would be expecting too much. In this regard, therefore, the country would have had no choice but to accept the will of the big three. That the big three, in turn, did not take advantage of their position to completely emasculate Germany at the time, is a sign of fair treatment. To the extent that two parties, Wilson, and Lloyd, held the position that Germany should not be treated harshly, is an evidence of fair treatment. Further, it was deemed that Germany was the primary instigator of the war and that its actions had led to severe loss of lives and property in France and other regions that were involved in the war. As such, it was only fair for Germany to bear the burden of the war damages. It was by this logic that the “war-guilt” clause was introduced in the Treaty. In other words, the cost of the war had to be born, and no other country was better suited than Germany due to its critical role in instigating and perpetuating the war. As such, the 6.6 billion pounds paid to Britain and France as reparation cost was justified.
The defeat of Germany in the World War I was a significant step for France and allied forces. This is because they were not only able to suppress the violent war but also to stop Germany from inflicting more pain and despondency in the region. France, for instance, had suffered significant loss as a result of the German expansionist agenda and endless war. As such, it was prudent for France as well as the allied forces to try and clip the military power and capacity of Germany to discourage military ambition in the future. In other words, it was imperative for France to ensure the security and integrity of its society by discouraging attacks from Germany. It is by this logic that the Treaty included the demilitarization of the Rhineland region as well as the weakening of Germany’s military power. The treaty, as noted earlier, limited Germany’s military to only 100,000 men. It also restricted the acquisition of military tanks and aircrafts. The number of warships was also limited to 6. As a result, the military power of the country was clipped thus making it significantly unlikely for Germany to pose a future threat to France in the future. In retrospect, this was a relatively fair deal for Germany. This is because the treaty did not abolish all military action for Germany. It was allowed a sufficient level of militarization, at least for the purposes of maintaining its territorial integrity and dignity as a country. The limitation was only meant to deter future attacks on other countries or instigation of world war. This is a pretty fair treatment for a country that had caused such a high level of despondency and war in the region. If the treat were to be deemed unfair, then it would have limited or abolished any form of military action in the country. It, however, did not.
Section E – Conclusion
In summary, it is apparent that the Treaty of Versailles had significant historical significance not only in the history of the critical stakeholders, but also to the world in general. This essay sought to understand to what extent the treaty of Versailles was fair to Germany. In order do so, some sources were investigated so as to obtain evidence of the treaty as well as its ramifications to Germany. Based on this investigation, the essay has determined that the Treaty of Versailles treated Germany fairly. This conclusion is arrived at after a summary of three key elements. First, the competing interests of the “Big Three” stakeholders who determined the content of the treaty ensured that the country did not receive harsh treatment even though they had been defeated in the war. Second, having been the primary instigator of the war, it was only fair for Germany to bear the cost of its actions. As such, the reparation payment to France and Britain is justifiable. Finally, in a bid to prevent future German hegemonic interests, the treaty sought to limit the country’s military. The treaty only limited but did not obliterate Germany’s military which was a fair treatment given the loss of property and life that Germany’s actions had caused France in the past.