World War I, the Versailles Treaty and Why You Don’t Learn About it in School

Paris 1919: Negotiating Peace

Directed by Paul Cowan (2009)

Film Review

This film was a real eye opener for me. Despite studying World War I numerous times in high school, I had no knowledge of the extreme turmoil in Europe during the 1919 Versailles Treaty negotiations.

Although peace negotiations were meant to take four weeks, they would last nearly six months owing to bickering between the allies. Previously I had no idea that Germany was engaged in a civil war (aka the German revolution of 1918) during the Versailles negotiations. The German delegation would ultimately resign and return to Germany, with the intention of resuming battle.*

After the German military blew up the naval fleet that had been “interned” by the allies, the German constitutional monarchy collapsed. The Weimar Republic that replaced it sent two official to Paris in August 1919 to sign the Treaty.

The long drawn out negotiations also created major popular unrest in France and Italy, which were experiencing high levels of unemployment, hunger and homelessness. French primer minister Georges Clemenceau was shot in the back by an anarchist assassin in February 1919, and the government of Italian prime minister Vittorio Orlando, one of the Big Four members, fell in June 1919. In August 1919, Hungary elected its first communist government.

The main point of disagreement among the Allied powers (Italy, France, Britain, US and briefly Japan) was the level of war reparations to impose on Germany. Initially US president Woodrow Wilson sided with British economist John Maynard Keynes. Heading the Versailles Reparations Committee, Keynes estimated that the German economy was too damaged by war and revolution to pay more than $19 billion. However In the final treaty Wilson supported UK prime minister David Lloyd George and French prime minister Georges Clemenceau in imposing war reparations of $300 billion on Germany.

Wilson’s pet project, a global League of Nations (which excluded Germany) was written into the Treaty. Ironically because the US senate refused to ratify that section of the treaty, the US would not become a member.


*The armistice signed November 11, 2018 was merely a cease fire.

**Germany had paid $30 billion when they ceased payments in 1931.

8 thoughts on “World War I, the Versailles Treaty and Why You Don’t Learn About it in School

  1. Interestingly, I took history in what is now year 10 and did learn much of this summary – in particular the extreme cost of reparations. Probably one of the major underlying economic causes of the next conflagration (WWII).

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    • I agree with the steep costs of reparations leading to Germany’s resultant exorbitant inflation, desperation, and the likelihood that Adolph Hitler would tap into this resentment to fuel his (and Germany’s) revenge.

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      • Part of the reason recently that so many people voted for Donald Trump … because the economic system really only works for the few …end of story. and will the new lot make any paradigm changing directions …very unlikely. Unfortunate that so many believe things can change when the underlying system is so corrupt…The fact that ‘they are silly enough to be associated more with one duopoly party rather than the other horn of that dilemma, is a matter of preference in political silliness….
        Almost everyone wants to be on a team; and believe that their team is the best team whose superiority is defined by not being the other team” …. Mmmm intelligent humans? (with thanks to Dr D. and automaticearth.com)

        Liked by 2 people

        • I paused the video to read this response. Sadly, in our Western world and way of thinking, life is defined in terms of good and evil, right and wrong, up and down. In other words, we Westerners, with our monotheistic traditions, cannot seem to see life (all life, not just human life) as integral parts of a greater pattern. That’s why the Oriental concept of qi, or life force, that seeks balance, appeals so much to me. I think the bottom line is a horizontal rather than a vertical one. Or, if you will, an involuted one, in that in nature, as with a fetus, or a plant, growth happens from the inside out, not from the top or bottom. Ideally, human evolution will respect that all pieces of the puzzle deserve respect for the roles they play.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: World War I, the Versailles Treaty and Why You Don’t Learn About it in School — The Most Revolutionary Act | FREEDOM MINDS FOR THE AMERICAN REPUBLICS

  3. Pingback: World War I, the Versailles Treaty and Why You Don’t Learn About it in School | The Most Revolutionary Act – Additional survival tricks

  4. Dr. Bramhall, It is now past 2:30 a.m., because I watched that entire video, finally to learn it was inspired in part by Margaret MacMillan’s book. That period of history fascinates me, as does Woodrow Wilson and the questionable legacy he left. I’ve read several biographies about him, as well as incidental references about his part in establishing the Federal Reserve (which empowered the debt-backed currency we have now), the income tax to insure a constant stream of interest money to the Fed, on federal debt, and World War I. The UN is the ideological progeny of Wilson’s League of Nations, which was opposed in the US Congress primarily by William Jennings Bryan, the “Cross of Gold” guy.

    I haven’t read MacMillan’s book about the Paris negotiations, but I’ve read about half of a subsequent book, entitled “The War that Ended Peace,” about the period leading up to World War I. It is hard to follow, since there are so many players, and the European royalty and aristocracy is so inbred that they’ve been squabbling like a dysfunctional family since before Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, the British Isles, and Cleopatra, too.

    At the end of this video, there are hints that even though the “War to end all wars” didn’t, maybe humanity has matured somewhat since World War II. Well haha, teehee, think I. In case anyone is paying attention, the national debt to the Federal Reserve and World Bank/WHO cartel is skyrocketing. The current war–like all wars–is economic and aimed against all life on earth, as we pay governments, corporations and the intellectual intelligentsia to poison the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the earth that forms our material world.

    The viruses may be the only survivors, but I’m not sure anyone has determined yet whether viruses are actually alive, since they need to invade and harness the machinery of complete cells to replicate themselves.

    I probably won’t live long enough to see it.

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  5. “. . . we pay governments, corporations and the intellectual intelligentsia to poison the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the earth that forms our material world. . . ”
    katharineotto: You call all wars ‘economic wars’. Seems to me there is a lot of truth in this! And also, it is true that we do not care enough to look after our air, water and the earth. Who knows, where this is going to lead us . . .

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