The Treaty of Versailles as a blueprint for the postwar world

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Exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that tipped Europe into a world war, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Paris on June 28, 1919. The armistice signed on November 11, 1918, officially ended the hostilities, but the negotiations between the Allied victors at the Paris Peace Conference lasted six months and involved diplomatic delegations from over thirty-two countries.

US President Woodrow Wilson had delivered a speech in January 1918, in which he laid out his vision for the postwar world. The Fourteen Points elaborated Wilson’s plan for the comprehensive overhaul of international relations. He called for an immediate end to the war, the establishment of an international peacekeeping organization, international disarmament, open diplomacy, the explicit disavowal of war, and independence for formerly colonial territories. Wilson’s Fourteen Points were hugely influential in shaping the contours of the postwar world and in spreading the language of peace and democracy around the world.

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The Treaty of Versailles established a blueprint for the postwar world. One of the most controversial terms of the treaty was the War Guilt clause, which explicitly and directly blamed Germany for the outbreak of hostilities. The treaty forced Germany to disarm, to make territorial concessions, and to pay reparations to the Allied powers in the staggering amount of $5 billion.

Eventhough US President Woodrow Wilson was opposed to such harsh terms, he was outmaneuvered by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. France was the only Allied power to share a border with Germany, and therefore suffered the bulk of the devastation and casualties from the German war machine.

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