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The Peace of Paris and the League of Nations

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With the thesis "at the beginning was Versailles", we speak of Versailles in a strict and broad sense. In a strict sense, we are talking about the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 for Germany, the Treaty of Saint Germain en Lay for Austria[6][7][8][9], the Treaty of Neuilly for Bulgaria[10][11][12][13], the Treaty of Trianon and the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 respectively for Hungary and Turkey.[14][15][16][17][18] In 1922, an economic and financial conference was held in Genoa to try to resolve the economic issues still outstanding.[19][20][21][22][23][24] Germany will be invited and will see Russia's participation. These are the two pariahs of Versailles who cannot participate in the peace of Paris. In the broadest sense, Versailles is also the Laval Treaty between Germany and the Soviets, but also the Lausanne Treaty which led to the revision of the Sèvres Treaty with Turkey in 1923, as well as the Munich Treaty in 1938 when Germany obtained the Versailles Peace Review.[25][26][27]

The new territorial order of Europe[edit | edit source]

It is with the Versailles Peace Treaty that the 20th century's conflicts with minorities created an explosive situation.

Dmoi ville de Fiume 1.png

The city of Fiume is part of Istria, which is part of the territories annexed by Italy after the First World War. From the 1880s onwards, Italian irredentists had begun to list territories in a nomenclatural way. Fiume belongs to the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The Emperor of Austria has two crowns. On 29 October 1918, Fiume was annexed to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which set out under the blessing of Charles I. On 30 October, the municipal council of the city of Fiume proclaimed itself as the Italian consiglio nazionale italiano.

It was a movement in October 1918 that gained momentum with national councils proclaiming self-determination with the elite claiming to be the national council. On November 4, 1918, the city of Fiume was submitted to an interallied commission that took control of the city. In July 1919, there was a military action with Gabriele D'Annunzio who enlisted legionnaires to annex the city of Fiume. In the 1915 Treaty of London, Fiume was not considered a territorial gift.[28][29][30][31][32] Italian troops will take Fiume. Gabriele D'Annunzio will establish the Italiana reggenza, but it is a state that is not accepted by the other powers. In 1930, there was a treaty with Yugoslavia that defined Fiume as a free city. In 1920, regular Italian troops fought against irregular Italian troops in order to establish a free and sovereign state. In 1922, a fascist military coup set up a provisional government. In 1924, Fiume was legally annexed following a treaty between Italy and Yugoslavia and then became a provincia italiana. During the Second World War, between 1943 and 1945, there was the Italian social repubblica italiana, which was the state controlled by Hitler. Through the Nazis, there is direct military control. In 1945, Fiume was occupied by Yugoslav troops and in 1947, following the Treaty of Paris with Italy, Fiume officially became part of Yugoslavia. In 1992, Yugoslavia imploded and Croatia was created, turning Fiume into a Croatian city. It is a city between 1918 and 1992 that experienced a sudden change in its own territorial state membership.

In the beginning was Versailles is a provocative thesis to say that the 20th century could be read as a long century in the perspective of the peace of Paris made in 1919. This order completely changes the European map under the thesis that it is with the Paris Peace Treaty that the 20th century conflicts between minorities obtain a new explosive dimension. The question of national minorities became free during the 19th century and led to the implosion of the great empires during the First World War.

The case of Fiume for the population with the state changes means that each time there is a change in the whole administration, i.e. the whole state apparatus changes, the currency, the postal stamps, there are huge upheavals that show the dynamics that there is in the region. Fiume, which was discussed extensively during the peace of Paris, is now called Rijeka and is a place of transnational memory par excellence because it has memories that are still linked to Austria, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Croatia and especially Italy. This gun mounts some important elements. The case of Fiume shows us the imperialist conventions of the great powers during the war. During the First World War, the March 1915 Treaty of London with the Entente powers brought Italy, which was neutral at war, into the country by giving it territorial gifts. In this treaty, even if there are areas of Dalmatia that are contemplated, there is no Fiume city. In 1915, when the powers make geostrategic calculations, there is still the Austro-Hungarian Empire and even for the powers of the Entente it is clear that the Austrian Empire needs access to the sea. The reason why Fiume was not part of the territorial gifts to Italy and is to leave Hungary a port in the Mediterranean. Fiume's case also shows the very difficult negotiations in Paris. If we look at the minutes of the council of four and the debates, Fiume's question is a recurring one. Because of Fiume's question, the Italian delegation, which is one of the four, will leave the Paris conference for a period of time to contest the fact that Fiume is not one of the territorial gifts made to Italy. Fiume's case also shows that the outcome of the negotiations in Paris could also go against the will of the majority of the population, and that there is therefore a failure to respect the principle of the right of self-determination of peoples. Indeed, the majority of the inhabitants of the city of Fiume were Italian-speaking and spoke the Venetian dialect and had proclaimed on 30 October 1918 the annexation to the motherland Italy. This proclaimed annexation was not accepted by the peacemakers in Paris. The case of Fiume also shows that nationalist or protofascist legions can succeed in imposing faits accomplis. This is something that is not only found in this region. On the borders between Poland and Lithuania there are legions which are not entirely official, but which are accepted by officials creating faits accomplis. Fiume's case also shows that the Versailles order can be revised quite quickly. For example, the Treaty of Sèvres is revised by the Treaty of Lausanne, but with the Rapallo Treaty between Italy and Yugoslavia, a clear decision was taken. In Paris, an independent state, even if it were only a city-state in the form of an independent state, will disappear. The case of Fiume also shows the territorial reorganisation after the Second World War, so that all that will be put in place in this central region of Central and Eastern Europe is not only the border in Istria and Dalmatia, but also the whole question of the eastern German borders. This case also shows the flight until the early 1950s, after the Second World War, of more than 70% of the population of Fiume to Italy under the name of "esodo istriano". This is a painful chapter in the chapter on population transfers, a chapter that began with the Lausanne peace in 1923. From 2005, every 10th February, Italy commemorates "il giorno del ricordo" as the "Day of Remembrance" and that is to say that 10th February is the day of 1947 when the Paris Peace Treaty was signed with the Allies and Italy.[33][34] There is a movement everywhere that is reopening this wound from the First World War.

The new order of the colonies[edit | edit source]

This map shows the reshaping of the Middle East following the 1923 Lausanne Treaty.[35][36][37] There is still in the context of imperialism the solution of building mandates for the territories of defeated states, but there is not a change in the status of the colonies of the victorious powers. The creation of mandates in the East will be set up with Syria, which will be under French mandate, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq are mandates of Great Britain, also Egypt, which is under British administration.

Mesopotamia.gif

The mandate system[edit | edit source]

The new order of colonies raises the question that Versailles with the mandate system triggered decolonization. That's a pretty strong thesis. What is highly controversial among researchers with regard to the post-war order that was implemented in Paris was, then and still is, the mandate system which is the invention of a new system under the title "mandate". The warrant system was created to administer certain German colonies that were conquered by the victorious powers and those corresponding to the Arab parts of the Ottoman Empire. Contemporary observers have assessed the influence of the mandate system quite differently. For example, Edward Mandell House and Charles Seymour published a book in 1923 called What Really Happened in Paris.[38] For him, mandates are either hidden annexations or, on the contrary, the extension of the legal order in order to protect indigenous people. These are two elements that will still define the debate today. Are the warrants a system to hide the fact that the German colonies and parts of the Ottoman Empire will be annexed or are they really an improvement in the situation to protect the natives?

Colonel House was President Wilson's most influential collaborator.[39] According to Colonel House who was in Paris, the mandates represented a new experience in the field of morality and their international committee.[40][41][42] It is a euphoric interpretation of the mandate that leads to a new level in the moral development of humanity. In substance, this discussion is still ongoing today. In 1999, researcher Michael Callahan defended the thesis that the mandate system had played an important role in the reform of imperialism and described the mandate system as a deep and broad-based imperialist ideology.[43] Jürgen Osterhammel, who is a very famous German historian, wrote that the mandate is rhetoric that could not hide colonialist realities.

Everyone agrees that the mandate is something new in post-1919 international relations. A clear distinction must be made between the will of the statesmen of 1919 and the influence of what is being put in place in the long term has had. During the First World War, traditional colonial powers such as Britain and France were confronted with the rise of imperialist criticism in their own countries. The division of the world is already pending in the war, which is increasingly difficult to justify even within the colonial powers. There was really no question of abolishing the colonial empire at that time, but rather, there was no request to reorganize the colonial empire. The unknown component of the colonial game in international relations was naturally the United States, for which there was no question of keeping a colonial conception in its concept of peace. President Wilson never expressed a concrete opinion on this problem, but it seemed clear that the United States, following the intellectual tradition of its own indirect imperialism, perceived the role of colonial power as that of administrator of the dominated population rather than as owners of this territory.

When it became increasingly clear that the Entente powers no longer wanted to return the conquered German colonies, Wilson had to agree with this view. In the Treaty of Versailles, Germany finally had to renounce all its possessions on the other side of the Atlantic in Article 119. It is interesting to note that the victorious powers did not only use Germany's guilt for the war, which is very important for the legitimization of the Treaty of Paris, but that the victorious powers also began to blame Germany for failing in its function as a sovereign colony.

There is the creation of what German propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s called the "Kolonialschuldlüge".[44] This German term is essential to understand the propaganda that was to be unleashed in Germany even before 1933 and the Nazi takeover. Throughout the 1920s, there were huge activities funded by the German state to challenge the "kriegsschuldlüge".[45] The Germans are seeking to challenge allegations that they are unable to conduct their own colonies, which will be administered through warrants. The fact that in Paris the allies created the argument that Germany needed to take away the colonies because it was unable to manage them, indirectly forced the victorious powers to do better. This has led to the development of new and better forms of colonial administration. They knew very well that the Germans were watching carefully what the new agents were doing. Once President Wilson was convinced that this mandate system was the right solution for managing the colonies, he pushed it with all his might. It should be recalled that the right to self-determination of peoples, as Wilson formulated it in the Fourteen Points, was not at all anti-colonial.[46] The self-determination of peoples in Wilson's own concept concerned the civilized peoples of Europe. Even if there had been no anti-colonialism, it was clear to Wilson that the competition between the major European powers for the race for colonies was one of the factors behind the First World War and was the reason why Wilson did not want to see new annexations. It can be said that the warrant system is a kind of compromise with the fact that the United States did not want territorial changes in the form of colonial annexations and the interests of the powers for the United States perhaps was really what Colonel House had said, namely a new experience of international morality and for the European powers it was perhaps a way to invent a discourse that would legitimize a de facto annexation.

The concept of a mandate was still quite racist. The construction of three different types of mandates was based on a racist world view with a geography of uncivilized peoples to be civilized with potential for independence and people condemned for eternity to be subjected to a mandate from a Western power.

Dmor système des mandats 1.png

This map is the map of the League of Nations member countries and also of non-member countries such as the United States and all of Russia.

Type A mandates[edit | edit source]

Dmoi mandat de type A 1.jpg

Type A mandates are mandates concerning the Middle East and the Arab part of the Ottoman Empire. During the war, on May 16, 1916, France and Great Britain made a secret agreement called the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This agreement with the downstream of Russia and Italy provided for the sharing of the Middle East at the end of the war with an area between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Caspian Sea. It is a sharing in zones of influence between powers in order to counter Ottoman ramifications.

The Sykes-Picot agreement was in opposition to what the major powers had declared during the war against the Arabs, with the Jews and the promise to build a state in Palestine. In truth, instead of the promises made, there is the separation of these territories into mandates going to France and Great Britain. It is clear that in this context, there are not only territorial issues, but also economic and strategic issues. The Iraq that goes to Britain was already extremely important with regard to the oil issue.[47][48]

In the context of the League of Nations, Type A mandates are mandates referring to Article 22 of the Covenant where independence will be recognized "on the condition that the counsel and agent assistance guide the administration until it is able to conduct itself alone". Type A mandates are those countries or peoples for whom in the European vision, there is the potential to one day become an independent power and until then a European power to guide them. In the discussions and plans, there is no time limit for this development and throughout the period of the two wars there will be only one state that will achieve independence, which is Iraq becoming independent in 1932.

Dmoi photographie de la ville de Damas 1.jpg

It is a photograph of the city of Damascus that shows a high degree of urbanization, but which would not yet be able to govern itself.

Type B and C mandates[edit | edit source]

Dmoi mandat de type B et C 1.jpg

Category B and C mandates. In this case, independence was expected in the distant future. In the vision of the peacemakers of Paris this was to be in the centuries to come. The former German colonies are shared with part of Cameroon which goes to France and part which goes to Great Britain, but also Togo shared between France and Great Britain, Tanganyika goes to Great Britain and Rwanda goes to Belgium. It is a photograph of the city of Damascus that shows a high degree of urbanization, but which would not yet be able to govern itself. In the context of Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant, the European proxy powers have a direct administration of the territory. If with type A mandates there is an ambiguous form of European power that helps and advises, with type B mandate it is a direct administration of the territory. The Type B mandate guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. The old colonial structures are retained, but some rights are given. There is a movement towards the prohibition of abuses such as alcohol, but also the prohibition of slavery and arms trafficking. In this territory, there is a ban on recruiting troops. There is the idea that these territories cannot be used as a reservoir for European powers to supply their own troops. The European powers could not build fortifications in these territories. These territories are placed on a condition of commercial equality for everyone in the League of Nations, i.e. the proxy powers, even if they directly administered a territory, had to open the door also to other countries to allow trade.

As far as Type C mandates are concerned, independence is not foreseen in the next century. In the world view of the peacemakers of 1919 in Paris, these are countries that will not be able to obtain their independence. In the race hierarchy, type C mandates are the lowest. The dominions that were white colonies of Great Britain and Japan became representatives. Powers such as colonial dominions become colonial powers themselves because they control mandates. South West Africa is managed by the South African domain, Samoa goes to New Zealand, Nauru and New Guinea go to Australia as well as Pacific islands that also go to Japan. The definition in Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant is that a Type C mandate is administered as an integral part of the territory of the agent power. It is an integral part of that state and that state can do whatever it wants.

Although the final version of the concept of mandates is a compromise based on completely racist representations, it can still be argued that the mandate system combined with the potential of the right of peoples to self-determination represented a catalyst for decolonization. By prohibiting the outright annexation and transfer of ownership of mandates to powers, but by entrusting the mandate to the League of Nations, colonial States' right to occupy other territories is fundamentally called into question. On the other hand, the mandate had also contemplated peoples' right to complain and therefore that right to complain to the League of Nations. This right of complaint allowed indigenous peoples to have an international public discourse on the colonial policies of sovereign states. Being able to complain and bring colonial issues to the international agenda was important for these peoples. The mandate contracts for type A and type B mandates circumvented the requirement to lead the administered territories to independence. The League of Nations entrusts this mandate to the powers, the task at least from the discursive point of view is to lead the administered territories to independence. In the long run, it becomes extremely difficult or absolutely incomprehensible for the inhabitants of traditional settlements. The victorious powers of the First World War still had their own traditional colonies, which of course were not subject to mandates. If the territories of the powers that lost the war at least in theory obtain the possibility of independence one day, it becomes incomprehensible for the traditional colonies of the victorious states to understand why they cannot one day become independent.

Creating the discourse of mandates leads to a certain dynamic on the colonial issue that was not there before. In a world that was marked by nationalism and social Darwinism, the system of mandates and still a little foreign, because it undermines the sovereignty of national and European states, this whole system has changed the discourse of legitimizing the colonies. For this reason, the importance of the Treaties of Paris for the evolution of the colonies in the 20th century should not be underestimated. No matter how the intention and effects of the colonial policy conceived in Versailles are judged, the developments that began in Paris surely led to the year of the decolonization of Africa in 1960. These developments have really started in Versailles. Versailles has set in motion a mechanism that came to fruition in 1960.

The economic dimension[edit | edit source]

We will see the elements that will develop after the 20th century. The thesis is that the Genoa Economic and Financial Conference in 1922 was the first multilateral attempt to lead the world economy. By creating the Bank of International Settlements in 1930, Versailles also marked the beginning of attempts to direct and manipulate the international monetary system, as we will see after the Second World War.[49][50][51]

The issue of reparations is omnipresent. This is also in correlation with the dimension that this question takes in the historiography that began immediately after the peace of Paris and continues to this day. On the one hand there is the immense indignation in Germany for the peace of Versailles and there is also the brilliant economic criticism of John Maynard Keynes who criticizes why the reparation system is going to harm the European economic system and why it is a bad solution.

This issue of reparations has had a profound impact on the debate and it is interesting to look at the work of Wolfgang Mommsen, who rightly says that we must finally stop asking ourselves and therefore continue with this question, which is a discipline of knowing if and how Germany should pay reparations and how it could do so. In fact, according to new research results, the Germans paid about 25 billion Reichsmarks for repairs until 1932. If we take into account this sum with the 5 billion that France paid because it had lost the 1871 war, this 25 billion for a war that lasted four years, for a total war like the First World War, for a war that had exceeded all known limits until now, this sum is really to be seen as a sum beyond what we could have imagined. The research has shown, and almost all researchers currently agree, that Germany has generally obtained a higher amount through foreign loans than it has paid for the repairs. Unlike a look at reparations so far, these are fundamentally more important economic problems that peacemakers faced in Paris and that now should really attract the attention of researchers rather than this issue of reparations. Thanks to Georges André's work, we now know a lot about economic objectives during the First World War.

We are still too few on the economic dimension of the Parisian peace negotiations. There are still major gaps in this area, because in reality, the peace of Paris was much more than an arithmetic set of reparations. Part X of the Treaty of Versailles regulated economic relations. As a result, issues that were in principle related to the most-favoured-nation principle, customs principles and ownership principles were resolved. It would be wrong to see only a negative result here. For example, there is the most-favoured-nation principle, which has an indirect strong multilateral connotation. This principle says that when two countries make a bilateral treaty, there is a clause that says that the most favoured nation's customs standards and tariffs will be applied. It is a bilateral clause, but has an internal element that is highly multilateral. In addition to these principles, a whole series of agreements were purely technical, seen as political steps, which allowed the international regime to strengthen itself in many areas. In the Treaty of Versailles, for example, the protection of submarine cables is regulated, which is essential if we want to safeguard telecommunications in a global world. The Treaty of Versailles even regulates the standardization of railways. The Treaty of Versailles tries to standardise these issues. For example, there is the question of the publication of customs tariffs, which is also regulated in the Treaty of Versailles, there is even the question of standardizing trade statistics, the abolition of women's night work is being addressed, and there is a ban on phosphorus, which killed many of the two workers. There is an attempt to improve the metric system, there are postal and telegraph contracts. This is not only a question of a peace dictated to Germany, but it is truly an attempt to build a system that is increasingly international. Part XII of the pact regulates economic issues relating to ports, inland waterways and railways. The committee responsible for dealing with these issues was to draw up a general transport convention. This objective was not achieved, but was discussed at the Genoa Conference in 1922. They are evidence of the will to reorganize the world in the economic field.

These economic aspects were the foundation stone for the International Economic Conference in Genoa in 1922. This is the first time we have tried to reintegrate the powers that were not present in Paris, namely Germany and Russia. The Genoa conference, which has often been interpreted in historiography as the story of a failure, is nevertheless extremely interesting and important for all kinds of developments that will also succeed after the Second World War. For example, the Bank for International Settlements was established in 1930 in Basel as part of the Young Plan for Reparations. By creating this bank of international settlements, Versailles also marked the beginning of attempts to regulate the international monetary system. It was thanks to Versailles that it was possible in the last phase of the Second World War to think about the Bretton Woods system and the implementation of a World Bank.

The international system[edit | edit source]

The thesis is that the League of Nations did not fail, but it was torpedoed. The UN system is simply the continuation of the League of Nations under a new flag. In this sense, Versailles marks the beginning of a new era of public international law and the international system. This thesis seeks to revise current interpretations that view the League of Nations only as the story of a failure.

With Versailles, a new era in the history of public international law has begun, even if neither the Treaty of Versailles nor the League of Nations has succeeded in setting in motion an effective international peace order. In a historical or Hegelian sense, the Treaty of Versailles may seem to have been necessary for the construction after the Second World War of an order of peace based on the ideas of understanding, humanity, international justice and democratic self-determination of the international community. In the League of Nations system with the idea of prohibiting the war of aggression, there is the idea of a universal international organization whose purpose would be to impose this principle. In retrospect, the League of Nations was described above all as a missed opportunity, a judgment that never did justice to the intentions of its founders and its innovative elements. The League of Nations brought together the energies born of the most different currents and until then which were also competitors and which then managed to be organized in a certain way in this League of Nations which is a kind of condensation of these developments that we saw in the second half of the 19th century.

The League of Nations system provided leadership for the United Nations in terms of its thematic diversity. In fact, it was first and foremost an institution of modernization. It is a driving force for the modernization of international relations. There was an organization for transport and transit, there was an organization for public health, for intellectual work and many others. The staff of the League of Nations came from all Member States and all these people worked together in Geneva. The Geneva institutions created with the Treaty of Paris have played a decisive role in the social dimension of international relations.

One of the fundamental innovations that came out of the recognition of social injustice, misery and that misery and deprivation could lead to conflict and war is enshrined in the preamble of the International Labour Organization. The ILO is an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles. The ILO was one of the most progressive elements of the new international order, as it included, so to speak, elements of an international organization from below. It was also a response of the Western powers, and therefore of the liberal world, to the challenges of the Russian Revolution. The importance of the International Labour Organization for States became particularly striking when States that did not or no longer belong to the League of Nations nevertheless decided to become or remain members. The United States became a member in 1934 at the same time as the Soviet Union, which also joined the League of Nations. Germany and Austria belonged to the ILO before 1926 when they joined the League of Nations. Even Japan, which is leaving the League of Nations, was part of the ILO until 1940, even though it had left the League of Nations in 1935. Even if there is a major policy that causes the powers to leave the League of Nations, there are elements that make it possible for some countries to remain members in order to participate. The ILO was one of the technical organizations of the Nation Society system that more or less directly after the Second World War did not join the United Nations.

The Versailles system of international organizations has provided something significant also in the general international field and also in transnational relations. These norms and rules with a high level of legitimacy have formed standards that had an effectiveness that is absolutely not to be underestimated for the State. Compared to the United Nations, the League of Nations already had a fairly ingenious repertoire in the field of collective security. However, it suffered from a major deficit in a second area in which the United Nations now plays an essential role, that of human rights. The period between the two wars is a period in which collective rights, and therefore the self-determination of peoples, will begin, but not yet individual rights. The whole story of the failure of Versailles is a preparation for what will happen with the United Nations and later with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

History as much as the continuation of the war by other means[edit | edit source]

Versailles also marked the beginning of the establishment of the contemporary history of international relations as a scientific discipline. In paragraph 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, the victors defined Germany and its allies as guilty of starting the war. This article defining guilt was something new in international relations. In the context of section 231, there is a direct link to history. If we could use archival evidence to show that Germany was not guilty of starting the war, we could have revised the Treaty of Versailles. If we can show that Germany is not guilty, we can have a revision of the Treaty of Versailles.

That is why the German state will really invest millions to open up German archives and publish documents. It is thanks to the publication of German documents concerning very recent history that a revisionist school will develop, especially in the United States, which follows the German point of view and which was convinced that Germany was not only guilty for the development of the First World War. The archives' opening for research is a step forward for Versailles because by opening the archives, the Germans wanted to show that they were not the only ones responsible, but that it was really the race to colonialism from the 1880s onwards that had led to this war. France and Great Britain were also forced to open their own archives and publish their own documents.

Towards the end of the 1930s, for the first time in history, historians had at their disposal documents that were recent and related to the period that had barely passed and that were not falsified and were authentic. Thus, today, the establishment of the scientific discipline of contemporary history is also emerging from Versailles. Versailles also led to a more scientific, source-based and democratic conception of history because, thanks to its sources, researchers from all over the world could reconstruct history from the end of the 19th century onwards.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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