History 490K (201) Seminar for History Majors: The Treaty of Versailles at 100
In January 1919, two months after the armistice that effectively ended the Great War, hundreds of statesmen and diplomats from thirty-two countries around the world gathered in Paris to draw up a series of treaties; for many of them, this was an opportunity to solve all the world’s outstanding geopolitical problems “in one stroke” and ensure peace for generations to come. This naturally did not come to pass, and the Conference quickly acquired a terrible reputation that has survived into the twenty-first century.
While the Conference might strike us today as a quintessential example of Western hubris, is it reasonable to hold the diplomats and statesmen of 1919 responsible for so many of the world’s ills? Some scholars have recently claimed that the Conference was much more innovative than it is often given credit for, and that it gave birth to our modern international system.
In order to evaluate the Conference objectively, we will study the events leading up to it (including the outbreak of war in 1914), its proceedings, the Treaties that it produced, the actors and institutions who participated in it, and its immediate aftermath, all in their proper historical context.