CONSEQUENCES OF THE PEACE: THE VERSAILLES SETTLEMENT – AFTERMATH AND LEGACY
MAKERS OF THE MODERN WORLD SERIES
by ALAN SHARP
This final volume in the series evaluates the immediate and later effects of the last great peace gathering which sought to settle the world’s affairs at a stroke – something that was not attempted after either the Second World War or the Cold War. The Versailles settlement has not enjoyed a great reputation. It has been blamed for causing a second major conflict within a generation, thus apparently fulfilling Marshal Foch’s gloomy prediction that ‘This is not a peace, it is an armistice for twenty years’. More recently commentators have suggested that the post-1989 ethnic disturbances in the Balkans and on the fringes of the former Soviet Union are ‘the old chickens of Versailles coming home to roost’. The contemporary world still struggles to come to terms with the implications of President Woodrow Wilson’s troublesome principle of national self-determination, and remains embroiled in the ambiguities and complexities of the Middle East, an area for whose boundaries and problems the Great War and settlement bear significant responsibility. We are also still seeking to realise more effectively some of the nobler ambitions of the peacemakers, expressed in the Covenant of the League of Nations, in their concern for the human rights of minority nationalities left on the wrong side of the new borders that they sanctioned, and in their attempt to extend criminal responsibility for war beyond the operational irregularities of combatants to political and military leaders. Ninety years on, the settlement still casts a long shadow.
Alan Sharp was Professor of International Studies and later Provost at the University of Ulster.
Publication Date: Nov. 2011