Paul Hymans

by Sally Marks

On 4 February 1919 in the League of Nations Commission at the Paris Peace Conference, Paul Hymans resisted minimal representation of small states on the League Council by shouting at Lord Robert Cecil, What you propose is a revival of the Holy Alliance of unhallowed memory! It was Hymans, above all, who struggled to give the small states at the Conference a voice, making himself deeply disliked in the process. He was was rewarded by becoming the League s first president. Belgium had suffered the greatest degree of devastation in the Great War. When the country was liberated and the Peace Conference was set up, it was determined to succeed in its claims for territory and reparations. Equally important was the need for security from larger nations ambitions. Only some of these would be achieved at Versailles, leaving a lasting legacy which influenced the country s policy as the Second World War approached. Hymans instigated Belgium s transition from the status of sheltered child to full participation in much great-power diplomacy.

SALLY MARKS is an independent historian in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. She is author of The Ebbing of European Ascendancy: An International History of the World 1914-1945 (2002), The Illusion of Peace: International Relations in Europe 1918-1933 (1976, rev. ed. 2003) and Innocent Abroad: Belgium at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 (1981), winner of the AHA s George Louis Beer prize in international history.

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