The Versailles Treaty


The Versailles Treaty Essay, Research Paper

In the peace settlement Germany was forced to accept sole

responsibility for causing World War I. This was a totally justifiable

demand on the part of the victorious powers. The Treaty of Versailles was enacted into history in June 1919 with

Germany forced to accept sole responsibility for causing World War I.

Since then there has been considerable debate concerning the war but

even today historians still cannot fully agree upon the causes. Some

support has been given to the theory that Germany was totally

responsible for the war however substantial evidence does not

support that view. Therefore the insistence by the victorious powers

to include in the Treaty that Germany accept total blame cannot be

justified. This essay examines certain events and actions prior to the

July crisis. These caused tension and hostility among nations but did

not have a direct bearing upon the war. Also it has been determined

that there were decisions and courses of action taken by several

nations following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand heir to the

Austrian-Hungarian throne which did have a direct bearing upon World

War I. Development of political and military alliances caused tension and

hostility among nations leading up to World War I. Two major alliance

systems developed due to conflicting national interests which had

been evident during the past two decades throughout Europe. These

were the “Triple Alliance” of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy and

the “Triple Entente” of Britain, France and Russia. Also several smaller

countries became indirectly involved in the alliances which effectively

divided Europe into two “Armed Camps”. Russia pledged to support

Serbia in order to prevent further Austrian-Hungarian expansion into

the Balkans. Germany stated its support for Austria-Hungary and

Britain had given its support for Belgium’s neutrality in 1839. However

while these political and military alliances existed there is no direct

evidence to indicate that any nation declared war on that basis. There

had been several ‘crisis’ during the period 1905-1913. First the

Moroccan crisis involving France and Germany during 1905 and 1911.

No wars eventuated only tensions and fears regarding Germanys

aggressive expansionist policies. Britain supported France being

involved in Morocco and France conceded some territory in the Congo

to Germany. Second the 1908 Balkans crisis eventuated because of

the collapse of the Ottoman [Turkish] Empire. Austria-Hungary

annexed the provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serbia was insensed

and sought Russian assistance. Germany became involved and Russia

backed down. Finally two wars developed in the Balkans. The first

Balkan war [1912] was between Turkey and the Balkan League

[Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece] with Turkey being driven out of the

Balkans. The second Balkan war ! [1913] occurred between Bulgaria and Serbia/Greece. Winning this war

strengthened Serbs position and this gave Austria-Hungary concern

regarding its influence in the Balkans. The main significance of the

Balkan wars was the position of Britain and France placing restraint on

Russia and Germany restraining Austria-Hungary. This did not happen

with the July crisis of 1914 which resulted in World War I. [Condron -

The Making of the Modern World] Also the two Balkan wars resulted in

renewed antagonism between Bulgaria and the other Balkan states

especially Serbia and caused general dissatisfaction because of the

interference of the great powers in Balkan politics.[Grolier - World

War I]. Evidence does support that while the various events discussed

did not contribute directly to World War I they did indeed contribute

to extreme tensions and suspicions between the great powers and

certainly fueled the arms race which in effect prepared nations for the

total disaster that was to follow the July crisis. The arms race which mainly involved Britain and Germany began in

1896 when Germany took the decision to significantly expand its navy.

This intense competition which developed created significant tensions

between nations. The intensity to expand was further fueled following

each major crisis which developed during the period 1905-1913.

Britain hardened its position towards Germany. The arms race also

extended to other areas such as the expansion and modernization of

armies. Evidence suggests that due to the large increase in

expenditure on navies and armies together with transport and

equipment Britain and the European nations were in fact preparing for

a war that they knew would eventuate at some stage. Germany

ignited the arms race with its aim to develop a navy two thirds the

size of Britain’s to protect the vulnerable North Sea and possibly

through the fear of “encirclement” but evidence supports that Britain

led the arms race and thus this action contributed significantly

towards the carnage and destruction that resulted from World War I. The assassination of Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of

Austria-Hungary occurred on the 28 June, 1914. This crisis was seen

as the key event that started World War I. Austria-Hungary were

presented with an opportunity to move against Serbia and resolve it’s

Balkan problems. Germany agreed to support Austria-Hungary and

presented them with the infamous “Blank Cheque” resulting in

unconditional support. Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum

containing impossible demands in effect provoking war with Serbia.

However Serbia agreed to most of the demands. Germany advised

Austria-Hungary to negotiate but instead they declared war on Serbia

(28 July 1914). Russia immediately mobilised its troops and Germany

supported Austria-Hungary. By August 1914 all major European

powers except Italy, had become involved. Britain delayed its entry

until German troops moved through Belgium in order to attack France. The alliance system failed to prevent war as previously but perhaps

nations did not expect it to escalate outside the Austria-Hungary and

Serbian borders. Russian mobilisation may have been a show of

strength for Serbia or perhaps it was in relation to the Schlieffen Plan.

However the speed with which the mobilisation of European armies

occurred would not have given time for negotiation. The Schlieffen

plan was put into action by Germany and controlled by the Generals

rather than the German government. It was apparently very rigid in

nature and it was the Schlieffen Plan or nothing even though Germany

at that point had no specific quarrel with France. However what really contributed to the commencement of World War

I. Historians today still cannot agree upon the causes. Nevertheless it

is suggested that the events leading up to the July crisis such as

imperial rivalry, arms race, alliances and the Balkan wars though not

directly related must share some blame. This view can be supported

due to the immense tensions and hostility that was generated among

Britain and the European nations. Evidence suggests that there was no single major cause for World

War I but in effect there was several major events associated with its

commencement. For instance the assassination of the

Austrian-Hungarian heir Franz Ferdinand while an important event

because it triggered off a series of events did not have any direct

bearing on the war. However the Austrian-Hungary declaration of war

upon Serbia did and this hatred for Serbia had been building up over

many years. Also blame can be shared by Russia, Germany and France

over their mobilisation plans-particularly Russia who commenced

action first. Germany was further to blame for its totally unconditional

support for Austrlia-Hungary who was the aggressor in the war with

Serbia. It seems their thinking was that the war would be contained

within the Balkans. Finally Britain must share some blame because

had they been more decisive in supporting France then Germany would

most certainly have had second thoughts about invading France under

the Schlieffen Plan. Military alliances resulting in Germany’s encirclement, diplomatic

mistakes, the arms race, imperial rivalries and immediate causes

combined to cause World War I eg/ July Crisis. Each was a signficant

factor, no one cause was the sole cause. It is clear that the Articals of

the Treaty of Versailles, claiming sole German responsibility for

causeing World War I was unjust, thus it was a shared responsibility

for the cause of World War I.

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