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Study notes

The Treaty of Versailles (1919)

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was the peace treaty which ended the First World War. It was agreed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The victorious powers (known as the Big Three) drew up the terms of the Treaty, which was one of compromise, to please everyone (except Germany that is).

The Treaty of Versailles covered four main areas:

1.Military Restrictions on Germany

Before the war, Germany had built up a large military force, which was a concern to its European neighbours. France wanted to ensure that this would not happen again, so sought to weaken German military strength significantly. The Treaty required that:

  • Germany could not have over 100,000 soldiers and could not force men to join the army via conscription.
  • Germany was not allowed to own submarines or aircraft and its Navy could only have six ships.

2. Territory changes

Germany had been a very large European country before the First World War, and the Treaty made changes to the borders of Germany in Europe:

  • Alsace-Lorraine become part of France
  • The Rhineland was demilitarised
  • North Schleswig was given to Denmark
  • Saarland would be run by the League of Nations
  • West Prussia was given to Poland to create a Polish corridor to the sea
  • The city of Danzig was made a free city to be run by the League of Nations.

Germany, like Britain and France, had an empire in Africa and the Pacific. The Treaty stripped Germany of her colonial possessions and gave them to the League of Nations (these would be called mandates). The League asked Britain and France to run them.

3. Reparations

The Treaty required Germany to pay reparations for war damage with the final total set as £6.6 billion. This was a huge amount of money at the time and would have taken Germany a long time to repay.

4. War Guilt

Article 231 of the Treaty required that Germany take the blame for starting the First World War. It is perhaps the part of the Treaty which upset the German people the most, as they didn’t feel Germany was responsible for starting the war.

The Treaty of Versailles was deeply unpopular in Germany, not the least because most people didn’t believe that Germany had been defeated. Those who agreed to the Treaty terms were accused of having “stabbed Germany in the back” (“Dolchstoss”). The Treaty linked Germany to defeat and international weakness.


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