The Versailles Conference  

The road to long-term peace or a disaster waiting to happen?

In order to negotiate peace treaties between the victorious Allied Powers and the vanquished Central Powers, the First World War victors established the Paris Peace Conference (also known as the Versailles Conference) in 1919.

The conference resulted in the more widely known signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Taking place, the year after the end of the First World War, they met in Paris in 1919.


...ultimately, the conference produced five treaties...

The decision to hold the conference in Paris was a contentious decision in and of itself. Wilson disliked Switzerland as an option, fearing the country was "saturated with every kind of poisonous element and open to every hostile element in Europe".

As for Paris, Lloyd George felt he was powerless to resist Clemenceau: "I never wanted to hold the Conference in his bloody capital...but the old man wept and protested so much that we gave way."

Such a large conference could be held in Paris - it certainly had the infrastructure and facilities, but the city's recent threat from German armies did not exactly encourage moderation or charity. 

Ultimately, the conference produced five treaties that reorganised the maps of Europe, sections of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands, and imposed financial penalties.

British soldiers shelter in a trench during the First World War - at that point, the most brutal conflict in human history.

The 'Versailles Conference'

The Paris Peace Conference, which would ultimately signify the official end of the First World War, took place between the 18th January 1919, and the 21st of January, 1920. The negotiations took place at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris.

It is frequently referred to as the "Versailles Conference," even though only the signing of the first treaty took place there in the historic palace. 

The other four treaties (relating to the other Central Powers countries) would be signed elsewhere..   

    Five major peace treaties were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference (with, in parentheses, the affected countries):

    The location of the signing of the five principal treaties within the Île de France region.

    User:Sting - Wikimedia Commons

    ...the conference primarily revolved around the Treaty of Versailles...

    The conference aimed to negotiate and draft peace treaties with the defeated Central Powers, particularly Germany.

    The major Allied powers, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, played key roles in the decision-making process. The conference primarily revolved around the Treaty of Versailles, which was focused on Germany.

    Official delegates photograph taken at the conference.

    Paris Peace Conference Photograph by Granger - Fine Art America

    ...27 countries actively engaged in the conference...

    The participation of diplomats from 32 different nations and nationalities reflected the global scale and significance of the conference. The delegation diversity highlighted the need to address a wide range of geopolitical, economic, and territorial issues arising from the war.

    Delegates from 27 countries actively engaged in the conference proceedings (delegates representing 5 nationalities were for the most part ignored), distributed across 52 commissions, each tasked with specific areas of concern.

    ...reports on subjects ranging from assigning culpability for the conflict...

    These commissions held a staggering 1,646 sessions, reflecting the exhaustive efforts to address the multifaceted consequences of the war.

    The inclusion of specialists in various fields, such as legal experts and scholars, assisted in crafting comprehensive reports on subjects ranging from assigning culpability for the conflict to technical matters like undersea cables.

    Transcript of President Woodrow Wilson's words from the 3rd Plenary Session of the Paris Peace Conference on the 14th February 1919.

    Documents from the Paris Peace Conference | National WWI Museum and Memorial (

    Seating chart of the delegates at the Paris Peace Conference.

    Documents from the Paris Peace Conference | National WWI Museum and Memorial (

    ...a pivotal role in shaping the post-war settlement...

    The Council of Four was a crucial decision-making body at the conference, and consisted of the leaders of the major Allied powers, and it played a pivotal role in shaping the post-war settlement.

    The Council of Ten was a precursor to the Big Four and was initially formed during the early stages of the peace negotiations.

    However, it evolved into the Council of Four, which played a more prominent role in the decision-making process

    The Council of Four (Also known as the 'Big Four') at the Paris Peace Conference.

    ...played a central role in shaping the peace negotiations...

    The key members of the Council of Four were:

    Woodrow Wilson (United States):

    Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921, encompassing the crucial period of the First World War from 1914 to 1918.

    During this time, Wilson pursued a policy of neutrality before ultimately leading the United States into the conflict in 1917, contributing to the Allied victory

    President Wilson was a key figure in the Council of Four and played a central role in shaping the peace negotiations.

    He brought with him the Fourteen Points, a set of principles outlining his vision for a just and lasting peace, and advocated for the establishment of the League of Nations.

    ...ensuring British security and economic interests...

    David Lloyd George (United Kingdom):

    David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, played a pivotal role during the First World War.

    Known for his sterling efforts as Minister for Munitions in 1915 and 1916, he then became Prime Minister and his strategic leadership helped steer the UK through the war, overseeing mobilization efforts and contributing significantly to Allied victories.

    Lloyd George represented the interests of the United Kingdom at the conference. He was concerned with both addressing the issues resulting from the war and ensuring British security and economic interests.

    ...punishing Germany and securing French national security...

    Georges Clemenceau (France):

    Georges Clemenceau, "The Tiger," was a French statesman who served as Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909 and again from 1917 until 1920.

    His determined leadership guided the nation through the challenges of the conflict, contributing to the Allied victory on the Western Front.

    Clemenceau, the French Premier, was known for his strong stance on punishing Germany and securing French national security.

    He advocated for harsh measures against Germany to prevent any future aggression.

    ...recognition of Italy's wartime contributions...

    Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (Italy)

    Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, an Italian statesman, played a prominent role up until 1918. Born in 1860, Orlando served as Italy's Prime Minister from 1917 to 1919.

    He represented Italy at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, advocating for territorial gains and recognition of Italy's wartime contributions.

    However, due to disagreements over territorial gains promised to Italy in exchange for its participation in the war, Orlando left the conference early, and Italy was not fully represented in the later stages.

    ...territorial boundaries, military restrictions, reparations, and the establishment of the League of Nations...

    In addition to the original Council of Four members, Japan's Prime Minister, Baron Makino, was sometimes included as the fifth member during specific discussions.

    The inclusion of Japan in this extended format was an attempt to address issues related to the Pacific and Asia.

    Prior to the conference, each leader had established their own principles and goals for the peace settlement. The Council held numerous formal and informal meetings to discuss and negotiate various aspects of the peace treaties.

    They addressed issues such as territorial boundaries, military restrictions, reparations, and the establishment of the League of Nations.

    Military restrictions: German soldiers push a pair of dummy tanks. 1925. The outcome of the Paris Peace Conference would see severe restrictions placed on Germans military.

    The inflatable dummy tanks of battlefields, 1918-1945 - Rare Historical Photos

    ...promoting international cooperation and preventing future conflicts...

    The Council of Four engaged in extensive negotiations and compromises to reach agreements on various issues, including territorial adjustments, reparations, and the establishment of the League of Nations. 

    Specialized commissions and committees were set up to focus on specific topics, and experts were appointed to deal with technical details.

    These groups provided recommendations to the Council.

    Wilson's Fourteen Points and his proposal for the League of Nations, aimed at promoting international cooperation and preventing future conflicts, was a significant focus of the Council of Four's discussions. While the League was included in the Treaty of Versailles, the U.S. Senate's rejection later led to the United States not joining the League.

    Cartoon commenting on the Paris Peace Conference.

    Paris Peace Conference | Mr. McCullough's Social Studies (

    ...engaged in tense discussions over the Treaty of Versailles...

    Other countries sent delegations to lobby for a number of ultimately unsuccessful additions to the treaties, lobbying for causes ranging from Japan's proposal for racial equality to independence for the South Caucasus countries.

    Weimar Germany faced significant challenges as its fate was determined. Established amidst the political turmoil at home, it sought fair treatment.

    The German delegation, excluded from early negotiations, later engaged in tense discussions over the Treaty of Versailles.

    The harsh terms imposed on Germany, including territorial losses and crippling reparations, ignited resentment, contributing to political instability.

    The Council of Four played a central role in drafting and finalizing the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on the 28th June, 1919.

    The treaty imposed significant penalties on Germany, including territorial losses, disarmament, and reparations.


    One of the conference's main issues was how to handle Germany's former colonies abroad. The British dominions desired compensation for their sacrifice (Austria-Hungary had no significant colonies, and the Ottoman Empire was a separate problem).

    South Africa wanted Southwest Africa, New Zealand wanted Samoa, and Australia wanted New Guinea. U.S. President Wilson favoured having the League oversee all German colonies until they were capable of declaring their independence. There should be three different types of mandates, Lloyd George suggested as a compromise after realising he had to support his dominions.

    ...the African colonies would require rigorous oversight...

    • One type of mandate was for the Turkish provinces, which would be split between Britain and France.
    • The mandates could hardly be awarded to anybody other than Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa for the second group, which included New Guinea, Samoa, and Southwest Africa because they were situated so close to the relevant supervisors.
    • Finally, the "Class B" mandates for the African colonies would require rigorous oversight, which could only be delivered by seasoned colonial powers: Britain, France, and Belgium, even though Italy and Portugal acquired relatively modest amounts of land.

    Wilson and the others agreed to the solution. The colonies that the dominions requested obtained "Class C Mandates." Japanese mandates were granted over German territories located north of the equator.

    At the Peace Conference in Paris, 22nd January 1919. The Emir Faisal (1885 - 1933) king of the Helaz, who became King Faisal I of Iraq (centre) with (left to right) General Nuri Es-Sa'id (1888 - 1958); Anglo-Irish soldier and Arabist Thomas Edward Shaw (Lawrence of Arabia, 1888 - 1935); and Captain Pisani of the French Mission.

    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    The British Plans

    The British participants to the conference had the following priorities set before they arrived at the meeting. Established in order of importance, and in addition to their larger goal of maintaining the unity, territories, and interests of the British Empire, they were:

    • Ensuring France's security
    • Removing the German High Seas Fleet's threat
    • Resolving territorial disputes
    • Supporting the League of Nations

    HMS Iron Duke, flagship of the British Grand Fleet during the First World War. Lloyd George wanted to ensure Britain maintained naval supremacy over Germany.

    The Racial Equality Proposal, put forth by the Japanese, did not directly conflict with any core British interest. However, as the conference went on, its full implications on immigration to the British dominions, with Australia taking particular exception, would become a major point of contention within the delegation.

    The British were able to reject attempts by the representatives of the newly established Irish Republic to make their case to the conference for self-determination, diplomatic recognition, and membership in the proposed League of Nations. 

    ...Lloyd George adopted a measured approach to the issue of Germany. He had no wish to see them retain their military power...

    Britain had reluctantly agreed to the attendance of other separate dominion delegations.

    The Pragmatic Lloyd George adopted a measured approach to the issue of Germany. He had no wish to see them retain their military power – particularly at sea but equally realised that a healthy and flourishing Germany could foster beneficial trade links with the UK.

    Photograph of the British Air Section at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919. Major General Sir Frederick Sykes is seated front row centre. On Sykes's right is Colonel P R C Groves (Air Advisor to the British Ambassador) and on his left is Mr H White-Smith (representing civil aviation).

    Standing at the back are (as shown left to right): Captain Crosbie, Captain Tindal-Atkinson, an unidentified major, Colonel L F Blandy and Captain Lyall.

    High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. HMSO. ISBN 0-11-772635-4

    The Dominions

    Although they were not initially extended separate invitations to the meeting, the dominion governments were expected to send a delegation as part of the British delegation.

    Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden insisted that his country be given a special seat at the conference because of its involvement in the conflict.

    That was first opposed by both the United States and Britain, which considered a Dominion delegation as an additional British vote. In response, Borden noted that Canada had at least the right to the representation of a "minor" power because it had lost approximately 60,000 men, a significantly higher percentage of its male population than the 50,000 men lost by the United States.

    ...Despite suffering significant losses throughout the conflict, Canada opted not to request mandates or reparations...

    Finally relenting, Lloyd George persuaded the recalcitrant Americans to accept the representatives from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Newfoundland, and Canada as well as their own seats in the League of Nations. Despite suffering significant losses throughout the conflict, Canada opted not to request mandates or reparations.

    The impressively moustachioed Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden.

    National Archives of Canada / The Canadian Press

    Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes and his cheeky smile after returning from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

    Fairfax Corporation - National Library of Australia (

    ...his fears regarding Japanese expansion would soon prove to be correct....

    Billy Hughes, the prime minister of Australia, led the delegation, which fought tenaciously for its demands of racial reparations, the annexation of German New Guinea, and the rejection of the Racial Equality Proposal.

    If it was made clear that the idea did not grant any right to enter Australia, he indicated he would not oppose to it.

    The ascent of Japan worried him. Japan, Australia, and New Zealand acquired all of Germany's assets in the Far East and the Pacific Ocean within months of the beginning of war in 1914.

    With the British's approval, Japan occupied German territory, although Hughes was troubled by the move. His fears regarding Japanese expansion would soon prove to be correct.

    The French approach

    The group under the command of French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau had a primary objective of strategically weakening Germany militarily, tactically, and economically during the post-First World War peace conference.

    Clemenceau's focus on limiting Germany's military capabilities stemmed from the historical animosity between the two countries and the recent history of two German attacks on French soil in the preceding 40 years. Given this context, Clemenceau aimed to ensure that Germany would not pose a future threat to France.

    Clemenceau's hard-line approach was driven by the need for a joint American-British guarantee of French security in the event of another German attack. Seeking assurances from the United States and Britain, he wanted to establish a strong defense against any potential aggression from Germany.

    The disputed region of Alsace-Lorraine which Clemenceau wanted returned to France.

    French soldiers resting during the First World War. The French - motivated by the enormous losses it had suffered during the conflict - adopted a hard line approach towards the Germans.

    WW1 Colorized Photos | Others (

    The urgency of his stance reflected the geographical proximity of France and Germany, coupled with the scars of past conflicts.

    While one potential French course of action could have involved improving relations with Germany, diplomatic efforts by René Massigli in Berlin faced challenges. German Foreign Minister Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau was skeptical of French intentions, believing that the United States was more likely to advocate for milder terms in the peace treaty.

    Consequently, Germany rejected the French offers, suspecting that they might be a ploy to secure acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles without significant changes.

    ...emphasizing the importance of creating a lasting peace...

    Interestingly, it was British Prime Minister Lloyd George who stood out as a proponent for more favorable conditions for Germany during the peace negotiations.

    Despite Clemenceau's firm stance, George advocated for a less punitive approach, emphasizing the importance of creating a lasting peace with fair terms for all parties involved.

    This divergence in approach among the Allied leaders highlighted the complexities and differing priorities in shaping the post-war settlement.

    Italian disappointment

    Despite the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914, Italy remained neutral at the start of the First World War.

    However, in order to obtain the lands promised by the Triple Entente in the covert Treaty of London, it allied with the Allies in 1915.

    These lands included Trentino, the Tyrol up to Brenner, Trieste, Istria, the majority of the Dalmatian Coast (except Fiume), Valona, a protectorate over Albania, Antalya (in Turkey), and perhaps colonies in Africa.

    Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando tried to obtain full implementation of the Treaty of London, as agreed by France and Britain before the war.  

    The Italian government and people felt entitled to all of those territories, as well as others not mentioned in the Treaty of London, particularly Fiume, which many Italians believed should be annexed to Italy because of the city's Italian population.

    Map of the Free City of Fiume and surroundings, 1920.

    (21) Zveiner (u/Zveiner) - Reddit

    ...many Italians felt this was a muted victory...

    Italy won Istria, Trieste, Trentino, and South Tyrol during the conference. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes received the majority of Dalmatia, while Fiume remained contested territory, infuriating Italian nationalists. 

    Other outcomes included Italy's permanent participation in the League of Nations and the Allies' agreement to give Italian territories British Jubaland and the French Aozou strip. 

    Despite also gaining protectorates over Albania and Antalya, many Italians felt this was a muted victory, which ultimately cost Orlando his job - he was forced to resign shortly afterwards.

    This perceived failure at the conference spurred on the Italian nationalists and fascists, which in itself would help lead to the rise of fascism itself in Italy and ultimately send the country on its path to joining the Axis in the Second World War.

    Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy watching military manoeuvres in 1938. Italian frustration with the outcome of the Paris Peace Conference would contribute to its eventual joining the Axis powers and alignment with Adollf Hitler and the Nazis.

    (22) Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy watching military manoeuvres in 1938 (colorized) [780x520] : HistoryPorn (

    Japanese discontent

    A notable Japanese delegation, headed by Marquis Saionji Kinmochi, a former prime minister, was dispatched to the post-First World War peace conference.

    Originally part of the "big five" nations, Japan relinquished this influential position, primarily due to its limited engagement in European politics.

    The delegation, led de facto by the former foreign minister Baron Makino Nobuaki, focused on two key objectives during the negotiations.

    Firstly, Japan sought the incorporation of its Racial Equality Proposal into the League of Nations Covenant. This proposal aimed at ensuring equal treatment of all races within the League, challenging prevailing discriminatory practices.

    Secondly, Japan pressed its territorial claims over former German territories, specifically Shantung and the Pacific Islands situated north of the Equator. These islands encompassed the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Mariana Islands, and the Carolines.

    ...highlighted Japan's discontent with the outcomes and underscored its commitment to advancing its national interests on the international stage...

    Despite Saionji Kinmochi's symbolic role as the leader, his influence was constrained due to a history of illness, with Baron Makino Nobuaki emerging as the de facto leader of the Japanese delegation.

    The dissatisfaction of the Japanese representatives grew when they were granted only half of Germany's rights, prompting them to leave the peace conference.

    This departure highlighted Japan's discontent with the outcomes and underscored its commitment to advancing its national interests on the international stage.

    The episode also reflected broader tensions and disparities within the League of Nations, contributing to the geopolitical complexities of the post-war era.

    Marquis Saionji Kinmochi lead the Japanese delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.

    Saionji Kimmochi | Meiji era, Genro, Peace Treaty | Britannica

    The Japanese delegation at the Conference, with (seated left to right) former Foreign Minister Baron Makino Nobuaki, former Prime Minister Marquis Saionji Kinmochi, and Japanese Ambassador to Great Britain Viscount Chinda Sutemi

    Bain News Service - Library of Congress

    An optimistic USA

    No sitting American president had ever visited the continent before Wilson arrived in December 1918.

    As the war came to a close, Wilson's Fourteen Points—which included Germany and her allies as well as former Ottoman Empire subjects—had helped win over many hearts and minds in America and throughout Europe. So Wilson entered the conference as a popular and well-respected figure.

    An optimistic Wilson believed that playing a significant role in the peace talks was his responsibility and obligation to the people of the world.

    He was expected to fulfil his promises for the postwar era with great hope and expectation.

    As a result, Wilson eventually started to steer American foreign policy in the direction of interventionism, a development that has since encountered fierce opposition in some home quarters.

    A depiction of Wilson addressing the conference members on the issue of the League of Nations.  Corbis

    ...Wilson's attempts to win complete support for his Fourteen Points finally failed...

    Once Wilson arrived, however, he found pre-existing rivalries and tensions already clashed with his ideals.

    After France and Britain declined to adopt several of its specific points and guiding concepts, Wilson's attempts to win complete support for his Fourteen Points finally failed.

    Many of his ideas ran counter to what the other powers wanted. For example, the United States did not support or hold - the solely German responsibility for the war, as imposed by Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles - to be just or justifiable.

    This was in complete contrast to the French viewpoint.

    President Woodrow Wilson on his return from the Paris Peace Conference. an effort to placate Wilson, France and Britain agreed to the creation of his League of Nations...

    Conflicting interests and rights, as well as the new mandate system, complicated negotiations in the Middle East.

    According to the Fourteen Points, the United States aimed to create a more liberal and diplomatic world where democracy, sovereignty, liberty, and self-determination would be honoured.

    On the other side, France and Britain already had empires under their control, had influence over people all over the world, and still sought to be the leading colonial powers.

    Among the first maps made by Wilson’s advisers, in November 1917, to prepare for the reconstitution of Poland.

    University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

    Mapping the Paris Peace- Mapping the Nation Blog

    In an effort to placate Wilson, France and Britain agreed to the creation of his League of Nations. The US, however, never ratified the Treaty of Versailles or joined the League due to strong isolationist sentiment and some League Charter provisions that were in violation with the US Constitution.

    Pass to attend the Peace Conference, given to journalist Faith Hunter Dodge. The pass notes that a special train was available from Paris to take her to the Palace of Versailles. Faith Hunter Dodge was a freelance writer who attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as an official journalist with the United States Army. While there, she represented the New York-based newspaper La Prensa.

    Paris Peace Conference | National WWI Museum and Memorial (

    The Greek View

    During the Paris summit, Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos emerged as a pivotal figure, earning the highest personal rating from President Wilson among all the delegates.

    Venizelos, driven by the Megali Idea, proposed the expansion of Greek territory into Thrace, Imvros, and Tenedos—formerly part of the Ottoman Empire and the defeated Kingdom of Bulgaria.

    ...Venizelos advocated for the establishment of a Pontic-Armenian state...

    Collaborating with the Italians, he negotiated the Venizelos-Tittoni agreement, resulting in the acquisition of the Dodecanese (excluding Rhodes) by Greece.

    Additionally, Venizelos advocated for the establishment of a Pontic-Armenian state as a solution for the Pontic Greeks.

    As a liberal politician, Venizelos ardently supported the League of Nations and President Wilson's Fourteen Points, aligning himself with the principles of international cooperation, diplomacy, and self-determination.

    This alliance demonstrated Venizelos's diplomatic prowess and strategic pursuit of territorial goals in accordance with the post-war vision outlined by the United States.

    The collaboration highlighted the significance of Venizelos's role in navigating Greece through the complex negotiations and geopolitical dynamics of the Paris Peace Conference.

    A map showing the Dodecanese islands which were awarded to Greece at the conference.

    The Chinese delegation

    At the Paris Peace Conference, the Chinese delegation, led by Lou Tseng-Tsiang and accompanied by Wellington Koo and Cao Rulin, faced significant challenges in asserting China's interests.

    Wellington Koo, a key figure in the delegation, passionately advocated for the restitution of Shandong, which had been ceded to Germany, and pushed for the elimination of imperialistic practices such as extraterritoriality, legation guards, and foreign leaseholds.

    ...underscored the prevalent disregard for China's aspirations...

    However, the Western nations, driven by their imperialistic agendas, rejected these demands.

    To China's dismay, the concessions made to Germany regarding Shandong were instead handed over to Japan.

    This decision, despite initial American support and the supposed commitment to the spirit of self-determination, underscored the prevalent disregard for China's aspirations within the conference.

    The repercussions of these unfavourable outcomes were felt deeply in China, notably sparking the May Fourth Movement, a series of massive student protests on the 4th May. The movement gained momentum as a response to the perceived betrayal at the Paris Peace Conference and the subjugation of Chinese interests.

    Ultimately, the Chinese government, under mounting pressure from the May Fourth Movement, refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, symbolized by the Chinese delegation abstaining from signing the pact during the ceremony.

    The May Fourth movement protesting in China.

    Other nations

    White Russia, although having battled the Central Powers for three years, was legally barred from the Conference. The "White Russians" refers to various anti-Bolshevik factions that opposed the Bolshevik government during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922).

    However, the former tsarist minister Sergey Sazonov attended the conference on behalf of the Russian Provincial Council, the political wing of the Russian White movement.

    Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky, assumed power after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. Sazonov, who had served as the Russian Foreign Minister before the revolution, continued to represent Russia during the early stages of the Paris Peace Conference.

    He represented the Provisional All-Russian Government, the Allied recognized government of Russia

    "Why aren't you in the army?" ("Отчего вы не въ арміи?") Volunteer Army recruitment poster during the Russian Civil War. The Volunteer Army existed from 1918 till 1920. Anton Denikin was the commander of the 1st Division of this army.

    Denikin poster - White movement - Wikipedia

    The Provisional All-Russian Government sought support from the Allied powers, particularly France, Britain, and the United States, for their cause against the Bolsheviks.

    They hoped to garner diplomatic recognition, military assistance, and financial aid to bolster their efforts to overthrow the Bolshevik regime and restore a more traditional form of government in Russia.

    However, the Allied powers were focused primarily on negotiating peace settlements to end the First World War and were hesitant to commit significant resources or support to the White Russian factions.

    While sympathetic to their cause to some extent, the Allies were also wary of becoming entangled in Russia's internal conflict and the complexities of the Russian Civil War.

    A guard of Bolshevik fighters in 1919 outside an agit-train or agitation train (agitpoezd) after the October Revolution of 1917. During the Russian Civil War these trains were used to spread propaganda and carried printing presses to make political leaflets and pamphlets to spread the ideals of the new regime around the remote parts of Russia, Ukraine and Siberia.

    The Bolshevik would ultimately prove victorious in the civil war but its government was not recognised by the Allied powers and was excluded from the Paris Peace Conference.

    Viacheslav Peregudov

    New colour images of Russian Revolution including Lenin and Tsar Nicholas II | Daily Mail Online

    Red Russia – or the new Bolshevik government - was a non-attendee at the conference.

    The Bolshevik governments choice to reject Russia's unpaid financial obligations to the Allies and disclose the contents of confidential agreements among the Allies regarding the postwar era provoked dissatisfaction among the Allies.

    Consequently, the Allied Powers declined to acknowledge the newly established Bolshevik Government, leading to the exclusion of its representatives from the Peace Conference.

    Ultimately, the Paris Peace Conference did not decisively address the Russian question, leaving the civil war's unresolved aftermath to significantly shape the course of 20th-century Russian history.

    Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuanian delegations attended the meeting as well. They were successful in getting international recognition for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania's independence.

    However, Ukraine was largely disregarded at the summit as the main participants debated whether or not a united Russia was preferable.

    Ukraine map presented by the Ukrainian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in a bid that was ultimately rejected, which led to the incorporation of Ukraine into the Soviet Union.

    Government of ZUNR in name of ZUNR and UNR, official document of government of Ukraine

    In an effort to have the international community recognise Belarus' independence, a delegation from the Belarusian Democratic Republic led by Prime Minister Anton 'uckievi' attended the meeting.

    ...the Korean nationalists' dreams of receiving foreign backing were dashed...

    A delegation of Koreans from China and Hawaii made it to Paris after the Korean National Association's attempt to send a three-man mission there was unsuccessful.

    It comprised Kim Kyu-sik, a representative of the Shanghai-based Korean Provisional Government. No country at the meeting, with the exception of China, took the Koreans seriously because they already had the status of a Japanese colony. The Korean nationalists' dreams of receiving foreign backing were dashed when they were unable to win support at the summit.

    The representatives from Belarus sought international recognition at the Paris Peace Conference.

    The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus, the three South Caucasian countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as the conference were all represented by delegations.

    Since none of the main countries was eager to take a mandate over the Caucasian regions, their attempts to obtain protection from the ensuing Russian Civil War's threats generally failed.


    The Treaty of Versailles with Germany, as well as treaties with the other vanquished states, incorporated significant suggestions.

    • The principal outcome was the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, which contained 15 chapters and 440 provisions and which, in Article 231, blamed Germany and her allies for all of the war's atrocities. That clause humiliated Germany severely and prepared the way for the costly reparations Germany was supposed to pay (it paid only a small portion before its last payment in 1931).
    • The League of Nations was founded,
    • Five peace treaties were signed with the defeated nations,
    • German and Ottoman overseas territories were given to Britain and France as "mandates,"
    • New national borders were drawn, sometimes with the help of plebiscites, to more closely reflect ethnic boundaries.

    A newspaper cartoon commenting on New Zealand's mandate over Samoa.

    ...nations emerged as separate entities...

    The Paris Peace Conference also led to the creation of several new nations, as the dismantling of empires and the redrawing of borders were central to the post-war settlement. Some of the notable new nations include:

    • Poland: Regained independence after more than a century of being partitioned between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.
    • Czechoslovakia: Formed as a sovereign state, comprising the Czechs and Slovaks, from the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    • Yugoslavia: Created as a kingdom, bringing together South Slavic peoples, including Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
    • Finland: Gained independence from Russia, becoming a separate and sovereign nation.
    • Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia: These Baltic states became independent after the collapse of the Russian and German empires.
    • Austria and Hungary: These nations emerged as separate entities following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    • Turkey: The Treaty of Sèvres aimed to dismantle the Ottoman Empire, leading to the establishment of modern Turkey through the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

    A map used by the American peace negotiators to argue for the coherence of a new Yugoslavian nation, grounded in ethnic and religious identities.

    Mapping the Paris Peace- Mapping the Nation Blog

    Wilsonian objectives, outlined in the Fourteen Points, served as the foundation for the terms of Germany's capitulation at the conference, much as they had earlier served as the basis for discussions between the German government and the Allies in the Armistice of November 11, 1918.

    John Berryman’s January 1919 commentary on the opening of the Paris Peace negotiations after the Great War.

    National Archives.

    Mapping the Paris Peace- Mapping the Nation Blog

    The Supreme Economic Council

    The establishment of the Supreme Economic Council (SEC) during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 marked a pivotal moment in international diplomacy, reflecting a recognition of the intricate interplay between economic factors and the pursuit of peace.

    Comprising representatives from key Allied powers including the United States, France, the British Empire, and Japan, the SEC wielded significant influence in advising the conference on economic matters central to the post-war reconstruction efforts and peace negotiations.

    ...a commitment to inclusivity and global cooperation...

    Beyond the major Allied powers, the SEC also welcomed representation from a diverse array of nations, underscoring a commitment to inclusivity and global cooperation in addressing economic challenges and fostering a sustainable peace.

    Nations such as Belgium, Brazil, China, Greece, Poland, and Romania had seats at the table, ensuring that a variety of perspectives and interests were considered in the decision-making process.

    "The World, Today and Yesterday" was a pamphlet published by Rand McNally in 1919. It includes maps of the changes to countries and territories brought about by the Paris Peace Conference, as well as information on the treaties, the League of Nations and provides summaries on key figures and events.

    ...the attribution of responsibility for the outbreak of war...

    In addition to its broad composition, the SEC demonstrated a nuanced approach to problem-solving by establishing specialized commissions to delve into specific issues of concern.

    These commissions tackled complex topics ranging from the formulation of the League of Nations Covenant—a foundational document outlining the principles and structure of the League—to the attribution of responsibility for the outbreak of war.

    By creating dedicated bodies to explore these intricate matters, the SEC facilitated a thorough examination of key issues and paved the way for informed decision-making during the peace negotiations.

    League of Nations

    Officially inaugurated on the 10th January, 1920, the League of Nations emerged as a pioneering initiative in international diplomacy, aiming primarily to foster global peace and security in the aftermath of the First World War.

    As the first worldwide intergovernmental organization of its kind, the League represented a collective effort among member nations to prevent future conflicts through diplomatic means, arbitration, and mutual cooperation.

    ...contentious debate ultimately led to the failure of the United States...

    However, the League encountered significant opposition and controversy, particularly in the United States. Critics argued that the League's establishment undermined the constitutional authority of the U.S. Congress to declare war, infringing upon American sovereignty and independence in matters of foreign policy.

    This contentious debate ultimately led to the failure of the United States to ratify any of the peace treaties negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference, thereby preventing the nation from becoming a member of the League.

    A Pro-Leage of Nations advert which appeared in the New York Times.

    ...a pragmatic approach to international relations...

    Despite the absence of U.S. participation, efforts to maintain international stability persisted. During the 1921-1923 Harding administration, alternative diplomatic strategies were pursued to address lingering tensions and establish a framework for peace in Europe.

    This led to the negotiation and conclusion of new treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary, signaling a pragmatic approach to international relations and a commitment to finding diplomatic solutions to the challenges of the post-war era.

    President Woodrow Wilson addresses a crowd in St. Louis, Missouri while on a speaking tour to promote the League of Nations in 1919. Despite his efforts, the treaty was not approved by Congress and the United States did not join the league.

    Bettman, Getty

    Why the League of Nations was doomed before it began | National Geographic

    ...the groundwork for subsequent international organizations...

    While the League of Nations faced obstacles and limitations, including its inability to prevent the outbreak of the Second World War, its establishment represented a significant milestone in the pursuit of global cooperation and collective security.

    The League's endeavors laid the groundwork for subsequent international organizations and initiatives aimed at promoting peace, human rights, and sustainable development on a global scale.


    The Paris Peace Conference of 1919, while achieving its primary goal of negotiating peace treaties to end the First World War, was marred by controversy and disillusionment among participants.

    Despite its successes, criticisms emerged regarding its tone and decision-making process, which left many feeling disenchanted.

    For instance, disagreements arose between the British and French delegations regarding the conference's size and location, with the British preferring a smaller venue and the French advocating for Paris, citing its historical significance in diplomacy.

    Paris - The Opera House, 1919. Despite the objections of the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, the Peace Conference was held in the French Capital.

    Photo taken by Gunner Claude Moore prior to returning to England, 23 March 1919. (Moore Collection - scanned from the orginal negative).

    New Zealand at War 1914-1918 (

    ...driven by the interests of the dominant powers...

    Paris, as the host city, symbolized the epicenter of global governance during the conference, where significant decisions reshaping the political landscape of Europe were deliberated and enacted.

    However, the unilateral implementation of decisions, largely driven by the interests of the dominant powers known as the Big Four (Britain, France, the United States, and Italy), drew criticism for its lack of inclusivity and accountability.

    ...fueled a sense of humiliation and resentment...

    The Treaty of Versailles, a centerpiece of the conference, stands out for its punitive measures against Germany, including drastic reductions in military capabilities and imposing sole responsibility for the war along with hefty reparations.

    This treatment of Germany, historians argue, fueled a sense of humiliation and resentment among the German populace, which played a significant role in the rise of extremist ideologies like Nazism and contributed indirectly to the outbreak of the Second World War.

    Europe in 1920, the year the Paris Peace Conference ended. The map of Europe had drastically changed, the effects of which would ultimately contribute to the Second World War.

    Overall, while the Paris Peace Conference achieved certain objectives in ending the Great War, its controversial decisions and their consequences underscore the complexities and challenges of post-war reconstruction and the delicate balance between justice, accountability, and long-term stability in international relations.

    Further reading

    Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919" provides a comprehensive analysis of the Paris Peace Conference, unveiling the intricate negotiations and political dynamics that shaped the post-World War I settlement. Delving into the personalities of key leaders and the clash of interests, MacMillan explores how decisions made during this pivotal moment reverberated globally, ultimately influencing the geopolitical landscape and contributing to the complexities that led to subsequent conflicts.

    A nuanced analysis of the Paris Peace Conference by examining the Ottoman Empire's collapse and its repercussions. Rogan explores how the conference shaped the Middle East's post-war landscape, unraveling the diplomatic intricacies that led to the establishment of new borders and mandates. The book illuminates how decisions made in Paris profoundly influenced the region's geopolitical dynamics, contributing to the complex and enduring challenges faced in the aftermath.

    Andelman critically dissects the Paris Peace Conference, exposing the unintended consequences and enduring implications of the decisions made in its aftermath. With a keen eye for historical nuances, Andelman unveils the complexities of post-First World War diplomacy, shedding light on the intricacies that shaped the geopolitical landscape. The book offers a thorough examination of the conference's aftermath, providing a valuable perspective on the challenges and tensions that influenced the course of international relations.

    David Reynolds' "The Long Shadow" critically examines the aftermath of World War I and the Paris Peace Conference's impact on the 20th century. By exploring the complex negotiations and geopolitical dynamics, Reynolds analyzes the conference's long-term consequences on international relations. The book highlights the tensions between competing national interests, shedding light on the enduring legacy of the decisions made in Paris and their profound influence on the course of history.

    Robert W. Tucker delves into President Woodrow Wilson's role in the Paris Peace Conference, analyzing his idealistic vision for the post-World War I world. Tucker explores Wilson's diplomacy, the formulation of the Fourteen Points, and the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles. The book provides a nuanced understanding of Wilson's contributions, shedding light on the challenges and contradictions faced during the conference and their impact on global politics.

    Hans Van de Ven investigates China's role in the First World War and its engagement with the Paris Peace Conference. Van de Ven explores the complex dynamics of China's participation, shedding light on its contributions and challenges during the negotiations. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of how China's involvement in the war and the subsequent peace conference influenced its domestic politics, foreign relations, and its quest for international recognition in the early 20th century.

    Erik Goldstein's "Winning the Peace" scrutinizes the Paris Peace Conference, providing a meticulous analysis of the diplomatic negotiations and decisions that followed World War I. Focused on the British perspective, the book delves into the complexities of peacebuilding and the challenges faced by the Allies in shaping the post-war order. Goldstein's work sheds light on the intricate balance between idealistic goals and geopolitical realities, offering insights into the enduring consequences of the decisions made during the conference.

    Michael S. Neiberg's "The Treaty of Versailles" focuses on the intricacies of the peace settlement after the First World War. While the book primarily delves into the Treaty of Versailles, Neiberg provides a contextual analysis of the Paris Peace Conference. He explores the diplomatic negotiations, the influence of key leaders, and the complexities of post-war decision-making. The work offers valuable insights into the broader implications of the conference and its lasting impact on the 20th-century geopolitical landscape.

    "The Economic Consequences of the Peace" by John Maynard Keynes offers a scathing critique of the Paris Peace Conference's economic decisions. Keynes, a delegate at the conference, contends that the punitive reparations imposed on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles were economically unjust and would lead to devastating consequences. His foresighted analysis of the treaty's economic ramifications has been influential, offering a compelling perspective on the shortsightedness of post-First World War policies.


    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    Ciprian Stoleru How were the decisions being made at the Paris Peace Conference?

    Bain News Service - Library of Congress

    Government of ZUNR in name of ZUNR and UNR, official document of government of Ukraine - Mémoire sur l’indépendance de l’Ukraine présenté à la Conférence de la paix par la délégation de la république ukrainienne. Photo was published by Watermark was removed by user:AlexKozur.

    Jonathan Sumption

    British Government. - The photograph was scanned from Probert, H. (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. HMSO. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. Originally uploaded to EN Wikipedia as en:Image:British Air Section at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.jpg by en:User:Greenshed 21 December 2006

    Fairfax Corporation - National Library of Australia (

    National Archives of Canada / The Canadian Press


    Alan Sharp

    Margaret MacMillan, “Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (2001)”

    Eugene Rogan, “The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East” (2015)

    Robert Menzies, “The Forgotten People: And Other Studies in Democracy” (1942)

    David Reynolds, “The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century” (2014)

    Robert W. Tucker, “Woodrow Wilson and the Great War: Reconsidering America's Neutrality, 1914-1917” (2007)

    Erik Goldstein, “Winning the Peace: British Diplomatic Strategy, Peace Planning, and the Paris Peace Conference”, 1916-1920 (1991)

    Hans van de Ven, “China at War: Triumph and Tragedy in the Emergence of the New China” (2018)

    Kyung Moon Hwang, “A History of Korea: An Episodic Narrative” (2016)

    M. Keynes, “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” (1919)

    National Archives

    University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

    Ciprian Stoleru,_1919#Japanese_approach

    Saionji Kimmochi | Meiji era, Genro, Peace Treaty | Britannica

    Viacheslav Peregudov

    WW1 Colorized Photos | Others (

    Denikin poster - White movement - Wikipedia

    Clemenceau vows justice will be delivered on Germany (1919) (

    Erin Blakemore

    Bettmann, Getty

    Why the League of Nations was doomed before it began | National Geographic

    Rens Steenhard