The Paris Peace Conference is arguably the most important meeting to have taken place over the course of WWI. Unfortunately, this means you need to learn and remember everything about it. Ready? Great!
So, in January 1919, delegates from 32 countries descended on Paris to make peace following WWI. It was hoped agreements made at the conference would be able to “end all wars”, which is pretty ambitious when you think about it. The conference was dominated by the Big Three; British PM Lloyd George, French PM Georges Clemenceau, and US President Woodrow Wilson. The defeated Central Powers were excluded as the Big Three made most (read: all) of the decisions about the contents of the various peace treaties created at the conference.
Overall, the Paris Peace Conference gave the victorious powers most of what they wanted; it freed the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, limited Germany’s military power and created the League of Nations. So, the summit was a pretty good idea.
That being said, the conference did fail to achieve lasting peace, because it sowed seeds of resentment in Germany that eventually led to WWII. German resentment, particularly with regards to the war guilt clause that led to both the loss of territory and the payment of compensation, were major factors. Additionally, the peacekeepers failed to weaken Germany sufficiently in surrounding it with feeble nations that contained significant German minorities. They probably should have thought that one through.
Because history is all about the facts and detail (yay), here’s a proper breakdown of what was decided during the Peace Conference; Germany lost 10 per cent of its land, 12.5 per cent of its population, 16.5 per cent of its coalfields, and 50 per cent of its iron and steel industries. For example, the Sudetenland, which contained coal, iron and steel, was given to the newly created Czechoslovakia in order to create a balanced economy. Other land such as the Danzig Corridor divided East Prussia from the rest of Germany in order to give Poland access to the Port of Danzig. Additionally, the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were handed back to France, and the Rhineland became a demilitarised zone.
Other things you should know about the Paris Peace Conference? A whole host of countries were created in Europe following the summit; namely Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Latvia. This happened because Woodrow Wilson believed that self-determination would end future wars in Europe. Unfortunately these countries were created out of the defeated nations and Russia, and this was going to be a cause of conflict in the future. Dun dun dun!