Lecture 14 – Versailles, Wiemar, Fascism: European Experiments
 Why was the Paris Peace Conference the first postwar experiment?
Paris Peace Conference
− The allies attempt to rebuild Europe in 1918
− Versailles is “a laboratory sitting atop a vast graveyard.”
The upheaval of the war has been
− Millions of dead soldiers
− Collapse of 4 empires
New Liberal World Order being created
− PPC is a reworking of the concert of Europe and the first meeting since 1815
− Goal to implement liberal democracy and national self determination on a mass scale.
− Way to affect change by ideology.
o Create new nation states by nationalities
o New liberal constitutions
o Strict penalties against Germany.
Rationale of the Paris Peace Conference
− Seemed to meet long term and short term goals
− Peace by disarmament
− Good cooperation against socialist/communist revolution by creating buffer states
− A stable Europe through political guarantee and minority rights
These ideas created a new international system of
− Collective security by the covenant of the League of Nations
o Created by Woodrow Wilson in the Fourteen Points
o Concept of international law and conference diplomacy as opposed to war.
− New states were created in Eastern Europe, but this just created NEW minorities
− Liberal values had won, but were they well suited to Eastern Europe who had never seen
anything like them before? − LON dependent on the good will of the members, who had conflicting aims
o Fr. Wanted harsh penalties against Germany
o Germany only signs under protest and threats
o U.S. just wants isolation and refuses to join
Peace was implemented by theory and not in practice. Germany was treated harshly by France
who occupied the Ruhr and extracted reparations forcefully.
Versailles was an experiment, not guaranteed to work or fail. It was radically created, but was it
the best possible solution?
 Why was the Weimar Republic both profound yet problematic (as an
Both civilian and military leadership fall in the war. Massive inflation followed when they lost
in the failed spring offensive of 1918.
− A social democratic party took the lead in peace time and created a republic in 1918 as
Wilhelm I flees in 1918 to Holland. The armistice is signed two days later.
− They filled a vacuum of power
− The social democrats had to try to prevent communism from the left and a military coup
from the right. The military believed they were being stabbed in the back by concessions
− Weimar had the burden of a war they didn’t wage
o Re-negotiating Versailles
o Re-integration of soldiers
Why this experiment was so risky
− It was far more liberal than either France or Britain at the time – a constitutional republic
with multiple parties
− Tried in a country that had never had a republic before.
− Allowed women to vote
− Legislature and president elected by popular vote
− Incorporated trade unions into the state
− Expanded the state to social welfare as a constitutional right.
The Weimar embodied mass politics – a mass society governed by mass parties – the idea that
the more interests represented, the more legitimate it is.
Why it was problematic − It was hard to implement welfare in such hard economic times.
− They had no money.
− People could not benefit from the government, because it was broke and this created a
loss of faith in the state as a provider.
− Debt and reparations were so severe and industry so slow in recovery that there was long
− By 1923 there was hyper-inflation, as a protest to French occupation of the Ruhr
o Done deliberately to force re-negotiation of reparation payment plan, which
resulted in the Dawes Plan.
o However, it screwed ordinary Germans.
− The coalition government depended on cooperation and it fragmented as radical parties
− By 1928 the coalition parties had been discredited enough that they lost their numerical
− The political polarization led people to believe that they were in a “moral crisis.”
o Losing faith in republic
o New women are too masculine
However, there were still a large number of republicans and the Weimar did have stability for
some time. Nazism was NOT inevitable. Coaliti