Tutorial 5 Guiding Questions
1. What were the global political, cultural and colonial consequences of WWI?
The fighting in WWI ended when the armistice took effect on 11 am GMT on November 11, 1918. In the aftermath of the
war the political, cultural, and social order of the world was drastically changed in many places, even outside the areas
directly involved in the war. New countries were formed, old ones were abolished, international organizations were
established, and many new and old ideas took a firm hold in people’s minds.
There were some general consequences from the creation of a large number of new small states in Eastern Europe.
Internally these states tended to have substantial ethnic minorities, who looked to a neighbouring state where their ethnicity
dominated the state. Minority Treaties expressed an attempt, albeit inadequate, to deal with this problem. One consequence
of the massive redrawing of borders and the political changes in the aftermath of war was the large number of European
refugees. This led to the creation of the Nansen passport.
Ethnic minorities made the location of the frontiers generally unstable. Where the frontiers have remained unchanged, since
1918, there has often been the expulsion of an ethnic group, such as the Sudeten Germans. Economic and military
cooperation amongst these small states was minimal ensuring that the defeated powers of Germany and the Soviet Union
retained a latent capacity to dominate the region. In the immediate aftermath of the war, defeat drove cooperation between
Germany and the Soviet Union but ultimately these 2 powers would compete to dominate Eastern Europe.
The experiences of the war are commonly assumed to have led to a sort of collective national trauma afterward for all the
participating countries. The optimism of 1900 was entirely gone and those who fought in the war became what are known as
“the Lost Generation” because they never fully recovered from their experiences. For the next few years, much of Europe
mourned privately and publicly; mourning and memorials were erected in thousands of villages and towns.
On the other hand, some people argued that it is not at all clear that any society was traumatised. Nor that the human losses
were heavily mourned. This was the later view in the West, during the 1930s, because by then the Great Depression and the
rise of Nazism made the sacrifices of WWI seem meaningless. This was not clear in the 1920s. Neither Hitler’s Germany
nor the Soviet Union displayed any evidence that WWI was at all traumatic. For Germany, the Soviet Union and all the new
states WWI had been the creation of the old political order and, as such, had little effect on the political elites of these
countries. The real trauma for the British political class was the possibility of any future war.
As early as 1923, Stanley Baldwin had recognized a new strategic reality that faced Britain in a disarmament speech. Poison
gas and the aerial bombing of civilians were new developments. The British civilian population had not, for centuries, had
any reason to fear invasion. So the new threat of poison gas dropped from enemy bombers excited a grossly exaggerated
view of the civilian deaths that would occur on the outbreak of any war. Baldwin expressed this is his statement that: “The
bomber will always get through.” The traditional British policy of a balance of power in Europe no longer safeguarded the
British home population. Out of this fear came appeasement. It is notable that neither Baldwin nor Neville Chamberlain had
fought in the war but the anti-appeasers Antony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Winston Churchill had fought.
One gruesome reminder of the sacrifices of the generation was the fact that this was one of the first times in warfare
whereby more men had died in battles than to disease, which had been the main cause of deaths in most previous wars. The
Russo-Japanese War was the first battle where battle deaths outnumbered disease deaths, but it had been fought on a much
smaller scale between just 2 nations.
This social trauma made itself manifest in many different ways. Some people were revolted by nationalism and what it had
caused; so, they began to work toward a more internationalist world through organizations such as the League of Nations.
Pacifism became increasingly popular. Others had the opposite reaction, feeling that only military strength could be relied
on for protection in a chaotic and inhumane world that did not respect hypothetical notions of civilization. Certainly a sense
of disillusionment and cynicism became pronounced. Nihilism grew in popularity. Many people believed that the war
heralded the end of the world as they had known it, including the collapse of capitalism and imperialism. Communist and
socialist movements around the world drew strength from this theory, enjoying a level of popularity they had never known
before. These feelings were most pronounced in areas directly or particularly harshly affected by the war.
Artists represented their experiences, or those of their society, in blunt paintings and sculpture. Similarly, authors wrote
grim novels detailing their experiences. These works had a strong impact on society, causing a great deal of controversy and
highlighting conflicting interpretations of the war. In Germany, nationalists including the Nazis believed that much of this
work was degenerate and undermined the cohesion of society as well as dishonouring the dead.
2. Was Woodrow Wilson naïve or a visionary beyond his time?
3. What were the diplomatic foundations of the Versailles conference?
Negotiations between the Allied powers started on 18 January in the Salle de l’Horloge at the French Foreign Ministry, on
the Quai d’Orsay in Paris. Initially, 70 delegates of 27 nations participated in the negotiations. Having been defeated,
Germany, Austria, and Hungary were excluded from the negotiations. Russia was also excluded because it had negotiated a