The Treaty of Versailles and the New International Order: 1919

Dr. Brian McKercher

The Treaty of Versailles is one of the most debated international agreements in the past two centuries. War and revolution destroyed the old order of Great Powers – the collapse of the tsarist, Habsburg, Wilhelmine, and Ottoman empires; it was replaced by a new order in Europe where successor states supplanted the old empires in Central-Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as the restructuring of the extra-European colonial holdings of Germany and Turkey. Moreover, two Powers moved from regional to Great Power status: the United States and Japan. The peacemakers at Paris moved to achieve their individual national interests in terms of territorial change, economic issues, reparations, and international security, at the centre of which was the new League of Nations. Although flawed in a number of senses, Versailles was a fair and honest treaty and laid the ground for international stability in the 1920s. Only the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 sundered its achievements.