The focus of this investigation will be “To what extent did the Paris Peace Conference influence Germany’s economic development in the second half of the XXth century”?” And will analyze the degree to which the punishments that were instituted by the conference’s members might have affected Germany’s attempt at recovery after WWI. The issue concerning this investigation is of course much more complex than a simple black and white answer, which is why the purpose of this study will concentrate on Germany’s economic development in the second half of the twentieth century. Therefore, Keynes book, “Predicts Economic Chaos” and “Understanding West German Economic Growth in the 1950s” study by Barry Eichengreen and Albrecht Ritschul are sources of certain value to this study because of the way the historians have a broad understanding of this topic and first-hand experience in these fields.
Source: “Understanding west German economic growth in the 1950s” by Barry Eichengreen and Albrecht Ritschul This source is considerably important for this investigation as it gives an insight into the economic development Germany was going through after WWI in the second half of the XXth century, as these personalities are both university professors and economists, who worked together in order to put together this study to present what happened to Germany’s economy after the members of the Paris peace conference brought the defeated country of WWI to justice. Their specific fields of study and expertise mean they have almost direct experience of the happenings of these events.However, this source also has limitations that will have certain constraints. One limitation is the fact the authors are both from the victorious’ alliance, same as two of the affiliates of the conference of 1919, which could bias the information given. Its purpose may be to augment the blame on the German nation in a way that makes the condemning countries seem innocent and hide or disguise their faults and wrongdoings.
Another limitation, due to its unknown origin and purpose, is that the sources these economists have used could be faulty or misrepresented which in consequence would severely affect the content of this study. Source: The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919 by John Maynard Keynes This source, in addition the first source, has a lot of credibility in the terms of understanding the economy of that period. This predominantly originates from the fact that it was published in 1919 by the economist John Maynard Keynes. In consequence, when he assessed Germany’s economy he would have had further understanding as he himself was a delegate in the conference and was one of the only ones that argued for a more merciful punishment. Thus he had firsthand experience with the debates that were taking place at the time as well as relevant details of the proposals and the general attitudes toward Germany by those countries involved in the conference.
Be that as it too has restrictions concerning historiographical custom, as amid this time the structuralist approach was dominating and there was a propensity to paint Germany as a “frail” country financially after the war.2. Investigation: (1292 words) The Paris Peace Conference came about in 1919 towards the end of the First World War when some of the most powerful people of that time met to discuss and negotiate the terms that would officially put an end to the war and, in some way, find justice.
The main forces that formed the conference were France, Great Britain, the United States of America and Italy however, there were representatives from 30 nations brought together to draft the peace treaties. Over the following six months they would be making crucial decisions concerning the finalization of the war. On one hand we had the president of the United States – President Woodrow Wilson. He was the first US president who came to Europe while in office, many of his opponents and his supporters thought it was unwise of him to get involved but he felt he owed it to the Europeans and servicemen of the United States to bring peace – peace was as important as winning the war. “It is now my duty, to play my full part in making good what they gave life’s blood to obtain” said President Woodrow Wilson.
Throughout the conference he intended to come to a merciful means regarding the punishment of Germany. He struggled in getting his idea of “a peace without victory” across to the other leaders. His intention was to not treat the leader of the Central Powers (Germany), also the defeated country, too harshly. On the other hand we have the Prime Minister of France – Georges Clemenceau, who like the prime minister of Great Britain – David Lloyd George wanted to punish Germany in a way that would weaken it as a nation. Wilson eventually agreed to the idea of punishing Germany more sternly, which many people believe he agreed only so that later, the other leaders would agree to join the League of Nations. Prime Minister Clemenceau often came into conflict with President Wilson saying he was too idealistic. In 1920 the prime minister of France, Clemenceau, was defeated and left Germany after facing charges saying that he was too harsh in his treatment of Germany at the treaty.
In 1929 he wrote his autobiography “In the Evening of my thought” in which he predicted a renewed war with Germany by 1940 – he died that same year. At first it was hard to see where the prime minister of Great Britain stood – he wanted a ‘stern but just’ peace, a ‘harsh but not vengeful’ peace. His parliament included both parties who he had to keep happy: conservatives, who wanted a harsh vengeance like Clemenceau, and liberals who were more merciful. He supported Wilson so he was able to get as concessions some of the things he wanted such as Canada, South Africa, Australia joining the League of Nations as full members.
He also got to govern many German colonies. He accompanied Wilson to pressure Clemenceau for a need for ‘moderation’; he suggested an alliance with France to assure security in case of an attack which lead to the prime minister of France to drop his claims and agree to the League of Nations. Further along he sided with Clemenceau to pressure Wilson to agree to a German ‘War Guilt’ clause stating that Germany was responsible for causing all the loss and damage of the war. The Germans had been isolated from the treaty negotiations, when they arrived in Paris in May, and were presented with the Versailles Treaty. They were greatly disillusioned and shocked with what had been the outcome of the conference as they had put great faith in the promise Wilson had made them of the 14 points of which many Germans expected to influence the peace settlement being discussed.
Instead they were made to pay extreme amounts of reparations, financial penalties (more than any European country could afford at the time) and had to forfeit a large amount of land. Adding on to the punishment, according to article 231, Germany was also to accept sole blame for the occurrence of the war. Germany felt that the punishment was extremely harsh and thought the punishment would have been more merciful as they believed that they were not responsible for the war, but that they had been surrounded by enemies in 1914 and had to fight an inevitable and defensive war involuntarily.
The Germans called the treaty a “Diktat” which means “Dictated peace” – they felt that rather than the treaty being a negotiation, it was an execution. “May the hand wither that signs this treaty.” – stated Frederick Scheidemann, the German Chancellor (June 1919) who then preferred to resign his position as chancellor rather than agree to the Treaty. Many believe that this was the cause of the Germany’s economic crisis following World War Two. But to what extent did the Paris Peace Conference actually influence their economic development? The treaty was made with vengeance rather than considering the possible effects it might have in the future. It allowed Germany to be taken over by extremists like Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, which as a consequence put Germany in a situation it couldn’t seem to get out of, with political parties that wouldn’t work and both economic and social issues.
One of the contributing factors to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis was the promise to tear up the treaty. When he came to power, he did violate some of the terms of the treaty, such as over passing some of the German border, but Britain forgave him as they believed that the treaty was unnecessarily harsh of a punishment. Due to the fact that they couldn’t pay the reparations, they began to print large sums of money which led to a super inflation.
Another contributing factor was the trade barriers between the Europeans states as a consequence of Germany’s weak economy, which lead to a Great Depression. After WWII, they decided to come up with another plan to end the war in a way that would be benefited by all the countries involved. In this case it would be the Marshall Plan which would channel $13 billion to Europe in order to help it recover its ruins which were a consequence of the war. The objective was to convalesce the European economy, unlike the treaty which punished Germany and left it in economic decrepitude. The Marshall Plan supplied West Germany wasn’t really that large. It totaled $2 billion. Although at its peak, it was still less than 5% of the Germans national income.
Despite this, it did help on a large scale. The US offered all of Europe this reconstruction program, including the defeated enemies and the Soviet Union (who refused to participate). The Marshall plan seems to have been a much more successful outcome compared to the treaty of Versailles. Between 1950 and 1959, Germany’s GPD rose 8 percent, faster than any of the other European nations and by the 1960s Germany had restored its high status as one of the largest economic and financial powers in Europe.
In conclusion, although the outcome of the Paris Peace Conference did have short-term negative effects, in the long run it helped the triumphant nations realize what mistakes not to repeat in the case of anything like that happening again, which it did when the Second World War started. Rather than destroying Germany’s economy for a second time, the League of Nations decided to help reconstruct not only some countries, but also Germany. This way the nations could grow together and not have trade barriers which could cause another Great Depression. Therefore, the Paris Peace Conference did seem to have a good indirect effect in the end.?3. Reflection (460 words) In order to gather information for this analysis, I investigated multiple sources online as well as two books in order to get a wider grasp and more perspectives of the situation to try and understand all visions.
And, although, I thought it would be easy to find reliable information in books and articles, I have found limitations that have made my investigation harder than I expected. The limitations, not only for my investigation but for everyone relying on another source, depends mostly on the fact that no-one will ever know with absolute certainty the exact happenings of the past, which is why it’s difficult to get reliable information for investigations without it being biased or influenced in some way. However, historians dedicate themselves to the investigation and interpretation of the past to know how it used to be and, they attempt to do this in an unbiased way.
Another limitation I found is that archived-based history may lack certain specific data available, that would be useful for an analysis, that no longer can be collected which creates a challenge in the reliability and accuracy of the investigation. The reliability of a source will depend on the author, the time the source came about and the region, as well as its acceptance among scholars as well as academic publications. This acceptance will depend on the historical event, which usually refers to a ten years prior occurrence which affected many people and that, in some way, might have had an impact on our time. The importance of historical events, generally depends oneself and what they’re more interested in. However the government and schools have a huge impact on the importance of historical events as they can’t teach all the historical events that have happened to their students so, they choose certain events, usually related to their country and the world wars, and ignore other events that have nothing to do with them. Naturally students will base the importance of historical events on what they learned at school.
As we all know history is in the past. Therefore, value judgement should be kept to oneself to avoid conflict over things that have passed and avoid the resurgence on issues that have already been settled. In my opinion, nothing is unbiased whether we like it or not. People remember things how they want to which as a consequence makes historical events biased.
It certainly isn’t easy to prove things that have happened in history, at least not 100%. People interpret and remember things in their own way, so even if they’re telling the truth there will be a slight difference in comparison to the reality. All versions of history are viable but not 100% trustworthy