In This Review

The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years
The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years
Edited by Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabet
Cambridge University Press, 1998, 656 pp

No peace settlement has provoked more controversy or regret than the Treaty of Versailles. This massive volume offers new archival materials and divergent national perspectives in rehashing old historical controversies, including the central question of Versailles: Was the failure of the peace and the rise of a revisionist Germany due to a flawed treaty or to wider, uncontrollable forces? The collective scholarship in this volume generally does further damage to the view, popularized by John Maynard Keynes, that the victors provoked German hostility by pursuing an unnecessarily vindictive settlement. Instead, it sees the treaty in more favorable terms as a relatively flexible instrument that ultimately ended the worst of the reparations dispute and the occupation of the Rhineland in 1932. Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau come across as relatively well intentioned, rational leaders who simply could not bridge Allied differences and make the commitments necessary for a lasting peace. In addition, the war's sudden and ambiguous end left the Allied governments unprepared for the negotiations. As the reader follows the account of divergent national war aims, shifting domestic coalitions, staggering dislocation, and complex negotiations, the Treaty of Versailles looks increasingly understandable -- if not inevitable. For those seeking to understand the tough realities of building a new world order, this volume will be fascinating to explore.