The Paris Peace Conference, which included representatives from over thirty nations, faced a monumental task in establishing order.
The Conference was called by the "Council of Four" of the victorious powers, and they wanted to change the map of Europe.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, ending the war exactly five years after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
"Versailles" is a shorthand for the entire settlement arranged by the Paris Peace Conference, although the Treaty spelled out the terms of peace with Germany.
The text of the Versailles Treaty was used in a series of treaties that applied to other defeated powers.
The decisions made by the victors, rather than assuring peace, rendered future wars likely if not inevitable, as historians have deemed the Paris Peace Conference a failure.
A more enlightened set of leaders might have failed because of the hatred of the peoples of Europe.
To say nothing of those who lost the war, the victors harbored a range of conflicting goals.
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The "Big Four" world leaders were in Paris for the World War I peace conference.
From left to right are Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, and the President.
Germany was guilty of committing many war crimes after the war started.
The war's damages should be paid for by Germany.
The leaders of many other countries, including the United States, did not accept the charge of German guilt, and the Germans were indignant.
Such was the case with many Germans who had been critical of their wartime leadership.
They couldn't accept that all Germans were responsible for things done under that leadership.
Germany's new leaders were presented with a set of non-negotiable demands in 1919 in violation of the terms of the armistice that Prince Max had signed in 1918.
Wilsonian principles were the basis of those terms, which the Germans viewed as conciliatory.
Many Germans expected the German people to be treated in a more sympathetic way after the war-time leaders were removed.
They were being treated as a criminal nation, collectively as guilty as their war-time leaders.
The Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 differed from the Paris Peace Conference.
The delegates to Paris in 1919 witnessed the death and destruction of much more intense and gruesome dimensions than the delegates to Vienna.
The fury directed at the Germans was much greater than the anger directed at the French.
There was a desire to punish France and take measures to prevent future French expansion, but there was still a willingness to accept France as a future player in the concert of nations.
There was little concern among the victorious European powers about the long-range consequences of alienating Germany's people because of the desire to punish Germany at Paris in 1919.
The role of the people in these two settlements was the most fundamental difference.
Russia was not invited to the Paris Conference in 1919, despite the fact that the final settlement at Vienna was played out by the Tsar Alexander I.
The European extended family of rulers was diminished by 1919.
The emperors of Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany had recently fallen, and a republic had been in place in France since the 1870s.
Europe had experienced the unleashing of the furies of lower-class resentment, ethnic and nationalistic hatred, the weakening of Christian values, and the destruction of traditional authorities.
In the second half of the century liberal nationalists revealed their own vulnerabilities, above all their inability to form stable or viable nation-states.
In early 1919, many hoped that the failures of liberal nationalism after 1848 could be fixed and that democratic nation-states could be established throughout central and eastern Europe.
Woodrow Wilson took on the dimensions of a savior for those who harbored such hopes.
As president of the world's most powerful democratic nation, it was natural for him to spread liberal democracy.
He demonstrated his ability to mobilize American popular opinion in favor of a declaration of war in April 1917.
The Fourteen Points were presented by Wilson in his State of the Union address in January 1918.
The creation of new nation-states with borders that correspond to what the people within them desired and with a government open to the scrutiny of the general public was one of the Points looking at.
The Points stipulated that Alsace-Lorraine be returned to France and that Germany leave territories it had occupied during the war.
The piling of all the blame onto Germany was absent from the Points.
There was implicit criticism of the French and British.
Wilson's Points was formulated as a response to the challenge posed by the revolutionary left in Europe and Russia in regards to the meaning of democracy.
The opening shots of the Cold War could be seen in Wilson's declaration of January 1918.
The American president was greeted by a lot of people in Europe before he arrived in Paris in January 1919.
His popularity plummeted within a year.
The most obvious reason for the change was that his Fourteen Points, while proposing measures that elicited broad popular support, also included vaguely worded remedies to problems that were not easy to fix.
Their state of mind was not improved by the fact that Wilson failed to consult them before making his Points public.
The Points faded into the background as treaties emerged from the Paris Peace Conference.
Some were changed or qualified while others were ignored.
The British were alarmed by Point Two, which called for freedom of the seas in times of war and peace.