Treaty of Versailles

(1919)

Audience

The German populace was the primary audience of the Treaty of Versailles. The most public political figure of the prewar German Empire, Kaiser Wilhelm II, had abdicated and been replaced by a democratic republic; though the treaty called for him to be placed on trial, no politician was willing to follow through on this demand. Thus, the punitive terms of the treaty were not about to fall on the man most associated with the war. In the social Darwinist climate of the early twentieth century, this made a certain indirect sense. It assumed that the German people were somehow biologically predisposed to be warlike—something the kaiser's bellicose rhetoric about the German people's racial destiny had encouraged them to think.

The people in the Allied countries comprised an only marginally less important secondary audience for the treaty. The French people, especially north of Paris, had suffered enormously during the war. The British people had already conceived of...

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Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Library of Congress)

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