Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- In 1919, Europe had just been through a devastating war, which left
political, social, and economic turmoil in its wake. The war also had a
considerable impact on the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa. What were
the main issues and concerns facing the peacemakers in 1919?
- Some historiansArno Mayer, for examplehave argued that the peacemakers
of 1919 were determined to prevent the spread of revolution westward from
Russia. To what extent did fear of Bolshevism shape the decisions made in Paris?
- It has often been said that there was a gulf between Woodrow Wilson and
his new diplomacy, on one side, and the Europeans and their old diplomacy on the
other. Discuss what is meant by the new and the old diplomacy. Was there in fact
such a gulf?
- What did Woodrow Wilson mean by "national self-determination"? Why did
some of his colleagues, such as Robert Lansing, worry about it? What impact did
the notion of self-determination have? Was it easy to put into effect?
- Each country in Paris had its own concerns and aims. Evaluate the main
interests that each of the major powersFrance, Great, Britain, Italy, Japan,
and the United Statesbrought to the table.
- The peace settlements, in particular the resolution with Germany, have
often been blamed for the outbreak of World War II. Was the Treaty of Versailles
as punitive, unfair, and vindictive as has often been said?
- Discuss the ways in which decisions made in Paris affected China and
Japan. Did the relationship between the two countries grow better or worse as a
- The Paris Peace Conference was the first major international peace
conference where the press was present in force. In addition, the leaders of the
powers had to pay attention to the views and wishes of their electorates. How
important was public opinion in the making of the peace settlements after World
- A number of countries had designs on the territory of the Ottoman empire
after World War I, and the Ottoman empire itself was in no position to fight
back. Nevertheless, why did the Treaty of Sèvres remain a dead letter? In what
ways was the later Treaty of Lausanne different?
- During the war, the Alliesthe British and the French in particularmade
a number of agreements and promises about the Arab parts of the Ottoman empire.
To what extent have those agreements and the decisions made by the peacemakers
about the Middle East had an impact on developments there since?
- Although Woodrow Wilson is often seen as the person responsible for the
League of Nations, many people, both in Europe and North America, shared his
goals. What was the League supposed to accomplish? Why is it often described as
a great experiment?
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Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.