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By Jim Mesko

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The events that followed the collapse of the international order created by the peacemakers of 1919, particularly for the generation for whom the Second World War was the defining feature of their historical landscape, makes the effort to propagate a more balanced view of the treaties and their creators an uphill battle. The Versailles settlement did not create a lasting peace; the 20-year pause was only an interlude between two great wars. The concept of national self-determination has proved highly destructive of accommodation and stability.

For all his attempts to alter the balance of power between France and Germany, the former won only a breathing space and temporary enhancement of her strength but not a good deal more. In all, Germany lost around 13 per cent of its territory, with 46 per cent of its remaining inhabitants not being German at all. The economic losses, compared with the Treaty of Brest–Litovsk or the condition of Germany in 1945, were extensive but not crippling. Germany lost 80 per cent of its iron ore, 44 per cent of its pig iron capacity, 38 per cent of its steel and 30 per cent of its coal capacity.

The famous episode of the memorandum intended for the prime minister that bounced back and forth between Balfour and Philip Kerr, Lloyd George’s secretary, indicates that the problem was not one way and the extent to which the proximity of their accommodation in the rue Nitot mitigated such difficulties cannot be absolutely clear. 6 Balfour did not seem to resent his exclusion from the top table but continued to work in the Council of Five at the draft proposals for new frontiers and other aspects of the settlement which were, in the main, endorsed by the Four.

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