F.S. Northedge and M.J. Grieve, A Hundred Years of International Relations, (New York: Praeger, 1971), Chapter 6, "The Morrow of Armageddon," pp. 91-111

The nineteenth century ended in effect, not in December 1899, but in August 1914. Before the First World War, the European international system had worked with intermittent crises which had provoked jingoistic outbursts in the states concerned, but for the most part neither the mass of ordinary people nor even the ruling few were much concerned with foreign affairs. The war closed the door for ever on that world of an automatically functioning international system and general unconcern with politics between nations. In so doing, it inaugurated the twentieth century, with its total war, its obscuring of the dividing lines between war and peace and domestic and foreign affairs, its ideological crusades and mass appeal of leaders and foreign policy, its propaganda, subversion and political warfare, its recruitment behind foreign policy of world public opinion, as opposed to the quiet negotiation of professional diplomats in secret chancelleries, its conception of international affairs as the struggle for improvement of the common man's condition, as opposed to the classic conception of them as the daily ordering of a coherent society, its giant international organizations and search for the integration of sovereign states. Above all, the First World War began the destruction of the primacy of Europe in the international system and its empires overseas which the Second World War completed.

The European War of 1914-18 was a total war in the sense that, to ensure victory, the belligerents were finally compelled to mobilize totally their resources, their manpower, manufacturing and extractive industries, their farming, shipping, transport and communications systems. The states which failed to do so, like Tsarist Russia, went down in defeat and revolution. Millions of men were drafted into the armies, millions of men and women were moved, or moved themselves, from peacetime occupations or no occupation at all, into the war industries. The governments were suddenly forced to do what all their principles and experience had taught them could not or should not be done, to take over the direction of industry, farming, labour. For all practical purposes by the end of the war in November 1918 all the belligerents which had survived the ordeal were socialized states in which hardly any major economic decision could be made without the government's consent. This experience bequeathed to social critics in all countries the idea that national economic planning which had served the cause of war in 1914-18 could equally well serve the cause of peace. Moreover, the fact that economic weapons, such as blockade, the seizure of the enemy's financial assets abroad, the systematic destruction of his foreign trade and shipping, had been used alongside military weapons during the war meant that after the war these weapons were still available for use, whether by the new League of Nations against an aggressor or by one state against another in the ordinary course of international affairs.

The origins of socialist and fascist planning and of economic war-fare as part of the normal techniques of foreign policy are thus to be found in the First World War. But the sheer scale of the warfare itself had its impact on the international system. It bred, for instance, at least in the Anglo-Saxon world, an intense desire to avoid any similar catastrophe in future by abolishing the most conspicuous aspect of the conflict to the ordinary eye: the sheer weight and numbers of armaments. These armaments, or rather the industrial and technological capacity to manufacture them, had quietly accumulated during the long years of peace preceding 1914 and then were consumed at a rate undreamt of by minds reared in the nineteenth century, and this fostered the illusion that the shortest way to the avoidance of conflict on the pattern of 1914-18 was to scrap by international agreement the whole diabolical apparatus of arms and arms-producing industries. Hence the vast efforts devoted almost throughout the inter-war period to the task of trying to secure world-wide agreement on the limitation and reduction of armaments.

The scale of mechanized destruction in 1914-18 also had far-reaching effects on the techniques of diplomacy and on preparations for any future war in the period between 1918 and 1939. In the first place, it forced diplomats and politicians to the conclusion that, if there was to be another war, their own countries must not at any cost be the ones to take the first shock of Armageddon; wisdom would surely lie in waiting until late in the day before launching one's resources into any future armed conflict. Thus British Ministers in the mid-1930s vaguely hoped that Fascism and Communism might destroy each other without the democracies being involved; American opinion determined never again to be sucked into a European bloodbath through financial deals, as had seemed to be the case in the First World War; and Stalin, when he signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939, congratulated himself on escaping being drawn into 'pulling British and French chestnuts out of the fire', as he called it. In the second place, the attrition warfare on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918 stimulated those who experienced it to try new methods of warfare, of which the Nazi brand of Blitzkrieg became the most notorious. Blitzkrieg was essentially not total, but psychological, warfare. It was an attempt, which proved highly successful against France in June 1940, to avoid the bloodletting of total war by terrifying the opponent into thinking that unless he submitted he would have to face total warfare on the 1914-18 model, but with mass bombing from the air added as an extra horror.

The extraordinary thing about the military struggle in the First World War was how the ordinary fighting man could survive the privations, misery, hideous wounds and continuous prospect of ugly death for so many years on end, if he was not released by becoming one of the countless casualties. One explanation is that the length and intensity of the conflict was wholly unexpected, except by a few professional soldiers like Lord Kitchener. At first, it was cheerfully assumed that the men would be home 'before the leaves of autumn fell', and then, when the full horrors became known, that anything so dreadful must end soon. But the more likely explanation lies in the stability and optimism of the ordinary man's vision of the world as he marched to battle in August 1914. Life was hard for the industrial worker or farm labourer in all countries, but there was a sense that this was either part of the order of nature or perhaps the retribution for human sins. In any case, it was relieved by occasional holidays, family celebrations or bouts of drunkenness. Scott Fitzgerald has written of this psychological climate of the war generation as follows:

With the destruction of this religiously tinged acceptance of the existing social order in the tragic battles of 1914-18, new beliefs were needed to fill the vacuum. The most important for its later effect on international relations was revolutionary Communism, with which Lenin and his associates inspired the Russian masses when their age-old belief in the sanctity of the Tsarist social and political order collapsed in the great military defeats of 1916 and 1917. But in all the belligerents it became necessary, as the struggle went on, to reconcile armies and peoples in the rear to the conflict by holding out hopes of a better future, and at the same time by ascribing to the enemy purposes and policies which had to be totally destroyed before the bases of a new world order could be created.

It was in this way that President Wilson became the new messiah for Allied peoples, and for many in the Central Powers as well, just as Lenin became messiah for the ordinary Russian worker and peasant. It is no coincidence that the international vocabularies of Wilson and Lenin were in many respects almost identical, even though one was the head of the world's greatest capitalist state and the other the prophet of anti-capitalism. Both denounced imperialism, power politics and war to line the pockets of a few; both upheld the ideals of struggle for the benefit of the common man, national self-determination, peace without annexations and indemnities. The latter were the slogans which converted a classical European war begun by governments for reasons of prestige and gain, and without consulting their peoples, into a People's War for Right and Justice, an ideological campaign directed towards making life better for the common man. The war socialized and democratized foreign policy, as an ideal if not always as a reality, and as such it was to remain until the present.

But if foreign policy was to be democratized a new type of national leader and new methods of mediating his ideas, or more often emotions, to the new mass electorate were needed. The old aristocratic or middle-class politician, like Salisbury, Asquith or Sir Edward Grey, must give way to a Lloyd George or Ramsay MacDonald, the Emperor with his court, generals and archbishops to the demagogue in cloth cap or belted raincoat, like Lenin or Hitler. This meant, too, that the language of politics must change, from the parliamentary or diplomatic to the forensic or demagogic; it must be simpler, more repetitive and emotional, the language, in other words, of propaganda. And propaganda was indeed to become the new instrument for consolidating national unity and winning support on the widest possible international scale for national policies. Propaganda in international relations may be said to have its origins in the deadlock on the Western Front after the first battle of the Marne which halted the great German sweep of August 1914 to encircle Paris, the emasculated Schlieffen Plan. As the casualty-lists rose and the prospect of a final military breakthrough faded, governments were compelled to organize the minds and feelings of their peoples for the long, hard road that lay ahead, and at the same time to appeal for the support of still uncommitted nations which might tip the balance.

The collapse of Russia in 1917 and of Germany a year later bred in both these countries the notion that propaganda can achieve anything, that, in the words of Hitler's Mein Kampf, 'clever and persistent propaganda can make Heaven look like Hell and Hell like Heaven'. As men looked back on the unspeakable horrors of 1914-18, many of them dreamed that by 'winning the war of words' they could ensure victory in any future international conflict without actually shedding blood. Diplomacy has often been compared to chess. With the advent of organized propaganda as part of the normal equipment for the conduct of foreign policy, it began to resemble chess in a new sense, namely that, as in chess, the object of the exercise becomes not so much the capture of the king, but the placing of him in a position in which he cannot defend himself, and this by undermining the foundations of the domestic and foreign support on which his defence depends.

The war, too, had its effect on the practice of diplomacy in another sense. We have remarked earlier how the conflict, by exacting unparalleled sacrifices from the ordinary man, compared with which the secret treaties concluded between the belligerents on both sides seemed shabby and mean, made some kind of popular support for future diplomatic agreements essential. This in itself necessitated the total subordination of the professional diplomat to the popularly elected head of government. But, in addition, the need to co-ordinate momentous military and political decisions between heads of government, especially on the Allied side, during the war habituated the world to the idea of diplomacy by 'summit' conferences of leading Ministers, to which the postwar newspapers gave the greatest publicity. Besides, the tangle of unresolved or half-resolved problems left in their train by the war and the peace treaties of 1919 seemed to require the organization of large-scale ministerial conferences as a method of dealing with them, and the institutionalization of this in the Council of the League of Nations, which the peace settlements created, facilitated the process. Distances between one country's capital and another's, too, had been shortened by wartime improvements in transport, which made ministerial journeys to foreign conference sites easier, and Foreign Offices, though undeservedly, had fallen out of favour as responsible for the abhorred secret treaties from which the war was widely felt to have sprung. Bilateral diplomacy remained the standard method of conducting international relations after the war and was largely unaffected by President Wilson's principle, the first of his Fourteen Points of January 1918, of "open covenants openly arrived at". But multilateral "summit" diplomacy came to rival it as a close second, especially in the early 1920s.

These are all, or almost all, visible changes in the system of international relations effected by the war. But the invisible changes in morale, mood and thought produced by the conflict were equally important and perhaps of even greater immediate, if not long-term, consequence. The war was, to state it moderately, an unprecedented emotional shock for those who experienced it, and, as often happens after a great traumatic event, reactions to it were ambivalent. Horror and revulsion predominated, especially among the victors, and more especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. The foreign policies in the inter-war years of Britain and the United States, and only to a slightly lesser extent, France, cannot be understood except against the sombre backcloth of the First World War. The congeries of myths which grew up in these countries about the war and its politics testify to this. There was the myth of the 'Carthaginian Peace', which Lord Keynes first disseminated in his Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) and which the Germans later did their best to foster as their strongest sentimental weapon, the legend that Germany had been brutally treated at the peace settlement in 1919 by Allied Parliaments made up of 'hard-faced men who looked as if they had done well out of the war', in Stanley Baldwin's trenchant phrase. There was the idea, too, that 'war settles nothing', that the war had been caused by capitalist imperialism, by international finance, the private manufacturers of armaments, the General Staffs or the Jews. All these ideas, held tenaciously on the political Left as well as the Right in the Entente states after the war, tinged the attitudes of these countries towards international politics in the twenty years before the next bloodletting and affected their actions in those politics.

The war left in many soldiers, more especially in Germany and Italy, but also on the political Left and Right in Britain, France and Belgium, a sentimental, bitter-sweet nostalgia for the comradeship of the trenches when life was supposedly simpler and, if not heroic, at least more manly and honourable than the cut-throat competition and pervasive ruthlessness of peacetime industrial and commercial society. These attitudes strengthened the anti-capitalism of working-class ex-soldiers in Western Europe and laid the basis for the revival of militarism in Germany and Italy. The fact that Germany had lost the war and that Italy, although she came out on the winning side, considered herself cheated of the gains promised when she joined the Entente powers in 1915, did not reflect, in the militarists' view, the inadequacy of war as a means of achieving national justice. On the contrary, it underlines the need for leaders like Hitler who professed to know the feelings and interests of the ex-service man. In short, the 1914-18 war nourished, at one and the same time, the soldierly spirit inspiring the fire-hot nationalism in the revisionist states from which the Second World War sprang, and the dread of renewed war from which unwillingness on the part of the democracies to resist that nationalism by force also sprang.


Three great European empires were strained and finally collapsed during or near the end of the First World War, and with them fell, too, the conservative social order in Europe which they represented, and the paramountcy of Europe in world politics. These empires were the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and German. The signal for the collapse of the old Russian empire of the Romanovs was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II after the bread riots in Petrograd and other Russian cities in March 1917, but it was not until the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in November that the withdrawal of Russia from its western fringe in Europe began. By the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded with Germany on 3 March 1918, Russia lost most of the Ukraine, where a German-supported puppet government was installed. Finland declared its independence in December 1917 and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania between February and November 1918. When the Brest Litovsk treaty lost its validity as a consequence of Germany's military defeat on the Western Front in 1918, and the Ukraine came once more under Russian control, her new Bolshevik rulers found themselves in conflict with the reconstituted Poland, whose access to the sea by a corridor separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany and whose western frontiers with Germany were established by the Paris peace conference in 1919. The Russo-Polish war wavered to and fro until the Poles received substantial military assistance from France and a promise of further help from the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, and a new Russo-Polish frontier was established by the treaty of Riga in March 1921. This settlement was highly prejudicial to Russia since it incorporated

nearly three million Ukrainians and White Russians in the new Polish state. It was even far less favourable to Russia than the so-called 'Curzon' line which the British delegation had proposed as a suitable ethnigraphic frontier between Poland and Russia at the Paris peace conference in 1919.

The Bolsheviks were compelled to accept this settlement of their frontiers in the west, though only parts of it, namely those concerned with the independence of Finland and the Baltic states, were in accordance with the principle of national self-determination to which the Bolsheviks professed to adhere. The Russians also lost Bessarabia to Rumania, Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia to the new state of Czechoslovakia, and all their gains, including the annexation of Constantinople and the Straits leading from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea, which had been assigned to Nicholas II by a secret inter-Allied agreement of February 1915. Although the Bolsheviks tended later to write off these losses as being in accordance with the 'no annexations, no indemnities' proposals in the terms for peace which they promulgated as soon as they came to power in November 1917, there is no evidence that they did so willingly. Under the stress of civil war, internal controversies on foreign policy within the Bolshevik party itself and the economic stresses of the period of war, they hardly had an option. The Liberal government under Prince Lvov which assumed office after the March revolution gave no sign of wanting to renounce the territorial promises made to Russia by the secret treaties. Alexander Kerensky, who became Prime Minister in July 1917, was almost equally lacking in enthusiasm for this form of national self-denial; and when the Supreme Allied War Council called on the anti-Bolshevik leader they were backing, Admiral Kolchak, after the Leninist seizure of power and the outbreak of civil war, to repudiate the secret treaties in return for Allied support, he calmly replied that that would be for a future freely elected Constituent Assembly in Russia to decide. Even Lenin was far from heedless about Russia's territorial integrity; he told Trotsky, the first Soviet Foreign Commissar, during the negotiations at Brest-Litovsk that he was willing to continue fighting the Germans if Trotsky could provide an army. But since neither Trotsky nor anyone else could oblige by doing so, it was essential, he said, to sign a peace to prevent the Germans penetrating further into Russian territory even if it meant paying a very high price to attain it.

Thus Russia entered the years of peace after 1918, or rather 1921, with a grievance against the east European status quo resulting from the peace settlement, certainly against Poland and Rumania and to a lesser degree against Czechoslovakia. But that Soviet Russia was a dissatisfied state in eastern Europe was overlooked by most people, except, of course, by the Poles and Rumanians. The political Left in western Europe considered Russia to be far too advanced a country to be concerned with anything so base and old-fashioned as the recovery of lost territory; that was a characteristic of 'revanchist' states like Germany. The Right, on the other hand, considered that Russia was too weak and inefficient ('Communism rots the

soul' was how Winston Churchill put it) to make good her claims even if she wanted to; in any case, Communist propaganda, the Right thought, was a far more serious danger to the West than any territorial irredentism the Russians might harbour. In Britain, too, Russia's alleged designs on British interests in Central Asia, especially in Afghanistan and India, attracted more attention than her attitudes towards eastern Europe; they played an important part in the British decision to break off diplomatic relations with Russia in 1927. As for Russia's Far Eastern interests, these were not diminished in the same way by the First World War, though Russia's collapse in that war confirmed her losses to Japan in the Russo-Japanese war of I 9o4~O5, namely the southern half of Sakhalin and her lease of the naval base in Port Arthur, Manchuria, known to all sailors in the Tsarist and Soviet fleets as 'sacred Russian soil'. As soon as Russia had revived economically from war and revolution and took her place once again in the inner circle of great powers, it required no foresight to see that she would begin to press her dissatisfactions in Europe and the Far East. In the meanwhile, however, her best policy lay in pursuing a quiet life in order to dispel all risk of the capitalist West, possibly in collusion with Japan, encircling and crushing the socialist motherland. The Soviet government remained pathologically afraid of such an encirclement throughout the 1920s.

There are, however, two other aspects of the fall of the Romanov empire in the First World War which need attention. The first is that the German defeat of Russia in 1917 and Russia's surrender thereafter to Germany of the great agricultural resources of the Ukraine suggested to many German politicians after the war that, if ever they had to fight another war, they could best do so by meeting their food and raw material needs from Russia, whether with or without Russia's agreement, and so defeat the maritime blockade which the British and French fleets imposed in 1914-18. The German victories in Russia in 1916 and 1917 may thus be said to have planted the seed of the great ideology of a Lebensraum in the East in the German mind which never ceased to intrigue it afterwards, and which the Western democracies did nothing to discourage.

The second aspect of Russia's position in 1918 was that it was much more vulnerable than it had been in Tsarist times, not only because of the loss of territory by the peace settlement on her western borders and the German aspiration to do again in the future what they had done at. Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, but because her danger had been much increased in the Far East. Japan, as an ally, though not an active one, of the Entente powers, had naturally profited from the war. She acquired by the peace settlement Germany's former possessions in Shantung, though she was forced to disgorge these at the Washington conference in 1922, and Germany's island territories in the Pacific north of the equator, though these were, formally at least, entrusted to her as League of Nations mandates. Moreover, Japan had contracted an alliance with Britain in 1902 which was renewed in 1911. This meant that Japan could rely on Britain's understanding and sympathy if she was ever involved in hostilities with Russia, as she was when the Allied Supreme War Council egged her on to attack Russia's Far Eastern provinces in March 1918. It also meant that if the alliance with Britain were to be wound up, as it was at the Washington conference in 1922, Japan could be sure to get a good price from agreeing to relieve Britain of what had become an embarrassing commitment, and that price might well include British diplomatic support for a Japanese attack on Russia.

After all, Britain and Japan were in the same capitalist boat which Soviet Communism made no concealment of its intention to sink if it got the chance. Thus, as imperialist aspirations and policies grew in Japan throughout the inter-war period, Russia's leaders could never ignore this threat to her eastern flank. Her natural interest lay in playing the international game as softly and quietly as possible in order to avert all danger of having to fight a full-scale war on two widely separated fronts.

Russia's old antagonist in the Balkans, the Austro-Hungarian empire, based on the Ausgleich of Austria and Hungary of 1867, also collapsed in 1918, leaving south-eastern Europe as a weak corridor into which Germany could and did expand when she revived in the 1930s. Towards the end of the First World War it had been an aim of British policy to try to keep the Habsburg empire in being after the war as a counterweight to Germany, but this conflicted with the ideals of national self-determination which had now become inscribed in Allied war aims, and the centrifugal forces within that empire itself. The Austro-Hungarian collapse made possible the formation of Czechoslovakia, with its patchwork quilt of nationalities and its Achilles heel in the form of three million German-speaking people in the fringe of Sudeten uplands half-encircling the Bohemian plateau and facing post-war Germany in the west; the triune state of Serbia-Croatia-Slovenia which became Yugoslavia; and the enlargement of Rumania with the acquisition of Transylvania from Hungary. Austria itself was reduced by the peace treaty of Trianon in 1919 to a weak core of six million German-speaking people, too small to be called even a pale shadow of the former vast dominions of the Habsburgs, in an economically unviable country from which all the old agricultural hinterland had been shorn away.

The consequence in terms of the stability of the European international system was weakness and a mass of tensions. Most of the states of south-eastern Europe lacked the basic framework for an industrial state. They depended on the export of a limited range of primary raw materials, notably timber, grain, tobacco and oil, which experienced during the 1920S a long-term decline in world prices, partly as a consequence of the invention of substitutes for, or economies in the use of, raw material after the war, partly through the fall in purchasing power of the industrial nations in the economic depression which swept Europe after a short-lived boom following the 1918 armistice. South-eastern Europe, consisting as it did of a group of economically and militarily weak states, was destined to become the prey of any power which seized control of Central Europe, and no one was better fitted for that role than Germany. But these economic weaknesses of the area were as nothing compared with the political rivalries and tensions.

The new Austria was far too involved in its own economic plight and political faction fighting to have much time or energy to spare for irredentism, except in relation to the Austrian Tirol which was handed to Italy, in accordance with wartime engagements, in 1919. But partly for that very reason there was always political capital to be made in Hungary by any party which undertook to recover the legendary territories of the Holy Crown of St. Stephen, and, in particular, to achieve the retrocession of Transylvania from Rumania. Ranged against Austria and Hungary were the countries forming the Little Entente, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia, with their obsessive, unrealistic dread of a restoration of the Habsburg monarchy over its old dominions. Of the three, Czechoslovakia had least to fear from designs on its territories by other powers, at least in the 1920s, though the ragged argument with Poland continued over the disposition of the district of Teschen. But Poland faced on either side temporarily recessive great powers which she did nothing to conciliate until 1934, when President Pilsudski made his non- aggression agreement with Nazi Germany. It was all but inevitable that when these two giants, Russia and Germany, revived they would reclaim territory lost to Poland which made the formation of that state possible in the first place. To the south, Yugoslavia faced a disillusioned Italy whose expected gains on the Dalmatian coast by the Treaty of London of April 1915, when she joined the Entente in the war, had been frustrated by the creation of the triune state. On the other side of the Balkans, Rumania had profited from her costly war effort as part of the Allied coalition by the acquisition of Bessarabia from Russia, Northern Bukowina from Bulgaria and Transylvania from Hungary. Here again the message was clear, namely that any great power which wished to fish in the muddy waters of the Balkans would find many territorial grievances there which it could champion.

The First World War, at least in its concluding stages, had ostensibly been fought by the Allies to establish the principle of national self-determination, though in the event, as Lloyd George testified, a leading consideration of the four peace-makers in Paris in 1919 was to 'free from the clutches' of the successor states which they had created territory to which they were not entitled. This identification of the cause of national self-determination with that of the Allies meant that the ultimate Allied victory resulted in a belt of weak states in Eastern Europe, from Finland in the north to Rumania in the south. Towards these states the leading Allied powers, Britain and France, had contrary attitudes. The French by means of bilateral military treaties sought to make Eastern Europe a flank of the security system which they began to build against a German revival almost as soon as the ink on the peace treaties was dry. France mistrusted the security offered by the new League of Nations because it lacked the international force to implement its decisions which the French had pleaded for at the peace conference. She had seen her demand for a separation of the west bank of the Rhine from Germany and a permanent occupation of the Rhine-land turned down during the peace talks in preference to an Anglo-American guarantee to France against future aggression which fell to the ground as soon as the United States failed to ratify the treaties. She was implacably hostile towards, and suspicious of, Germany. British politicians, on the other hand, Conservative and Labour alike, considered that France, Britain's hereditary enemy, was the most likely troublemaker in Europe because of her innate fear of Germany. It was Germany, not France, whom they came to think of as having been hardly done by at the peace conference. They suspected France's east European allies either as French client states or as incorrigible meddlers in great power affairs which they did not understand. Even before the treaty was signed they entertained an unabashed sympathy for Germany's territorial losses to Poland through the peace settlement. This fact is indispensable to an understanding of British attitudes towards German revisionism in Eastern Europe in the 1930s.

We thus come to Germany as the third, but militarily by far the strongest, European empire to collapse, creating the vacuum, or at least part of it, out of which the new eastern Europe was formed. The German empire of William II, who abdicated in November 1918 to give way to the ill-fated Weimar Republic, ruled unimportant possessions in Africa, namely the Cameroons and Togo-land in west Africa, Tanganyika in east Africa, and south-west Africa. These territories fell into British Empire hands and became British (and, in the case of south-west Africa, South African) mandates under the League of Nations. Germany's colony in Central Africa, Ruanda-Urundi, became a Belgian mandate. Germany's possessions in Shantung and her island territories in the Pacific north of the equator came under Japanese administration as mandates as a reward for Japan's siding with the Allies in the war; her island possessions in the Pacific south of the equator fell into British Empire hands as 'C' mandates under the League. But these overseas territories had never made any important contribution to the German economy in peacetime and were only of value so long as Germany was a considerable naval power. They had been acquired in the I 88os as the trappings and outward insignia of great power status. Once lost, Germany made no serious effort to regain them.

Germany's territorial losses in Europe, however, were far more serious. In the west, the retrocession of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to France, from whom they had been seized after the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, was the least grievous blow. The loss of the Saar, which came under League of Nations control for fifteen years after the Treaty of Versailles was ratified, after which there was to be a referendum to decide its future, was more humiliating, and the fact that the west bank of the Rhine, the Rhine bridgeheads and a zone fifty kilometres wide on the east bank of the river were to be permanently demilitarized, with an Allied army of occupation quartered there for a maximum of fifteen years, more humiliating still. But the most intolerable territorial loss for Germany under the peace treaties was the severing of Prussia, the nursery of the German army, into two parts so as to give Poland a corridor to the sea--'the next war will begin in Danzig', prophesied Lloyd George in 1919--and the handing over to Poland of the coal-rich districts of Silesia.

To these provisions of what young Germans were taught as they grew up to loathe as the 'Diktat of Versailles' were added the demilitarization of the German army and its deprivation of the major weapons of war. The proud legions of the Hohenzollerns gave way to a volunteer force of 100,000 men to whom tanks, aircraft and guns above a certain calibre were denied. The High Seas Fleet, with which Germany had challenged Britain in the years before 1914, was towed into the harbour of Scapa Flow, where its officers scuttled it in the summer of 1919, the British holding up their hands in what may have been feigned surprise and shock. To all intents Germany was denuded of the instruments of war which had been its pride and terror. But the German soil had never been ravaged in battle during the four years and a half of the war; the German army had marched home, defeated but intact. Though the Germans in their hour of humiliation forgot it, they had held at bay the greatest coalition of nations the world had ever seen for fifty-one months with no considerable help from their allies. Russia they had totally defeated, France they had brought to her knees and the flower of Britain's manhood had fallen as before a scythe in face of the German army.

The German situation, at home and in foreign affairs, looked bleak in 1918, so bleak as to make the German High Command eager to shuffle off the odium of leading the country in defeat to the democratic politicians of the Weimar Republic. A year later, by the Versailles Treaty, Germany had shouldered legal responsibility for the war and thereby assumed liability, not defined in money terms until the inter-Allied Reparation Commission created by the treaty issued its report in May 1921, for all the loss and damage inflicted on their enemies by the war. But their country's international position was far stronger than the Germans believed. On the eastern side, they had it in their hands, if they could swallow their revulsion against Communism, to make common cause with Soviet Russia, at that time another pariah nation which had somewhat similar irredentist claims against the successor states of eastern Europe, especially Poland, as Germany herself. In the West stood victorious France, but a France divided from her wartime ally, Britain, by differences over Germany and the enforcement of the Versailles Treaty against Germany.

Germany was to agree at the Locarno conference in October 1925 to respect her new western frontier and the demilitarization of the Rhineland imposed in Paris in 1919. This agreement was hailed in Britain as marking the true dividing line between the years of war and the years of peace, as the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, who signed the Locarno accords for Britain, called it. It signalled, or seemed to signal, the voluntary acceptance by Germany of the only territorial agreement concerning Germany signed at Paris which British opinion with one voice held to be just. But it went unnoticed at the time that by giving France and Germany a British and Italian guarantee against 'flagrant' aggression by the other, the Locarno agreements effectively debarred France from entering Western Germany in the event of any future German attack on France's east European allies. By signing the Locarno accords Germany thus pleased Britain, and in doing so widened the rift between Britain and France, while at the same time freeing her hands for the revision of her east European frontiers when she was strong enough to do so. But before this Germany had made common cause with Bolshevik Russia at Rapallo in 1922, at one stroke bringing home to the Western powers who had defeated her that she now had an option in foreign policy, and laying the basis, to be brought to completion in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, for co-operation with the other great revisionist power in eastern Europe. These facts went far to make Germany, the object of Allied diplomacy in 1919, the arbiter of Europe in the twenty years' breathing space which followed.

There was, however, a fourth empire which collapsed in 1918, predominantly a non-European one, though it remained with a foothold in Europe, an empire which many Europeans had done their best before 1914 to expel 'bag and baggage', as Gladstone put it in the 1880s, from Europe. By a curious turn of events Turkey, which in the form of the Ottoman Empire had been a protege of Britain in the nineteenth century, became its enemy during the First World War, and then, after the long-delayed peace settlement at Lausanne in 1923, its friend again. Although the Ottoman Empire had been the subject of many secret inter-Allied agreements during the war which first, in 1915, handed over Constantinople and the Straits to Russia and then, in 1916, by the Sykes-Picot agreement divided the Arab portions of the empire between Britain and France, the revolution in Turkey led by Kemal Pasha in 1920 preserved the Anatolian core as the nationalist base of the revived Turkey and succeeded in keeping Constantinople and the Straits under Turkish sovereignty. The Arab territories were shorn away, to become League of Nations 'A' mandates, under French control in the case of Syria and Lebanon, under British control in the case of Iraq and Transjordan, and Biblical Palestine, the poisoned chalice, was shaped into a British mandate intended, according to the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, to be a National Home for the Jewish people.

But two circumstances kept the new Turkey in friendly relations with the Western powers, despite the annexationist Treaty of Se'vres which the Allies had imposed on the Sultan in August 1920 and which the Kemalist revolution rendered null and void, and despite Britain and Turkey being brought to the brink of war in September 1922 when Kemalist and British occupation forces confronted each other at Chanak, on the coast of the Straits. One was the necessity for Britain as a maritime power, or rather the greatest of the existing maritime powers, to make friends with Turkey as the guardian of the Straits. The other was the common interests of Britain and Turkey, which Lord Curzon developed during the peace negotiations at Lausanne in 1922, as against Bolshevik Russia, which at that time was sedulously cultivating Turkey in opposition to the capitalist Entente. The Lausanne Treaty was the final peace settlement to be made by the Allies with their wartime opponents, and perhaps for that very reason was the most enduring, except that in 1936 the Lausanne convention of the Straits was peacefully revised and the Montreux treaty, with full British approval, was negotiated; this gave Turkey the right, denied to her at Lausanne, to militarize the Straits.

The Turkish settlement, and especially the retention by Turkey of her foothold in Europe, testified to the strength of anxieties about India in the making of British policy. During the long discussions in the British Cabinet about Turkey and the Near East in 1920 and 1921, the Foreign Secretary, Curzon, pressed, with Admiralty support, for the expulsion of the Turks from Europe, though it was never quite clear who, in that case, would be sovereign of the Straits. The war had, however, excited the strongest nationalist feelings in India, as it did in the rest of Asia, and the British made a concession to these feelings in the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919. It was Edward Montagu who, as Secretary of State for India, persuaded the Cabinet that the post-war aftermath was no time for adding fuel to the discontents of Muslim India by expelling the Turks from Europe.

The Turkish settlement is also interesting in that it was a Near Eastern counterpart to the concurrent Anglo-French tensions over the settlement in Europe. First, Britain, or rather British officers and officials on the spot, irritated the French by seeming to intrigue against them with the Arabs in Syria and Lebanon and by installing the Arab leader, Prince Feisal, as ruler of the British mandate, Iraq, after the French had expelled him from Syria. Then France disgusted the British by coming to terms with Kemal Ataturk in the Franklin-Bouillon agreement of October 1921, thus breaking what Britain had hoped would remain a united Allied front until a definite peace settlement with Turkey was reached.


The coalition which joined forces against the Central Powers in August 1914, consisting of Belgium, Britain, France, Japan, Russia and Serbia, to which Italy, formerly an ally of the Central Powers, was added in April 1915, had been transformed by the end of the war owing to Russia's retirement from the conflict in 1917 and the United States' entry into the war on the Allied side in April of that year. Germany's defeat in the autumn of 1918 was not due in the first instance to America's weight being thrown into the scale against her, but the Germans had to calculate, when they considered suing for peace, that if the war continued the United States could carry on fighting longer than any other belligerent. At meetings of the Supreme War Council of the Allies in October and November 1918 which reviewed Germany's correspondence with President Wilson, to whom she had applied for peace on the basis of the Fourteen Points, General Pershing, the commander of American forces in Europe, was the sole Allied military leader who anticipated having to fight, if need be, until 1920 and 1921. But, although the European struggle had to be resolved by America's entry into the war and her ability to continue fighting when all the rest had stopped, the United States withdrew from the European balance of power as soon as the peace treaties were signed by refusing to ratify them. Henceforward she took no part in enforcing the peace or the treaties.

This left Britain, France and Italy, states which could not overthrow Germany unaided during the war, as the major guardians of the peace settlement. Italy had no interest in enforcing the peace because, apart from acquiring the South Tirol and the Trieste peninsula from Austria by the treaty of Saint Germain, she regarded herself as having been cheated of the promises made to her of compensations in Dalmatia, Anatolia and Africa when she adhered to the Entente by the Treaty of London of April 1915. These feelings played an important part in the support which Italian public opinion gave to the ex-Socialist Benito Mussolini, who seized power in Rome in October 1922 and revived the romantic programme of re-creating the ancient Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Britain and France, the remaining two of the trio, were an ill-matched pair for maintaining the peace even had they been able to do so. Most British people regarded the French as still harbouring Napoleonic ambitions to dominate Europe, as needlessly vicious towards Germany, as likely to plunge the world back into war again through their policy of great armaments and military pacts designed to tie Germany up in fetters. In any case, Britain had far too many domestic worries on her hands--Ireland, India, nationalism rampant even in the white dominions of the Empire, unemployment, industrial unrest and the spectre of Communism unleashed by the new forces at work in Soviet Russia--to have much time for Europe. She wanted pacification; an end to great land armies and talk of war; peace and quiet. The French, on the other hand, regarded Britain as unrealistic about Germany, ignorant about security questions, uninterested in Europe and insufferably hypocritical in denouncing French imperialism while hanging on to her own empire and even intriguing to expand it at France's expense.

The peace settlement which these two, with the United States, had made and were now expected to enforce alone--and Britain doubted if it could be enforced--had no support from Russia. On the contrary, the Bolsheviks denounced the settlement, as did most on the Left in Britain, as a capitalist peace intended either to keep Russia imprisoned within a cordon sanitaire or to provide a framework within which capitalist Europe could plot and plan aggression against the socialist homeland. While the peace settlement in the West was reasonably secure, at least after the Locarno treaties in 1925, the belt of states in eastern Europe, for the defence of which Soviet assistance was essential, was a most unlikely proposition. This structure never had the wholehearted support of Britain, who in any case had had no real interests in eastern Europe since the eighteenth century; nor of Italy, who sought rather to divert Germany in that direction to take her mind off an Anschluss with Austria; nor, of course, of Germany or Russia. The east European states were riddled with minority problems and with resentments and counter-resentments against each other. They had been brought into existence, or brought themselves into existence, under United States patronage, and now the United States had quitted the stage. How, in these circumstances, could any German government which hoped to remain popular with its own people avoid committing itself to the revision of the east European settlement? The Allies had demanded a democratic Germany in 1918 on the ground that it would be more law-abiding than a regime like the Kaiser's. They then gave Germany a peace settlement, which, though perhaps not unjust in itself, German democracy must perforce attack if it was

to survive. If it did not attack the peace settlement, there were more sinister forces waiting in the wings in Germany which would do it for them.

But these were not the issues which the world was most interested in on the morrow of the Great War. The questions which held their attention concerned putting the guilty on trial, exacting reparations from the defeated, settling the tangled problems of inter-Allied war debts, resettlement and rehabilitation after the great conflict. Some-how the world returned to work and there was an illusory golden age of prosperity in Europe, mainly based on the inflow of American capital and loans, until the world economy blew up, or ground to a halt, in the great depression of 1929-33. But before we come to that we must consider another area of the international system from which most European eyes also tended to be averted: the Far East.