Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source3
Extracts from a Foreign Office report describing reactions to the Treaty in French newspapers, June - August 1919
(Catalogue ref: FO 608/125)
  • One task of the Foreign Office has been to keep British leaders informed about what is happening in the rest of the world. Every week, British officials all over the world sent back reports on what the politicians, press and people in various countries were saying and thinking about important issues.
  • These extracts are from reports by British officials in France sending back information about opinions being expressed in France about the Treaty of Versailles. Extracts 3a and 3b are dated 29 June 1919. Extract 3c is dated 6 August 1919.
  • "Revanche" is a term that meant revenge or aggression towards the Germans.
  • General Smuts was the commander of the South African forces in the Great War and was heavily involved in the British delegation to negotiate the Treaty. In France he was generally thought of as British.
  • Reactions in France to the Treaty were mixed. There were celebrations that the war was definitely over. French people approved of the reparations that Germany had to pay. They also liked the fact that Germany's borders with France (the Rhineland) would be demilitarised. This meant Germany could not station any troops in this area. The French appreciated that the coalmines of the Saar would bring prosperity to France instead of Germany. They also believed that the League of Nations would be a powerful force for peace. It would protect France if Germany recovered and tried to act aggressively again.
  • However, there was a strong sense that Germany still threatened France. Many French people looked at the terrible cost of the war and believed that France had suffered far more than Germany. Soon after the Treaty, Clemenceau stood for election as President of France. He was outraged when other candidates stood against him. It was then that he realised how bitter many people were about the Treaty.
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