Agreements

A photograph of the Treaty of Versailles reminds us that this agreement, which formally ended the First World War, can still be controversial today.

A copy of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919.(external link)

A copy of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919. Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira.

Context

The Treaty of Versailles was an agreement between Germany and the Allied powers (including France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and others), signed on June 28 1919 to formally end the First World War. It was signed at the Palace of Versailles in France. Fighting had already ended at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918, when the armistice was signed. The terms of the treaty took months to negotiate, and some of these terms are still controversial. Germany was viewed as being treated especially harshly because the treaty required it to disarm, lose some of its territory, and pay reparations equivalent to about 600 billion New Zealand dollars today. Some people at the time saw these conditions as counterproductive. The Treaty of Versailles did not have the intended outcome and was later renegotiated and revised, along with other treaties written at the end of the war, to improve relations between the countries involved.

Treaties are international laws made to define the agreements between two or more countries about a particular matter. They are similar to contracts, made with carefully written legal terms and the signatures of people chosen to represent the parties involved.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this treaty in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What countries signed the Treaty of Versailles? Why didn’t other countries that participated in the war sign it?
  • Why might the conditions imposed on Germany be counterproductive? Explore the possible consequences of these conditions, both positive and negative, and short- and long-term.
  • Why were aspects of the treaty renegotiated? How did this change the outcomes for Germany? Do you think treaties should be able to change, or should they stay the same as when they were signed?
  • What are some other treaties or agreements that you know of? How are they the same as or
    different to the Treaty of Versailles?
  • How do you think people come to agreements?
  • How do you think agreements can help to solve or prevent conflict?
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