The Terms of the Treaty of Versailles

The treaty was signed today at Versailles.   At 10:30 am Washington time Phillips and I sat in the telegraph room on the 4th floor of the Dept. and had a direct wire from there to Versailles - with only two relays, one at London and one at Newfoundland, where it went into and came out of the submarine cable.   It was 5¼ hours different time at Versailles.   As each signed it was signalled out over the wire and ticked off on the receiver at our side and the operator read it by ear and wrote it out as received on a typewriter.   We leaned over his shoulder and read the bulletins.   It was a unique and most interesting experience - and a great occasion.

Breckenridge Long, Diary (Saturday, 28 June 1919)

Long was an US diplomat



For five months the Big Three debated the terms of the Treaty.  They crawled over huge maps of Europe spread over the floor.  Clemenceau and Wilson quarrelled to the point where the Conference was in danger of failing altogether; that was where Lloyd George stepped in -- on 25 March he issued the Fontainbleau Memorandum, then he persuaded Clemenceau to accept the League of Nations, and Wilson to accept reparations, and the Conference was saved.


Meanwhile, thousands of people turned up to lobby the Big Three, hoping to get a hand-out in the final treaty.  The Arab and Zionist Jewish delegations competed to get control of Palestine (in the end, it was given to Britain).  Queen Mary of Romania turned up in person and flirted with Wilson; he thought she was a dreadful woman, but Romania came away with Transylvania.  A group of 20 Ukrainians turned up and tried to persuade the Big Three to recognise the Ukraine as an independent country (they failed).  The Conference became a huge goody-bag, in which everybody was trying to dip their hand.


The small German delegation in Paris, who had been watching proceedings but not allowed to take part, were at last given the text of the Treaty on 7 May 1919.  They issued an outraged statement and returned home.  For a while, it seemed that Germany might reject the Treaty.  However, Germany had no choice but to accept whatever was decided, and eventually two Germans were found who were prepared to sign the Treaty.


On 28 June 1919, the victors met at the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, and the two Germans were called into the room and instructed to sign.




The main points of the Treaty [BRAT]  

The first 26 Articles of the Treaty set out the Covenant of the League of Nations; the rest of the 440 Articles detailed Germany's punishment: 


1.   Germany had to accept the Blame for starting the war (Clause 231).  This was vital because it provided the justification for...

2.   Germany had to pay £6,600 million (called Reparations) for the damage done during the war.

3.   Germany was forbidden to have submarines or an air force.   She could have a navy of only six battleships, and an Army of just 100,000 men.   In addition, Germany was not allowed to place any troops in the Rhineland, the strip of land, 50 miles wide, next to France.

4.   Germany lost Territory (land) in Europe (see map, below). Germany’s colonies were given to Britain and France.


(Also, Germany was forbidden to join the League of Nations, or unite with Austria.)




Terms of the treaty - fuller outline

Key terms of the treaty - full text



- Giles Hill on the Treaty of Versailles

- simple description


A map


   Describe how the Treaty of Versailles weakened Germany: a. Through the loss of territory, b. Militarily, c. Economically.










If you had been a German in Paris in 1919, can you find FOUR things about the conduct of the Conference which would have outraged you?


Source A

The Allied governments affirm, and Germany accepts, the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied governments and their peoples have been subjected as a result of the war.

The Treaty of Versailles, Clause 231 (the 'War Guilt' clause)

Source B