This study is about British policy at the peace conferences following the First World War that had a crucial influence in shaping the history of Europ...moreThis study is about British policy at the peace conferences following the First World War that had a crucial influence in shaping the history of Europe and the Middle East. Both authors were close associates of the well known historian of British diplomatic history, the late Professor Cedric Lowe. At the time that they wrote this work Michael Dockrill held the position of lecturer in War Studies at King's College in London and J. Douglas Goold served on the editorial board for the Edmonton Journal. Their work is largely based on primary sources, including archives and private papers that became available to researchers in the late seventies. The authors outline the background and origins of the policies adopted by Britain and its allies, the resolution of their conflicting aims at the conferences, and the aftermath of the far reaching decisions then made. Dockrill and Goold argue that despite difficult negotiations, Anglo French differences, and American isolationism, Britain, on the balance, achieved many of its aims during the conferences, aims that were primarily concerned with imperial objectives.
In this study the authors concentrate on the peace settlements in West and East Europe as well as the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Dockrill and Goold argue that Prime Minister David Lloyd George served as the prime formulator and negotiator of the British policy that focused on a harsh peace against the Turks in order to obtain territory and protection for British strategic interests in the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Lloyd George supported annexation of Turkish and Arab lands by Britain, France, and Greece.
To acquire French support for his imperial aspirations, the authors stress, Lloyd George with some moderating influence willingly allowed Clemenceau his way in the West and East European settlements despite misgivings of a harsh peace settlement against Germany. Lloyd George, who the French accused of pro German sympathies, preferred a just peace with Germany. He opposed French annexation or occupation of the Rhineland and Saarland, heavy reparation payments, and the subjection of Germans to the Poles in the East European territorial settlements. He did, however, support the annexations of former German colonies and the disposal of the German naval fleet. To acquire French acceptance of British imperial claims in Africa, the Near East, and the Persian Gulf Region, Lloyd George compromised on his German policy and allowed Clemenceau to direct the West European peace settlement with Germany. Lloyd George had little to say about the French dominated peace settlement in East Europe.
Once drafted, Lloyd George and the British government viewed the Versailles settlement as too harsh and uncompromising. Lloyd George feared that the Versailles Diktat might cause instability in Germany, and lead to another European war (p.69). For that reason Lloyd George was not willing to use British forces to enforce the treaty settlements, preferring to mediate Franco German disagreements with hope of reducing the Versailles restrictions in the early twenties. However, the authors point out that poor Anglo French diplomatic relations due to French expansion overseas in the early twenties made it unlikely that Britain could modify the Versailles Treaty in Germany's favor. Moreover, with French support, the nationalist Turks forced Britain and Greece to retreat from Constantinople and Smyrna, not only embarrassing Lloyd George, but contributing to his downfall. Meanwhile, French leaders were more interested in ensuring that Germany would not revive and threaten France, occupying the Ruhrland when Germany was slow to pay reparations. In addition, the French leaders concentrated on forming alliances with Germany's neighbors, such as Belgium, Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, to contain the revival of German power.
Although France dominated the peace policies in Europe because the British placed more emphasis on imperial issues, Dockrill and Goold argue that the British acquired most of their main peace objectives during 1919 to 1923. Britain secured a share of reparations from Germany and gained control of most of the former German colonies. The Kaiser's prize fleet lay beneath the waves at Scapa Flow. In the Middle East the Lloyd George government acquired the mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia, including the oil rich Mosul. And in Turkey, by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), Britain gained favorable arrangements on the question British leaders cared most about, the Straits of Constantinople.
The study by Dockrill and Goold is extremely complex and interesting. They deal with numerous issues in West and East Europe as well as the Middle East. This work is important for scholars of European and Middle East diplomatic history since the peace agreements of 1919 23 led to the European diplomatic problems of the twenties and thirties, and continues to influence international relations today.