Placeholder image

Effects of WW1

As the First World War drew to a close, Allied forces pushed Imperial German forces back accross the European continent, toward Germany. General Ludendorff and Hindenburg's 'Spring Offensive' (Operation Michael) had failed. Four years of brutal warfare had left Europe exhausted and in ruins. Battle-weary troops retreated back toward Germany and by October 1918 it was clear - to the military - that the Germans had lost. Problems were also escalating at home. The damage caused was terrible. Europe - formerly the powerhouse of intellectual thinking and economic progress - had been reduced to a ration-taking ruin. Ludendorff therefore pushed for an armistice, much to the shock of many generals and politicians. This was agreed on 11 November 1918 and was to be based on Wilson's 14 points for peace (more of which later).

Economic Effects

  • Britain, Russia and France were effectively bankrupt, relying on money from USA; the war had cost billions of dollars
  • Inflation - continuous rising prices, hit Germany
  • There was a shortage of fuel in Germany
  • Germany's currency had collapsed, causing a black market and barter (trading in goods)
  • Social Effects

  • Millions of refugees lay displaced accross Europe, carrying sickness and diseases with them as they went home. The Flu killed 50 million people alone.
  • an estimated 35 million people had died worldwide (either from direct war or disease)
  • 6 million from the Triple Alliance had died; 4 million of the Triple Entente.
  • the lack of working men had led to a boom in working women. Women now did industrial work and began pushing for the vote too. The heirarchical structure of society began to break apart.
  • Political Effects

  • The Hohenzollern royal family (Germany) would cease to rule when Wilhelm abdicated on 28 Nov 1918. Friedrich Ebert - a politican - would now be in charge of what would be called the Weimar Republic government.
  • The empires of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Turkey had collapsed
  • the Russian Tsar lay dead
  • Turkey became a backwater
  • the Habsburg monarchy would no longer have an Empire to rule.
  • Britain and France's colonieis now began to think about independence
  • Territory Effects

  • Germany lost 15% of her adult population.
  • Most fighting occured in France and Germany, which suffered huge damage.
  • Germany's borders were now undecided but France wanted Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhineland, whilst Poland eyed land to the West of Germany
  • Before all of this could be sorted out though, a peace solution was needed and quickly. Never mind death, disease and disorder - what should be done with Germany and her allies?

    Click on the video above to see more effects of WW1

    IGCSE history Effects of WW1

    The ruins of Dinant, 1915

    IGCSE history effects of WW1

    Crater caused by a zepplin bomb, Paris (published 1923)

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    The Big Three

    The victorious nations that decided what to do with Germany and the defeated nations, met at Versailles in Paris. Initially this was Britain (under Lloyd-George), France (under Clemenceau), USA (under Wilson) and Italy (under Orlando). However, Italy soon stormed out, leaving just three dominant members - known as 'The Big Three'. They gathered at the Palace of Versailles

    France: Clemenceau wanted revenge:

  • 2/3rds of French army had been killed or injured
  • Clemenceau felt Germany to be her biggest threat
  • the French remembered the Franco-Prussian War of 1870s.
    • French President (Poincare) wanted Germany broken up into 16 states
  • Wanted a treaty that would weaken Germany forever – France’s population was in decline and they had lost large sections of industry and land.
  • USA: Wilson wanted pace:

  • USA: Woodraw Wilson was often seen as the idealist.
  • His aim was to rebuild a better, peaceful Europe from the ruins of WW1.
  • He believed Germany should be punished, but not too harshly so as to avoid revenge
  • He wanted democracy to be strong, so that the German people would not allow their leaders to go to war
  • He had his famous ’14 points’ to help achieve peace.
  • These points included ‘No Secret Treaties’ ‘Disarmament’ and Point # 14: The League of Nations.
  • He strongly believed in ‘Self Determination’ – he wanted Eastern Europe to rule itself rather than be part of an Empire.
  • Britain: Lloyd-George wanted trade

  • Lloyd-George was an experienced politician; he was often in the middle between Clemenceau and Wilson
  • He wanted Germany to lose its colonies and navy (as he thought these threatened the British Empire)
  • He was keen to make sure Germany became a good trading partner so didn’t want them to be crushed – before the war Germany had been Britain’s 2nd largest trading partner
  • He had problems from the British public who wanted to ‘Squeeze Germany until the pips squeaked’ and ‘Hang the Kaiser’ (popular newspaper headlines) since they had lost many men in WW1
  • Was in a dilemma as he won the 1918 election after promising to ‘make Germany pay’.
  • A video outlining the aims, outcomes and consequences of the TOV

    IGCSE the big 3

    The Big Three at Versailles, published 1919 (Internet Archive Book Images, no copyright)

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    Why did the Big Three Disagree?

    Struggling for Compromise

    The Big Three soon found themselves unable to agree on what to do with the defeated nations. There were many reasons why.

  • The USA had not been affected as much as France and Britain – Wilson’s aims were therefore much more idealistic – e.g. his 14 points, League of Nations and self determination.
    • There had been no war on US soil; the French therefore felt their idealistic aims were unrealistic and famously said '14 points?! The good Lord only has 10!'
  • Clemenceau felt Britain and the USA did not mind having a stronger Germany to keep France in order. France had, after all, previously been Britain's largest rival.
  • Wilson was weakened by a lack of support back home – the USA was not interested in being the world's policeman, and so the Senate rejected both the Treaty and the League of Nations. The US had become isolationist
  • Clemenceau wanted France to be secure from future German attacks. This meant weakening Germany and reducing its military strength.
  • France wanted revenge on Germany for the destruction the war had caused.
  • Lloyd-George wanted to protect British interests but knew he needed trading partners. He was in a tricky siutation as he had promised the British people that he would ‘squeeze the German lemon until the pips squeaked’ and ‘Hang the Kaiser’ but did not actually think that this was best
  • Lloyd George was also uneasy with Wilson’s self independence idea as Britain had an empire on which ‘the sun never set’ – they didn’t want their subjects to have self-independence!
  • IGCSE history effects of WW1

    The Big Three at Versailles, published 1919

    IGCSE history The Big Three
    An imagined thought-process for the Big 3

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    Terms of the Treaty of Versailes


    The Kaiser had abdicated and fled. A new Provisional Government led by a politician - Friedrich Ebert -was now in charge of Germany. The first question to answer was: who exactly would represent Germany at the peace talks, scheduled for the Palace of Verailles, in the Hall of Mirrors? Should it be the military (who had realistically begun the war and been responsible for it) or the politicians (who were now in charge)?

    In the end, the decision was taken out of their hands as the victors decided that no-one would represent Germany. Instead, the Big 3 (Lloyd-George, Clemenceau and Wilson) took to deciding post-war Europe without representation from Ebert or anyone from Germany. The Germans were invited to the talks, but only as observers. Over the coming months, the Big 3 would thrash out a Treaty, in what became known as 'The Treaty of Versailles', whilst other treaties were also made for the other defeated powers (see 'Other Treaties'). The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were:


  • Germany lost: Alsace-Lorraine to France, The Polish Corridor’ (West Prussia and Posen) to Poland, the port of Danzig to the LON, Upper Silesia to Poland, North Schleswig to Denmark
  • Rhineland was to be demilitarized
  • forbidden Anschluss
  • all colonies as ‘mandates’ to the League of Nations.
  • All in all it lost 10% of land, 12.5% of its population, 16% of coalfields and almost 50% of steel industry.
  • Military

  • Army was limited to 100 000 men
  • conscription was banned (soldiers had to be volunteers)
  • Germany was not allowed any tanks, submarines or aircraft
  • navy was allowed 6 battleships
  • the Rhineland became demilitarized (no troops allowed in)
  • Reparations

  • Article 231: Germany was to accept all blame for starting the war or risk partition
  • Reparations: Germany had to pay £6.6billion – this was designed to be paid up until 1984! Taken in the form of valuable coal and iron ore resources.
  • LON

  • The League of Nations was established, as Point Number 14 of Wilson’s ‘14 points’
  • Germany was not invited until it proved itself to be peaceful
  • For more information on this topic see Unit 2.
  • The Treaty was signed by the new German government - soon to be called the Weimar Republic - led by Ebert. National outrage followed in Germany but there was little they could really do. From here on, they were supposed to adhere to the terms laid out by Clemenceau, Wilson and Lloyd-George.

    The negotiations did not go smoothly though. The Big 3 had very different ideas about what they wanted. The Treaty was anything but harmonious.

    IGCSE history TOV

    Treaty of Versailles newspaper article, (Kallen2021, CC-BY-SA-4.0)

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles

  • Almost as soon as the Treaty of Versailles was signed, Ebert was faced with an uprising: the Kapp Putsch. Here, a former army General Luttwiz and Wolfgang Kapp mustered around 12 000 returning soldiers (known as Freikorps) to march on Berlin and install a new government. Initially it worked, and the government fled
  • The Putsch ended because of Berlin’s workforce going on strike – around 50 000 workers downed-tools and the government was paralysed. The real army didn't join Kapp and so he fled.
  • Nevertheless, the strike added to the financial chaos of Germany
  • Indeed, Germany had fallen behind reperation repayment by 1922 and so in 1923 the French invaded the Rhur Valley and took what they felt was owed to them
  • This led to another strike, known as passive resistance where workers downed-tools again, further crippling the economy
  • The French reacted to this by killing 100 workers and expelling 100 000 from the region – Germany was now creating no goods and paying its workers no money
  • This led to Hyperinflation in 1923 as the government printed more money in order to try and pay its debts and workers. German marks became worthless and prices spiralled out of control. Only the careful management of a new leader - Gustav Stresemann - avoided more war. In his 100 Days programme, he called off passive resistance, reformed the currency and negotiated loans from the USA in the Dawes Plan of 1924, which helped repay the French.
  • A last consequence of the TOV was the Munich Uprising. In 1923 Hitler attempted to overthrow the government in what became known as the Munich Putsch. Here, he marched on Berlin (trying to copy Mussolini's March on Rome) with his SA, hoping the people and army would join in. Neither joined in, and the Bavarian police ended up shooting the Nazi revolters, resulting in Hitler's arrest and imprisonment (though the judges were so leniant they only gave Hitler 9 months and allowed him 4 hours on the radio during his trial).
  • IGCSE Kapp Pustch

    Kapp Putsch, March 1920, German Federal Archives

    Reactions to the Treaty of Versailles

  • The Treaty was labelled the 'Diktat' as Germany felt it had been dictated to them
  • The German government (called the Weimar Republic) were labelled 'November Criminals' for signing the deal
  • Many Germans believed they had been betrayed; this became known as the 'Stab in The Back Myth'; they felt that Jewish politicans had betrayed the military
  • There was particular hatred for the War Guilt Clause, but the whole treaty was felt not to reflect what was agreed during the armistice; that Wilson's 14 points would be the basis of any peace settlement. For many people the peace was unjust and the war unfinished.
  • IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    The Treaty of Trianon - Hungary

    The Other Treaties

    Hungary: Treaty of Trianon

  • Lost swathes of land to Romania, Yugosloavia and Czechoslovakia
  • Thousands of ethnic Hungarians lived outside their homeland as the border was redrawn with neighbouring powers
  • It lost 60% of its population
  • Lost all trading routes via the Med; real loss of income
  • Popular phrase for the Treaty in Hungary was 'No, No, Never!
  • Very humiliating considering its former size and influence
  • Breaking up the Hapsburg Empire meant a loss of markets and trade restrictions
  • They never could afford to pay back the reparations
  • Italy felt it did not get enough land in Hungary!
  • Austria: Treaty of St Germain

  • The Hapsburg Empire had fallen and was ordered to be dismantled
  • Bohemia and Moravia were given away to newly formed Czechoslovakia
  • Yugoslavia could would have Bosnia and Herzegovinia
  • Humiliated by being denied union with Germany.
  • Felt hard done by as they lost land to 5 countries
  • Lost a lot of their economic industrial land to ally-friendly Czechoslovakia
  • Arguments against the Treaty of Versailles

    Turkey: Treaty of Sevres

  • The Ottoman Empire had fallen after hundreds of years
  • All colonies were stripped and given away e.g. Syria and Palestine
  • Had to totally disarm
  • Lost land to its neighbour and rival, Greece.
  • Split the country into civil war as they refused to sign it.
  • Mustafa Kemal renegotiated the whole treaty in 1923 Treaty of Laussane!
  • Reclaimed Anatolia at this meeting
  • Muslim factions disdained Western occupation in the region
  • Turks resented Western insistence that all financial matters go through them first!
  • Bulgaria: Treaty of Neuilley

    * Had to toally disarm
    * Ordered to pay $100m reparations
    * Lost land to neighbours such as Yugoslavia, Greece and Romania
    * Lost access to the seas

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    Justification for the Treaty of Versailles

  • Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was harsher (signed between Germany and Russia 1918): in this, Russia lost 34% of its population, 32% of its agricultural land, 54% of its industry, 26% of its railways, 89% of its coalmines and had to pay 300 million gold roubles.
  • By 1925 German steel production was twice as great as Great Britain’s
  • During WW1 the German finance minister claimed he would make the allies pay for the war if Germany won. Surely it was fair then, that if they lost, the Germans would have to pay
  • Germany played a large role in starting the war After all, they did sign the Blank Cheque which then drew other countries into an alliance struggle.
  • Considering the problems the Big Three had it was the fairest they could hope for
  • France had lost 2/3rds of its army to injury or death in WW1. Clemenceau needed to be sure of not being attacked again. He also remembered how Germany had attacked before in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
  • Britain had also suffered greatly, losing 1million men
  • IGCSE Kapp Pustch

    the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Dec 1917 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R92623 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

    Arguments against the Treaty of Versailles

  • Germany lost 12.5% of its territory and 7m Germans to other countries Surely making Germans citizens of new countries was going too far?
  • Germany claimed the allies were trying to bankrupt them - £6.6bn would take up until 1984 to pay off!
  • Clemenceau was acting out of revenge due to the Franco-Prussian war and a hatred of Germany.
  • The Terms were worked out in secret Germany was not invited to the TOV – they therefore had no say in their fate Germany lost all their colonies but the allies kept them
  • Germany felt Britain and France were just trying to take advantage and add to their Empires – they had no real wish to make a fair peace.
  • Germany was the only country that had to disarm They felt that this was highly unfair as it left them vulnerable to an attack; this was the case in the 1923 Invasion of the Rhur Valley by France
  • Britain had also suffered greatly, losing 1million men
  • It was critisized by the world's mot famous economist who wrote a book called "Economic Consequences of the Peace"
  • French Marshall Ferdinand Foch said 'This is not a peace, it's an armistice for twenty years' (although he was claiming it was too leniant!)
  • At The Peace Table Treaty of Versailles IGCSE History

    A cartoon depicting the TOV (Source:

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; treaty of versailles;

    Revision Guides