HY116_MT Week 3_Content - HY116 International History since...

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HY116: International History since 1890 MT Week 3 The Great War, 1914-1918 SURVEY ( International History of the 20 th Century and Beyond - A. Best, J. Hanhimä ki, J. Maiolo, and K. E. Schulze) The armistice - In 1917, the German army in the west remained on the defensive . o With the reserves now freed from the Russian front, Ludendorff launched offensives in spring 1918 aimed at weakening the Allied front lines, in one last desperate attempt to force the Entente to the peace table before American troops arrived in strength and tilted the balance. o His reinforced mobile storm divisions achieved some operational success, but a war- winning breakthrough was beyond their reach. - From July 1918 onwards, Allied counter-attacks and the growing American army reversed the military situation; Germany’s armies retreated. - In October, the smallest of the Central Powers, Bulgaria, requested an armistice. Germany, A- H and Turkey soon followed the Bulgarian lead. - The German request for an armistice meant that the political struggle over the coming peace now began in earnest. o In an attempt to split their foes and obtain moderate peace terms based on the fourteen points, the German government approached President Wilson directly for an armistice. The president, as the Germans had calculated, excluded his Allies from the armistice talks. - Disagreements about the shape of the post-war settlement, suppressed before for the sake of Allied unity, now surfaced. o The British and the Americans quarrelled over ‘freedom of the seas’, and the Allies split on reparations. o Clemenceau and Lloyd George wished to make it clear that Germany was responsible for the wider costs of waging wars. Whereas, Wilson wanted Germany to make ‘restoration’ for civilian damage caused by the aggression of German forces on land, air and sea. - The reparations question and exactly what Germany had agreed to in the pre-armistice agreement also remained ambiguous and was later reinterpreted. o While Washington insisted that the fourteen points should set the agenda for the peace conference, Paris and London seized the initiative in setting out the military and naval clauses of the armistice, which left Germany military helpless. - The armistice was finally concluded on 11 November 1918. - Military planners had expected another year of war in the west. o Consequently, French and British policies on war termination were as fluid as American ones. As a result, the Europeans may have accepted peace far too soon. o Arguably, the psychological impact of an Allied invasion of German soil would have made the German people more agreeable to the Versailles settlement. - Situation for the policy-makers in 1918 o The Republicans in US Congress had called for Germany’s unconditional surrender. o But European statesmen were wise to place a huge question mark beside President Wilson’s readiness to storm the German frontier. More importantly, Lloyd George and Clemenceau believed that they could get what they wanted from their enemies without more bloodshed.
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