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Two Cheers for Versailles

Mark Mazower looks back to the much maligned Versailles Treaty and finds we still live in the continent it created.

Signing in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.The Versailles Treaty settlement was, from the moment of its birth, unloved as few creations of international diplomacy have been before or since. Hitler and Churchill were united in its condemnation; so were commentators from the American anti-Soviet diplomat and historian George Kennan to the British Marxist E.H. Carr. One is hard put to find a school textbook with anything good to say about the achievements of the Paris peacemakers. Yet curiously we still live in the world they shaped: were the foundations laid more carefully by them than we like to think? The argument that the defects of Versailles led to the outbreak of another world war is commonplace; yet one might as easily argue that its virtues underpinned the peace after 1945.

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