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The Making of a World Order: A Reappraisal of the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles

The American University of Paris, May 23-25, 2019

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the Paris conference will explore the Treaty, and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 more broadly, from the perspective of a new world order it simultaneously did and did not make. In 1994, on the 75th Anniversary of the Versailles Treaty, leading scholars of European and international history gathered to reassess the Treaty of Versailles and its impact on the trajectory of twentieth-century history. The result was a path-breaking volume that both re-assessed the divergent aims of the different Great Powers at the Paris Peace Conference, as well as how the negotiations themselves laid the foundation for its own collapse twenty years later. But the volume remained largely Eurocentric—the rest of the world emerged in the volume as bit players on a European stage.  In the past two decades, historians of modern Europe have pushed our understanding of the long nineteenth century toward new borders, asking novel questions and forcing us to recognize the power of movements, processes, trends, and influences on a planetary scale. Indeed, it was this “transformation of the modern world” (Osterhammel) during the global nineteenth-century that ran headlong into the cataclysmic events of the first “World” War. From 1914-1918, the world slipped into a massive military conflict on an unprecedented scale. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the task at hand was little less than constructing a new world order.

Building on the growing interest in World War I as a global conflict that extended far beyond the borders of Europe, the Paris 2019 conference will explore the global political ramifications of the treaties prepared at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. It is hard to overstate the importance of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference for redefining the place of the United States in the world, re-shaping the geo-political configurations of the Middle East, Asia and Europe, the new place of the South Pacific, the need to re-conceive of world relations with a new Soviet Russia, the massive impact on European colonies in Africa, the place of Latin America, and the construction of the League of Nations. Far from a mere cessation of hostilities, the peace treaties signed in 1919 and 1920 marked a massive transformation on local, national, continental and global scales.

Four renowned experts of the First World War have agreed to present keynote addresses at the conference: Margaret MacMillan (Oxford University), Priya Satia (Stanford University), Tze-ki Hon (City University of Hong Kong), and Adam Tooze (Columbia University).

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