World War I: A History in Documents

By Frans Coetzee; Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
Coming
toTerms

By the summer of 1918, the Allied superiority in resources and manpower was making itself felt, and it was becoming readily apparent that neither Germany, Austria-Hungary, nor Turkey could do much to stave off eventual defeat. Earlier that spring, German commanders had hoped that the withdrawal of Russia from the war (marked by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk) and the subsequent transfer of German soldiers from the eastern front to reinforce a fresh round of German attacks in France and Belgium might turn the tide. Despite the impressive initial gains the March “Spring Offensive” achieved, the Allies regrouped and slowly recovered the territory they had lost. The onset of an uninterrupted stream of reinforcements from the United States ensured that the Allies could move toward Germany with overwhelming numerical superiority.

Left without reliable allies as the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires collapsed, the German government was forced to sue for peace, accepting an armistice on November 11, 1918. After four long years of war, the guns finally fell silent (though hostilities continued in more remote areas, such as German East Africa, until news of the cease-fire reached there). But the challenge to piece together what some observers lamented was a “broken world” remained.

As the victorious allies gathered at Versailles to draft a peace settlement, American president Woodrow Wilson hoped that his Fourteen Points (January 1918) would serve as the ideal basis for the postwar order. Wilson arrived in France determined to press for an end to secret diplomacy and rival alliances, and to substitute an open, collective means of resolving disputes (the League of Nations). He advocated a peace treaty that was neither harsh nor vindictive, and a territorial settlement that would respect the right of different nationalities to rule themselves (what was called self-determination). But he misjudged the prevailing mood at the peace conference and the depth of anxiety and animosity felt by the other participants. France, and to

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World War I: A History in Documents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • World War I - A History in Documents 3
  • Contents 5
  • What Is a Document? 6
  • How to Read a Document 8
  • Introduction - The Great War 11
  • Chapter One - Into the Abyss 15
  • Chapter Two - Adjusting to War 39
  • Chapter Three - Meeting the Challenge 57
  • Chapter Four - War Without Mercy 81
  • Chapter Five: Picture Essay - Advertising the War 107
  • Chapter Six - Strains 115
  • Chapter Seven - Coming to Terms 141
  • Timeline 162
  • Further Reading 164
  • Websites 166
  • Text Credits 167
  • Picture Credits 169
  • Index 171
  • Acknowledgments 175
  • About the Authors 176
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