6.1

Peacemaking, 1919

Harold Nicolson


1

In this, the second volume of my trilogy, I have tried to deal with the transitional phase between pre-war and post-war diplomacy and to give some picture of the Paris Peace Conference. I had intended at first to cast this study also in the form of a biography and to centre my story around the personality of Mr. Woodrow Wilson or Mr. Lloyd George. I found, however, that such a concentration of theme would convey no impression of the appalling dispersal of energy which was the actual key-note of the Paris Conference. The sharp perspective, the personal continuity, given by the biographical method would have proved inimical to my purpose. I am well aware that in abandoning my original intention I have lost immeasurably in construction, interest, and financial profit. Yet in adopting such a method I should have been simplifying the issues, rather than furnishing a picture of the confusions and complications which actually occurred. I decided, therefore, that I should merely describe the Peace Conference as I experienced it myself.

Here again I was faced with a difficulty. I realised the impossibility at this stage of furnishing any connected narrative of the Conference in terms either of subject, or of time-sequence. On the one hand many vital documents are still unavailable, and on the other hand the consecutive method would create no accurate impression. The important point to realise about the Paris Conference is its amazing inconsequence, the complete absence of any consecutive method of negotiation or even imposition. The actual history of the Conference will one day be written in authoritative and readable form. What may remain unrecorded, is the atmosphere of those unhappy months, the mists by which we were enshrouded. My study, therefore, is a study in fog. The reader should not look for any continuous lucidity. It wasn't there.

I have, I think, read most of the many books which since 1919 have been published about the Peace Conference, some of which are admirable and some the reverse. Yet from all these books I have derived the impression that something essential was absent, and I am convinced that this vital omission was the omission of the element of confusion. It is that element, and that only, which I have endeavoured in this volume to record.

The memory of those congested days is very vivid to me. It has been fortified by reading the diary which I kept at the time. I have decided to print, as the second half

-325-

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