The geopolitical and economic impact of the treaties on Europe and the mandate system

1.3.1 The Geo-Political Impacts of the Treaties

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Western Europe remained quite similar to what is had been in 1914, only a few territorial changes where made
  • Central and Eastern Europe where changed to a great extent. Before the First World War these regions where made up of large multinational empires. (Germany, Russia, Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Turks) 
  • Some of the states that where created: Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Yugoslavia 
  • Self-determination was taken into account in most cases however it was sometimes difficult as different nationalities, racial groups and linguistic groups where scattered across many different areas
  • Self-determination abled common ethnic back rounds and languages to decide the nature of the state however in some cases this was ignored such as South Tyrol, Sudetenland and the Polish Corridor. A major problem at the time was to create states which where capable of working successfully in terms of communication, economics and security.  
  • In some cases the ethnic groups were so intermixed that it was impossible to separate them. There was no point in creating an ethnically homogenous state which then could not survive due to lack of trade routes, natural resources, oceans and rivers. Therefore choices had to be made by the allies about whether self-determination was more important or if it was the economic stability of each state. 
  • Each state needed to survive and so needed access to natural resources, trade routs, oceans and rivers. This could be complicated as borders sometimes had to be extended which would unite another ethnic group and in doing so it would go against self-determination 
  • An independent Polish state was created
  • The Polish Corridor was created to give Poland access to the baltic sea. 
  • Danzig became a free city to maximize trade opportunities
  • Some states contained minorities which could be vulnerable and so the allies asked the new nations to protect the rights of the minorities that resided in their borders
  • Also minorities could appeal to the League of Nations which provided a Minorities Commission
  • Many problems started to arise straight away with the devision of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before the war, it had been one big economic unit. After the war this no longer existed. Instead there was lots of small states all struggling to survive. There was now trade barriers which before hand had not existed and this was a serious issue for these states. It also went against the Fourteen Points which stated the removal of trade barriers. 
  • With the creation of many small states Europe became less stable as it created vulnerable countries that lacked political and economic stability
  • Internal tension started to build up within the states and between these states. So many factors where taken into account in the design of these states which could make things complicated. The states were created in a way that where possible they would include same ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups. However this was not the case for many states. 
  • Poland and Czechoslovakia fought over the Teschen area as it had important rail connections and coal resources
  • The tension between these states led to a lack of economic co-operation which made these states weak and vulnerable to Germany and Russia in the future
  • Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia realised their vulnerability and so decided to form the Little Entente in 1921
  • Originally the Little Entente was created to protect these countries from Hungary which was angry over its territorial losses and wanted to recover some of it. The Little Entente formed economic and military co-operation between these countries. 
  • The Little Entente could have become a strong area if it had expanded and in the process made all the small states less vulnerable to Russia and Germany. However this never happened due to the tension between these small states. Poland which would have been a good addition to the Little Entente refused to join due to its disagreements with Czechoslovakia over the Teschen area. 


  • The Germans where very unhappy about the fact that they where denied self-determination and wanted the treaty revoked
  • There where many German  minorities outside of Germany that where now part of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Austria
  • Germany lost 12% of its population and 13% of its territory
  • Alsace-Lorraine which was taken back by France was one of the biggest losses
  • Germany was split into two with the creation of the Polish Corridor which gave Poland access to the Baltic sea
  • However, Germany was actually stronger now than it was before the war. The creation of many small states eliminated one big empire and since these small states where weak, once Germany regained its strength it could easily take over these 


  • Bolshevik regime 
  • Russia was very weak after the war as it had suffered civil war and political revolution
  • It had lost in the war against Poland and so had also lost significant territory to Poland 
  • Therefore it did not represent an immediate threat to the small newly founded nations but like Germany could do so in the future

The Treaty of Rapallo

  • Treaty between the USSR and Germany in 1922
  • Germany and the USSR who both where denied to join the League of Nations got together
  • They decided to financially co-operate and trade with each other
  • Form a union against Poland as they both had lost territory to it
  • Secret military agreements, Germany could test its military equipment on the Russian territory and in doing so it avoided the restrictions placed upon it in the Treaty of Versailles

1.3.2 The Economic Impacts

  • It was what the Treaty of Versailles did not do that affected the European economic situation most 
  • No economic questions where dealt with directly apart from reparations
  • It did not find a solution for the problems of allied war debts
  •  Countries where struggling to pay off there debts and this created bad relations between the debtors and the United States
  • This resulted in economic instability and tension
  • The debt situation helped contribute to the Ruhr crisis
  • A number of international meetings had taken place to try and resolve the debt issue however these had no impact as the United States did not want the debts of its allies canceled. 
  • This weakened the allied countries as they had to keep demanding reparations from Germany to pay these debts
  • After the Ruhr Crisis the United States offered financial help to Germany (Dawes Plan) so that Germany could then pay its reparations to the allied countries which in turn could then pay off their loans to the United States. 
  • JM Keynes was particularly against the economic terms of the Versailles Treaty. He maintained that by punishing Germany the allies where only punishing themselves. He claimed that the high reparations, territorial losses and loss of resources on Germany would affect Europe negatively as Germany was the economic engine of Europe. 
  • The United States and Britain started to see the need to revise the treaty
  • This created tension between France and Britain as France did not want the German economy to strengthen again and demanded the high reparations that had been imposed on Germany
  • Another issue was that the treaty did not create an organization to introduce and promote international trade. Trade barriers where a big issue for the newly created European states. This added to the catastrophic impact of the Great Depression of 1929

1.3.3 The Mandate System

  • There was an agreement amongst the allies to create a mandatory system to distribute the colonies of the defeated powers 
  • This would be supervised by the League of Nations
  • The main priority of the mandate system was to ensure the well being of the people and the development of these territories
  • The League of Nations was also responsible for making sure that trade was possible for each territory and that no slavery occurred 
  • The main purpose was to create independent democratic states and help improve the populations education and ways of life
  • Three classes of mandates existed; mandates A, B and C. Each territory was put into a class according to its stage of development and to which extent it was ready to becoming independent. 
  • The territories which in the near future would be ready for independence where placed in "mandates A". This included Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Transjordan. 
  • The territories that where less advanced and where not going to become independent for quite some time where placed in "mandates B". This included the German colonies in Africa which where distributed to Britain, France and Belgium.
  • The territories which had a low population and where underdeveloped fell into "mandates C" and where handed over directly to the countries that had conquered them. Japan, New Zealand and Australia received the German colonies in the Pacific and South Africa received Southwest Africa. 
  • Some countries like Japan treated its new colonies as an addition to its territory which went against the system
  • The mandate system did however create a system in which the countries in power of these colonies had responsibilities to the people who lived them and if these countries actions went against the system they could be subjected to an international body.
  • There was a lot of controversy around the distribution of the mandates especially because most of them went to France and the UK which were already in possession of the worlds largest empires
  • The Italians where very unhappy as they had been promised territories which they had not received and in addition they were not given any mandates even though they where on the winning side of the war
  • The Arabs in the Middle East where also very unhappy about the mandate system as they wanted land and independent status which they were not given despite the fact that they helped the UK conquer the Ottoman Empire
  • Another controversy emerged when the British decided to go ahead with the Balfour Declaration of 1917