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Empires at War1911-1923$
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Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702511

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702511.001.0001

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Empires at the Paris Peace Conference

Empires at the Paris Peace Conference

(p.254) 13 Empires at the Paris Peace Conference
Empires at War

Leonard V. Smith

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how peacemaking and empire disrupted each other after the Great War. As peacemaking moved beyond what had been the Western Front, the Paris Peace Conference gradually became a conference of empires motivated by imperial preoccupations. Even writing the Treaty of Versailles laid bare some of the troublesome characteristics of empires after 1919. The Covenant of the League of Nations created the mandate system, which posed a structural, ideological challenge to the very notion of empire. Mandates were supposed to be self-determining states in the making, not colonies. Accepting a Class A mandate meant accepting a “colony” with an expiration date, as well as formal accountability to the League. Peacemaking and empire disrupted each other most radically in the Middle East. The Arabic-speaking former Ottoman domains became Class A mandates, and housed populations resentful that they had not been given immediate independence, as successor states had been in Europe. In Syria and Lebanon, the postwar French imperial hub wet to some trouble to acquire troublesome spokes of debatable commercial or strategic value. The Treaty of Sèvres, made with the regime of the sultan, provided for the de facto partition of Anatolia according to allied imperial interests. But the real locus of sovereignty had shifted to Greek and Turkish successor states, which settled the matter through renewed war. The British attempted to secure some vestige of imperial interests in the Chanak Crisis of 1922, by asking for Dominion support in the event of renewed war with the forces of Mustafa Kemal. When the Dominions refused, the British Empire for a moment ceased to function as a unitary agent. If an empire cannot command, how is it an empire?

Keywords:   Empires, First World War, League of Nations, Paris Peace Treaties

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