France 1914-1918
Foreign Policy

France 1929-1939
Foreign Policy
France 1918-1929
Intellectual Life

France 1918-1929 : Foreign Policy

When World War I ended in 1918, France briefly turned into the center of world politics : the peace negotiations, held in suburbs of Paris, are therefore often referred to as the PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE. Here, the TREATIES OF VERSAILLES, OF ST. GERMAIN, OF TRIANON, OF NEUILLY (1919, with Bulgaria), OF SEVRES (1920, with Turkey, never ratified by the latter) were signed. The new LEAGUE OF NATIONS was to establish her headquarters in GENEVA, on Swiss territory, just beyond the French border.
While some advocated moderate peace conditions for the Central Powers, those who made radical demands (GEORGES CLEMENCEAU, RAYMOND POINCARE and others) prevailed, demands which were echoed by a population which, over a period of four years had undergone tremendous suffering. The Ottoman Empire was completely dissolved, as was Austria-Hungary. The German Emperor had to abdicate; areas with significant ethnic minorities were split off, in part added to other countries, in part placed under allied (mostly French) administration until a plebiscite was to be held. So a stretch of territory on the Lithuanian border (MEMEL, 1919-1923) came under French administration.
The western allies did not recognize the RSFSR (since 1922 Soviet Union) which they regarded a German creation; after the WHITES, despite being supported by allied interventionist corps, lost to the Red Army, the western countries proceeded in the recognition of breakaway republics (Finland, the Baltic Republics, Poland). France established an alliance with Poland and another which combined the main beneficiaries of the disintegration of Austria-Hungary - the LITTLE ENTENTE (Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Yugoslavia).

The future of and French relation with Germany was to be the major topic of French foreign policy for years to come. France had suffered an enormous damage during the war and demanded that Germany compensate her; yet Germany was physically exhausted. In order to assure that France got her fair share of German compensation, the Treaty of Versailles stipulated, that the coal-rich SAARGEBIET would be separated from German territory and placed under French administration until 1935, and that the entire RHINELAND (German left bank of the Rhine) be demilitarized.
The allies also planned to split up what was left of TURKEY, France eying on regions in the southeast (CILICIA, KURDISTAN). Yet when Kemal Ataturk defeated the Greeks in the Battle of Sakarya, the French withdrew; in 1923 the TREATY OF LAUSANNE ended the war.

In 1923, Germany fell behind in reparation shipments. French and Belgian troops responded by invading the Rheinland. The Germans did not offer any armed resistance; French troops proceeded beyond the limits of the demilitarized Rheinland, occupying industrial centers such as FRANKFURT and the RUHRGEBIET. The German government answered with a campaign calling for passive resistance : public officials were forbidden to collaborate with the forces occupation; a GENERAL STRIKE was called. The French promoted SEPARATISM in the Rheinland and in the Palatinate. World opinion took the side of the Germans.

The occupation of the Rhineland was a fiasco. The costs of the occupation were high, German reparation shipments came to a halt, the international press turned against France. The political situation in Germany became instable - two coup attempts in 1923 alone.
From 1924 on, politicians in France (ARISTIDE BRIAND) and in Germany (GUSTAV STRESEMANN) saw a way out of the crisis in Franco-German negotiations. Germany was willing to accept the French demand for reparations, if France was to accept the basic requirements of Germany to feed etc. her population. France agreed to gradually withdraw her troops from the Rhineland (1925-1930), and in a series of treaties the reparation burden on Germany was alleviated. The years from 1924 to 1928 are referred to as the GOLDEN TWENTIES. Briand and Stresemann were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 1926.

Another hot topic was SYRIA. According to the SYKES-PICOT AGREEMENT of 1916 the region was allocated to France; yet the city of Damascus and much of Syria had been liberated by the Arab (Hijazi) army under the Hashemite PRINCE FAISAL. The French ultimately occupied Damascus and Syria, the Hashemite dynasty being established as kings of Iraq and Transjordan by the British. France, however, was not happy with her Syrian protectorate; the population strongly opposed French administration.
France's share of Germany's colonial empire in Africa (the larger parts of TOGO and KAMERUN, now spelled Cameroun) proved less difficult to integrate in France's overseas empire. BR>

Biography of Aristide Briand, from the Nobel E-Museum
Biography of Georges Clemenceau, by Arthur Montague
Biography of Raymond Poincare, by World at War
Timeline 1919-1939, from France Diplomatie
DOCUMENTS Treaty of Sevres, 1920, from BYU
Treaty of Lausanne, 1923, from BYU
Treaty of Neuilly, 1919, from BYU
Treaty of St. Germain, 1919, from ICL (excerpts)
Treaty of Versailles, 1919, from BYU and from Avalon Project
Treaty Between the United States of America, the British Empire, France, and Japan, Signed at Washington December 13, 1921, from Avalon Project, on Pacific Islands
Treaty Between the United of States of America, Belgium, the British Empire, China, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Signed at Washington February 6, 1922, from Avalon Project, on China/Far East
Treaty of Locarno Between France and Poland October 16, 1925, from Avalon Project
Eduard Benes : The Rationale for The Little Entente, 1924, from Modern History Sourcebook
Flag of the (separatist) Rhine Republic, 1921-1924, from FOTW
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.218-231
Philippe Bernard and Henri Dubief, The Decline of the Third Republic 1914-1938, (Fr. Or. 1975, Eng. Trsl. 1985) Cambridge UP 1993, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 944.0814 B518d
Article : France, in : New International Year Book 1919 pp.253-271, 1920 pp.241-259, 1921 pp.242-259, 1923 pp.254-265, 1925 pp.252-259, 1928 pp.270-276 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on March 30th 2007

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