German Sympathy Post-World War I

John Maynard Keynes, an English economist, wrote his piece ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace’ in 1920.  It was a reaction to the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I.  Keynes seems adamant in his prose that  Europe was excessively punished following the Great War, seen when he wrote “This treaty will sign the death sentence of many millions of German men, women and children”1.  Keynes wrote with the Allies as his audience as they were the authors of this treaty and should be held responsible for these ramifications.  The intent of this work was to underscore how excessively the treaty would reduce Europe’s power economically, with “no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe”2.  This statement alludes to Keynes’ message that not only will Germany be set up for future failure, but also the whole of Europe.

After shifting from agricultural to industrial with the Industrial Revolution, Europe was no longer capable of supporting its population’s food demands in its own; it required outside help through the purchase of food through trade.  And without the financial assets to do so, Keynes predicted the future prevalence of famines and the death of millions of Germans.

Keynes writes in defense of Germany mainly because he is a European.  With the livelihood of one of Europe’s largest powers in jeopardy and so much on the rest of the continent at stake, Keynes’ only option is to make the Allies aware of the drastic measures enforced and their implications across Europe.

As we see shortly after the Treaty of Versailles, the United States was struck by the Great Depression which affected Europe in some critically negative ways as well.  Would have or could have these effects on Europe lessen if the doctrine of the Treaty of Versailles were less debilitating and shown a little more forgiveness towards Germany?  Do you have any thoughts as to why these reparations and reductions were so excessive?

  1. Keynes, ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920 []
  2. Keynes, ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920 []

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