Hundredth Anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles: Meanings and Implications

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The year 2019 marks the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in Paris. The First World War, which the Treaty arose from, does not present a palatable and easily digested set of issues. Despite this, it is worth attending to what the Versailles Treaty meant, and what lessons might even today be drawn from it. One of the often neglected aspects of the First World War was that it did involve Asian partners. Japanʼs involvement in the Versailles Treaty discussions may not have been prominent, but that it was there at all showed a shift in geopolitical forces. It showed that Japan and Asia had an irrevocable role in European affairs, rather than it simply being the other way around. The second issue to reflect on when one looks at the meaning of Versailles in the present is how to assess and understand alliances, and their advantages and disadvantages. The complex mishmash of different alliances and treaty obligations across the continent in 1913 has been one of the issues frequently blamed for what unravelled in 1914. It was probably to this issue that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe referred when he spoke in 2014 of the dangers of Asia today duplicating the situation of Europe almost a century before. The Treaty, moreover, addressed issues which continue to have importance today―migration is one such issue, and that of values is another. In the 21st century, reflecting on the Versailles Treaty signed a hundred years ago finally allows us to reflect on the journey over the period between then and now that globalisation has taken. The legacy of Versailles is alive and well.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
JournalJapan Review
Issue number1
Early online date12 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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