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Major Treaties of World War I

A number of treaties signified the road to World War I. Peace treaties, particularly the Treaty of Versailles, are immensely significant in terms of their historic impact.

A number of strategic alliances led up to the formation of the Allied and Central Powers. The two most important among these were:

  • Triple Entente

  • Triple Alliance

Triple Entente :
French–Russian diplomatic relations had gradually developed through the late 1890s, and the Franco-Russian alliance of 1894 strengthened ties between the two countries. Anglo-French rivalry ended and cordial terms were established between Britain and France in 1904, when the two countries signed the Entente Cordiale. Britain and Russia signed the Anglo-Russian Entente on August 31, 1907, at Saint Petersburg, Russia, ending traditional territorial conflict and defining the boundaries of Afghanistan, Tibet, and Persia. The alliance between France, Britain, and Russia that crystallized out of these three pacts is referred to as the Triple Alliance. It formed the backbone of the Allied Powers. In 1914, the three nations strengthened the Triple Entente by signing a “No Separate Peace” pact. The Triple Alliance was further augmented by pacts and agreements with Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

Triple Alliance:
The Dual Alliance was a treaty signed by Austria-Hungary on October 7, 1879. The alliance promised mutual support in case of a Russian attack. Italy, having lost the rivalry with France with regard to establishing the colony in Tunis, joined Germany and Austria-Hungary to form the Triple Alliance in 1882. Italy viewed the alliance as a guarantee against the invasion of Austria–Hungary, a rival nation. Italy also signed a guarantee of neutrality with Britain and later signed a similar guarantee pact with France. The Central Powers rallied around the Triple Alliance. Italy did not join the war in 1914, since the Triple Alliance was a defensive alliance. Later in 1915, Italy joined World War I on the side of the Allied Powers.

The cessation of war and the signing of armistices brought about much relief. War at the Western Front and the Italian Front stopped with the signing of the following armistices:

  • Armistice of Compiègne

  • Armistice of Villa Giusti

"It must be a peace without victory...Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser... Only a peace between equals can last." — Woodrow Wilson's Senate Address, January 1917
Armistice of Compiègne:
In 1918, the Allied forces launched a series of successful offensives breaking the stalemate of trench warfare that had settled upon the Western Front. Germany, having suffered heavy losses, called for an armistice. On November 11, 1918, fighting ended and armistice was declared at 11 a.m.. While the Allied forces declared victory over the Germans, the armistice was signed in the forest of Compiègne. German response to President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points was positive and hostilities ceased. November 11 is celebrated as Remembrance Day in all countries of the British Commonwealth and as Veterans Day in the United States.

Armistice of Villa Giusti:
Following a terrible defeat at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in October 1918, Austria-Hungary negotiated peace with Italy and agreed to cease hostilities. Armistice was signed on November 3, 1918, ending war on the Italian Front.

Peace Treaties:
Following the signing of the armistices, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 brought together the diplomats of twenty-nine countries to draft a series of peace treaties. Further discussion and drafts ensued in the Conference of London and San Remo Conference of 1920.

The important peace treaties drafted were:

  • Treaty of Versailles

  • Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye

  • Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine

  • Treaty of Trianon

  • The Treaty of Sèvres

Treaty of Versailles:
The Treaty of Versailles was signed between the Allied Powers and Germany on June 28, 1919. The peace treaty concluded the six month long negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. The terms of the treaty required Germany to compensate for the losses of the Allied nations by conceding territory and paying reparations amounting to 132 billion deutsche marks. Germany also agreed to disarm. The harsh terms of the treaty were largely responsible for the economic crisis in Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. The terms were disregarded by Hitler, and Germany undertook rearmament in the 1930s leading to the outbreak of World War II.

"This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years." - French Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander on the Treaty of Versailles.

Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye:
Signed on September 10, 1919, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was a peace treaty between the Allied Powers and the Republic of Austria. The treaty enjoined Austria to refrain from seeking political and territorial union without the assent of the League of Nations. The treaty was not ratified by the United States, since it had not joined the League of Nations.

Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine:
The Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine was a peace treaty signed by Bulgaria and the Allied Powers at the end of World War I. Besides making territorial reparations, it required Bulgaria to reduce its army and pay £100 million to the Allies.

Treaty of Trianon:
The Treaty of Trianon, signed on June 4, 1920, between Hungary and the Allied Powers, delimited Hungarian frontiers. This led to damaging territorial losses for Hungary.

The Treaty of Sèvres:
The Treaty of Sèvres was a peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Britain, France, and Italy. It was signed on August 10, 1920. The United States and Russia were not party to the treaty.

  Major Treaties of World War I  
Battle of Passchendaele - 1917Battle of Passchendaele - 1917
Battle of Tannenberg – 1914Battles of Gaza - 1917
Battle of Heligoland Bight - 1914Second Battle of Aisne - 1917
First Battle of Marne – 1914Second Battle of Arras - 1917
First Battle of the Masurian Lakes – 1914Battle of Messines – 1917
First Battle of Aisne – 1914Battle of Passchendaele - 1917
First Battle of Albert - 1914Battle of Caporetto - 1917
First Battle of Arras – 1914Battle of Cambrai - 1917
First Battle of Ypres – 1914German Spring Offensive - 1918
Gallipoli Campaign – 1915Hundred Days Offensive - 1918
Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes – 1915Battle of Passchendaele - 1917
Battles of Isonzo – 1915Second Battle of Somme - 1918
Loos-Artois Offensive - 1915Second Battle of Marne - 1918
Battle of Verdun - 1916Battle of St Mihiel - 1918
Battle of Passchendaele - 1917Battle of Cambrai - 1917
First Battle of Somme - 1916Battle of Vittori Veneto - 1918