Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Treaty of Versailles- Impact on foreign relations
Catrina Pelton
Dual Credit American History
Time Frame:
4 days
Treaty Of Versailles
League Of Nations

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • The activities involved with this lesson would involve analyzing primary sources, using technology to research and analyze material, and work in groups with other students n the research and analysis process.
  • Rationale:
  • The study of the Treaty of Versailles enables one to understand the impact that World War I and the circumstances surrounding it had on the peace process and the inability of the European powers to avoid the conflict of WWII. By analyzing and conceptualizing the treaty and the major players in the peace process, the students can begin to delve into the complexities of the underlying issues of the peace treaty.
  • District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

    • Show Me Standards: SS 2, 3, 5, 6, 7. Goal 1.1-8, Goal 2.3, 7. Goal 3.1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8. Goal 4.1, 6.
    • Course Level Expectations: 3a Q, 3a W, 3a X, 3b M, 7A, 7B, 7C

    Kansas Standards

    Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the Era of World War (1914-1945).

    1. (A) analyzes the causes and immediate consequences of WWI (e.g., imperialism rivalries: Triple Entente, Triple Alliance, nationalism, arms race in England, France, and Germany; Treaty of Versailles, reparations, War Guilt Clause).

    Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

    1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

    2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

    3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

    Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
    • Elisabeth Glaser. Treaty of Versailles, Reassessment after 75 years. Cambridge University Press. March 2006.
    • Conan Fischer. After the Versailles Treaty. Routledge. February 2009.
    • Margaret McMillan. Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World. Random House Publishing House. September 2003.

    Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
    • Woodrow Wilson, "A World League of Peace" January 2, 1917 transcript found online at Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. A World League of Peace
    • English translation of Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. March 3, 1918. Found online at World War I Document Archive. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
    • Treaty of Versailles June 28, 1919. Found online at World War I Document Archive. Treaty of Versailles.

    Technology Required:

    Internet Access

    Full description of activity or assignment.
    • Introduction:
      • Before the activity is presented to the students they must receive some background materials on World War I, Woodrow Wilson, and the Treaty of Versailles. The lecture materials would have already been covered and discussed. The students would have a working understanding of the situation faced by both the United States and Europe coming out of the destruction and devastation of World War I.
    • Day One and Two:
      • To start the discussion and instruction on the activity I would provide them with a question to ponder. The question for the beginning of the project would be: What does it take to make a lasting peace? They will write out their answers in their notebook and then we will discuss them as a whole class. I will tell them to keep their ideas handy and refer back to them as we journey through the peace process that resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, the peace that was to end all wars.
      • Even before the ink dried on the Treaty of Versailles there were conflicts and critiques surrounding the settlement and its treatment of the Germans. The most notable conflict was in the United States as Wilson returned home to battle for the ratification of the treaty and the eventual League of Nations.
      • Each class will be divided into six groups representing Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and the new Central European countries. Each 'country' will be responsible for researching their country's role in WWI and the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. They will be instructed to pay close attention to what the demands were and what the reasoning behind the demands was. Each side will be required to come up with an argument supporting their demands to the other countries.
    • Day Three and Four:
      • After the students have researched the role their individual countries played in the peace process, the class will gather and discuss the different sides of the issue. What problems did each player want addressed? Whose voices were heard and whose were ignored? Why? Could the treaty been written differently to accommodate everyone given the role that national interests played in the development of the treaty?
      • At the end of the discussion we will take a look at Wilson's Fourteen Points and analyze just how much of the treaty covers this document. What points made it into the treaty? What was left out? What compromises were made? Could the treaty have been better if more of Wilson's ideas had made it into the language of the treaty?
      • For homework on this day of the activity I would ask the students to think about how the language of the treaty makes it difficult for the League of Nations to exist and sets up the circumstances of WWII and the rise of Hitler. Consideration for the role the conflict between Congress and Wilson over the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles also needs to be addressed by the students. They need to write an opinion on this for discussion in class the next day.
    • Day Five:
      • Discussion takes place over the questions asked of the students the day before. We discuss the treaty as it relates to the League of Nations and how the treaty leads to the rise of Hitler and WWII.
      • To wrap up the activity and the discussion the students are asked to write an opinion paper with supporting evidence of whether they consider the Treaty of Versailles a failure. The paper will be submitted online for grading and review by their classmates. They should also address the question from the first day- what does it take to make a lasting peace?

    Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
    • The primary method of assessment is the opinion paper. This is a paper that addresses the vital question of whether or not the Treaty of Versailles was a failure. The students must make a strong statement either for the treaty or against it with evidence to support their opinion. The grade is based on how well they present their argument and what historical evidence they provide for their opinion. Their grade is not based on what their opinion is.
    • The secondary method of assessment is based on classroom discussion and teacher observation of group collaboration during the research sessions. You can tell a lot about what the students understand by the questions they are asking you and the direction that their research takes.