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Ethnic hatreds and rivalries could not be expunged at a stroke, and their persistence hindered the effort to draw or redraw dozens of boundaries, including those of the successor states emerging from the Habsburg empire.
In the colonial world the war among the imperial powers gave a strong impetus to nationalist movements.
France had provided the major battleground, suffered the most physical damage, and sacrificed a generation of manhood.
France faced the most massive task of reconstruction, the most direct threat of German revenge, and the most immediate responsibility for executing the armistice and peace treaties by dint of its contiguity with Germany.
He had visited Europe only twice before, as a tourist, and now delayed the peace conference in order to make a triumphant tour of European capitals.
The bells, flags, crowds, and tears of Armistice Day 1918 testified to the relief of exhausted Europeans that the killing had stopped and underscored their hopes that a just and lasting peace might repair the damage, right the wrongs, and revive prosperity in a broken world.
, to remake a Europe that had overthrown monarchical imperialism once and for all in this “war to end war.”In fact, the immense destruction done to the political and economic landmarks of the prewar world would have made the task of peacemaking daunting even if the victors had shared a united vision, which they did not.
European coal production was down 30 percent from prewar figures by 1919, creating acute shortages everywhere.
But France’s position was especially desperate after the flooding of French mines by retreating German soldiers.
Yet France also faced the cost of rebuilding the devastated regions and supporting an army capable of forcing German respect for the eventual treaty.