Treaty of Versailles - 100th anniversary
28 June 1919
2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
About the Treaty
The peace treaty formally concluded hostilities between Germany and the allied powers and was signed at the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris, on 28 June 1919. Criticised by liberal allied opinion as too hard, and by others as too lenient, the treaty deprived Germany of:
- about 13.5 per cent of its 1914 territory
- about 13 per cent of its economic resources
- around 7 million of its people, and
- all of its overseas possessions.
The treaty was one of five formulated at the Paris Peace Conference as part of the peace negotiations at the end of the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles related to establishing the conditions of peace with Germany.
The major sanctions imposed by the treaty included the disarmament of Germany, payment of very large reparations to the allies, and demilitarization of the Rhineland. The treaty also involved the surrender of territory which had been part of Germany prior to the First World War, including Alsace-Lorraine to France and substantial areas to Poland. Germany reluctantly signed the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.
Australia’s representatives at the Paris Peace Conference were the Prime Minister Billy Hughes, the Deputy Prime Minister Sir Joseph Cook, and Lieutenant Commander J.G. Latham, Royal Australian Naval Reserve.
The Treaty document
This document is Australia's authenticated copy of the Treaty of Versailles, bound into a volume with photographed facsimile pages of the signatures and official seals. The signatures and seals of Australia's delegates, Prime Minister Billy Hughes and Deputy Prime Minister Joseph Cook, are on the third page of signatures, following those of the US, British and Canadian delegates.
This work was painted by Joseph Finnemore in 1919 to commemorate the signing of the peace treaty in Versailles. It captures a moment of the signing ceremony which took place in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. (Oil on linen, 165 x 247cm. Australian War Memorial ART16770)
Episode one of Collected looks at Australia’s official copy of the Treaty of Versailles, currently on display as part of the Memorial’s After the war exhibition. In conversation with Memorial curators Kerry Neale and Anthea Gunn, Louise Maher explores the history of this extraordinary document and the important role Australia played in its signing.
Free public talk
Australia suffered more than 60,000 war dead during the First World War. How was this loss recognised at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919? What were Australia’s gains? Join Professor Emerita Joan Beaumont in the Australian War Memorial BAE Systems Theatre as she discusses Australia and the Treaty of Versailles.