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The Paris Peace Conference and Cultural Reparations after the First World War

Tomás Irish Orcid Logo

English Historical Review, Volume: 137, Issue: 589

Swansea University Author: Tomás Irish Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1093/ehr/cead004

Abstract

The First World War was marked by cultural destruction that violated international law and outraged international audiences. This article examines the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the five post-war treaties (Versailles, Saint-Germain, Neuilly, Trianon and Sèvres) to explore how these issues we...

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Published in: English Historical Review
ISSN: 0013-8266 1477-4534
Published: Oxford University Press 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa58451
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Abstract: The First World War was marked by cultural destruction that violated international law and outraged international audiences. This article examines the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the five post-war treaties (Versailles, Saint-Germain, Neuilly, Trianon and Sèvres) to explore how these issues were resolved in the post-war settlements. Rather than focusing solely on the substance of the treaties, the article examines the process through which they were negotiated, paying particular attention to the crucial role played by lobbyists such as museum directors, writers and politicians. It sets these negotiations in the wider context of the contemporary discourse about cultural destruction.The article asserts that the cultural provisions of the post-war treaties sit at the intersection of two key issues in post-war peacemaking: self-determination and reparations. Many states presented claims for the return of cultural objects or compensation for cultural destruction as essential to their national restoration after the war. Cultural claims generally appeared in the treaties’ reparation clauses and their enactment was inherited by the post-war Inter-Allied Reparation Commission.The article argues that the post-war treaties demonstrate the dominance of the cultural claims of Western allies over those of eastern Europe and colonial settings. They also demonstrate a tension between a belief in universal civilisation and the claims of nation states to ownership of cultural property, which was most apparent in cases involving the dissolution of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. Fundamentally, the decisions reached were often arbitrary rather than being guided by consistent principles or norms.
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue: 589