[237120, A2] Wk 7: Task 3 – Contextual Understanding

Contestation Compare & Contrast Table:

Conventional Perspective:

Treatment of Germany as a result of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) was the cause of WWII


Revisionist Perspective:

Treatment of Germany as a result of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) was not to blame for WWII


  • The reparations Germany was made to pay towards France as part of the Treaty caused hyperinflation and poverty; allowing Hitler to appeal to the unemployed and impoverished majority in his political platform.
  • The Ruhr Crisis (1923) was the result of Germany not being economically strong enough after reparations to pay back France. The embarrassment and racial tensions it caused in Germany supported Hitler’s appeal in his political campaign.
  • The signing of the Treaty of Versailles by government officials – the ‘November Criminals’ – caused hatred of the government of the time, allowing for the rise of Hitler.
  • Stripping Germany of 2/3rds of its land mass and its colonies made the Weimar Republic weak, making people turn to Hitler.
  • The exclusion of the USSR from proceedings allowed for the Pact of Steel to be formed so that Germany could re-arm through the USSR in violation of the Treaty.
  • The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires into small satellite states left Germany in a comparatively strong political position. This contests the geopolitical arguments that stripping Germany of land enabled Hitler’s rise to power.
  • The Ruhr Crisis (1923) could just as easily be blamed on the French reacting drastically to Germany defaulting on a payment of just a few logs of timber. France’s political insecurities could equally be argued as sparking WWII.
  • This argument rests on the assumption that WWII was solely the responsibility of Hitler. Many historians discuss the view that war was inevitable after the unequal distribution of power in Europe to France and Great Britain, and that the failures of the League of Nations to keep the peace could be blamed (See Kim Sonderborg’s ‘20th Century History’ series listed in the Assessment 2 Resources section of this blog’).

1) A key contestable issue which I will mention in my essay is that of the shift in the balance of power after WWI which created political tensions in the interwar period. Specifically, I will be discussing how the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) tipped that balance through the redistribution of European borders.

2) It is important because the redistribution of European borders after WWI were the events which most shaped the world map to be as it is today. It also allows me to discuss how the victors of WWI (Great Britain, France, USA) who decided those borders tipped the balance of power in their favour, resulting in their worldview becoming the dominant one.

3) I will utilised the aforementioned visual text – a political cartoon by David Low entitled after its caption, ‘What, no chair for me?’ published in 1938.

4) I will refer to the authors, visual texts, and electronic/web sources I have accumulated over the past few weeks in my Assessment 2 Resources section of this blog. While there are many, I will limit my discussion to the podcasts of Kim Sonderborg entitled ‘The 20th Century History Series’; ‘The World of War’ chapter by Nicholas Mirzoeff included in his book ‘How to See the World’; and Parag Khanna’s TED Talk entitled ‘Mapping the Future of Countries’.

Sonderborg presents both the revisionist and the conventional views of The Treaty of Versailles, supporting his arguments with the work of acclaimed historians. Nicholas Mirzoeff presents less information on worldviews during the interwar period and more on the technological advancements made in the field of mapping. Parag Khanna discusses the view that mass communication will blur the lines between physical borders, lessening the disparity between representation in worldviews.

5) The sources justify their reasoning based largely on the theories of historians, social anthropologists and sociologists, when supporting their arguments with tertiary sources. Otherwise, much of the sources purely postulate their claims, providing evidence using a variety of visual texts, case studies, and examples of similar passages of events in the past.

Works Cited:

  • Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “The World of War.” How to See the World. United Kingdom: Penguin Random House, 2015. 101-127. Print.
  • Sønderborg, Kim. “Causes of World War I.” Audio blog post. The 20th Century History Series. HistoryPodcast.net, 20 March 2012. Web. 5 April 2016.
  • Sønderborg, Kim. “Successes and Failures of the League of Nations.” Audio blog post. The 20th Century History Series. HistoryPodcast.net, 20 March 2012. Web. 5 April 2016.
  • Sturken, Marita and Lisa Cartwright. “Images, Power and Politics.” Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 9-48. Print.