On January 18, 1919, a few months after the end of World War I, leaders from the Allied nations began a series of discussions that became known as the Paris Peace Conference to settle issues raised by the war and its aftermath. Preceded by a series of armistices in September, October, and November 1918, that ended World War I, the Paris Peace Conference brought together representatives from the victorious nations. Russia had withdrawn from the fighting and was not invited. Because Allied leaders held Germany responsible for the war, German leaders attended only the conclusion of the discussions.
Preliminary meetings between the leaders began on January 12, 1919, after British Prime Minister David Lloyd George arrived in Paris. Lloyd George, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Premier Georges Clemenceau of France, and Premier Vittorio Orlando of Italy emerged as the leaders of the conference and became known as the Big Four. The conference ended approximately one year later when the League of Nations, an international organization adapted from one of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points plan for peace, was organized.
Wilson’s idealistic Fourteen Points generated heated opposition from Clemenceau and Lloyd George in particular as each disagreed on the details of how to proceed. Eventually, however, the League of Nations was formed in 1919-20 as an alternative to traditional diplomacy. The United States did not join, in part because of opposition and disagreement among a group of powerful U.S. senators led by Foreign Relations Committee Chair Henry Cabot Lodge. The discussions also resulted in the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, the Treaty of Saint-Germain with Austria, and the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria.
- Explore the online presentation of the Library’s exhibit Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I. An extensive representation of materials from the Library’s collections as well as special presentations such as videos, a timeline, and other resources, provides an expansive overview of this turbulent time in our nation’s history.
- The events of World War I are well documented in newspapers that are available through the Library’s database of historic American newspapers, Chronicling America. You may wish to start with the Topics in Chronicling America special features: World War I Armistice; World War I Declarations; World War I Draft; World War I Poetry.
- To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War, the Library focused digitization efforts on items from our collections relevant to this time period. Search the Digital Collections to find some of our World War I materials.
- For background on the origins of the war, armistice terms, and the peace process see “Events and Statistics” in the digital collection, Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures, 1914 to 1919.
- Search Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers’ Newspaper of World War I, 1918 to 1919, the newspaper published by the U.S. Army and distributed to the troops, for 14 Points, Paris conference, President Wilson, League of Nations, and treaty. Of particular interest is a poem opposing the League of Nations (fourth column).
- Search in American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I to locate transcriptions and recordings of speeches about World War I, the presidential election of 1920, and the changing political role of the United States in the world.
- Explore A Guide to World War I Materials to located digitized items on the Library’s website related to World War I, including photographs, documents, newspapers, films, sheet music, and sound recordings.