Treaty of Versailles Signed: On This Day, June 28

Agenda for the Peace Congress at Versailles, June 28, 1919. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

On June 28, 1919, one of the most controversial political documents in recent history was signed at the Palace of Versailles. President Wilson, Georges Clemenceau of France, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Britain, and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando of Italy signed surrender terms that imposed harsh penalties on Germany and Austria. The Great War had cost millions of lives, and Europe was beset by revolutionary sentiment on all sides.

The treaty stipulated the return of Alsace and Lorraine to France, the Rhine area was to be demilitarized, and strict limits were placed on German and Austrian military forces. The treaty also contained a "war guilt" clause, which required that Germany, as the aggressor in the conflict, pay reparations to the Allied nations.

For President Wilson the treaty was a grave disappointment. A League of Nations, based in part on Wilson’s Fourteen Points, was created to help prevent devastating international conflicts in the future—but the US refused to join the organization.

Special Note: If you are a librarian, check out the new grant available for programming on the US involvement in World War I.