Richard Overy

Conquer & Divide

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire

By Susan Pedersen

Oxford University Press 571pp £22.99 order from our bookshop

When the victorious Allies sat down to decide on the terms of the peace settlement in the early months of 1919, they were faced with a dilemma. To defeat Germany and her allies it had been necessary during the war to present it as a struggle between enlightened, liberal democracies on the one hand and the old autocratic monarchies on the other. This was awkward enough as long as the Western states were allied with tsarist Russia, though the situation was somewhat eased when Russia exited the war. What was more difficult was the attempt to reconcile the imperial claims of the British and French, whose empires were certainly not models of enlightenment, with the Wilsonian internationalism that

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