Paris peace conference

The moment the modern world went wrong

Spectator contributors were asked: Which moment from history seems most significant or interesting? Here is Jonathan Sumption’s answer: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919-20 was where the modern world went wrong. The consequences of France’s vindictive determination to marginalise Germany are well known, and were denounced at the time by John Maynard Keynes in one of the most biting political pamphlets ever written. It took 30 years to undo its effects. The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in the Near East by comparison was an authentically British mess, less well known, whose consequences are still with us. At the end of the Great War, Britain dominated the region, militarily and