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20 October 2014
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Outcomes of the War: Europe
What events led to the armistice being signed?

Much had changed in the War between 1914 and 1918. The Russian Revolution had transformed the country from a Tsarist monarchy into the first Communist state. Lenin and Trotsky, the new Communist leaders, made a separate peace with the Central Powers. The United States had entered the War with fresh troops and supplies. By the autumn of 1918, Allied victories increased and Germany began peace talks with America.

President Wilson had developed a plan for peace based on 'Fourteen Points' that both sides would have to agree. Germany was to give up land taken from France and Russia, its colonies and to reduce the size of its military.

Wilson negotiated peace terms with the German government for three weeks before they accepted his 'Fourteen Points'. This concerned Britain, France and Italy who did not want to be left out of the discussions. Though Wilson was often seen as a sympathetic idealist, he firmly told the other Allies that America would make a separate peace with Germany if they did not support his plan.

However, Wilson also wanted the League of Nations to be formed off the back of the peace treaty. The League would be a group of countries, which would promise to help settle disputes between nations using international mediation. This was meant to prevent a war on this scale from happening again. Knowing that without the leading European powers in the League it would not be as effective, he was willing to allow France and Britain some of their own conditions.

The 'Fourteen Points' were finally accepted by Germany on 23rd October, and the War looked to be ending. Over the next fortnight, while men continued fighting and dying, the Allied forces began to think about the future should Germany agree to an armistice.

French leaders Clemenceau and Foch began planning how to gain back Alsace-Lorraine and reparations from Germany. Lloyd George wanted the German navy wiped out. He wanted to please both the British politicians and people who expected Germany to be punished.

By 9th November, the Kaiser and the German government recognised that they could no longer negotiate a better armistice with Wilson. The parliament agreed to resign. The Kaiser would abdicate and flee to Holland, and a new democratic government would step into negotiate the peace treaty.

On 11th November, 1918 at 11:00 an eerie silence fell across the battlefields as after four years the artillery stopped firing.

For a closer look at the 'Fourteen Points', check out the Interpretation: Treaty of Versailles article.

Why do you think there was such disagreement between the Allies when devising the terms of the Armistice?

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A - Each country had entered the War to achieve individual goals and no shared war aims had been set.

B - Wilson wanted a much more lenient treaty than Britain or France to prevent Germany from seeking revenge.

C - Germany wanted the Allies to argue to buy more time in case fighting broke out again.

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