A century ago, a new world order began.
The Treaty of Versailles concluded the war to end all wars. Constructed through diplomacy, a fragile peace replaced global bloodshed.
The treaty’s proclamations are now iconic: that nations should have the right to self-determine, that a war’s victors should negotiate how to move forward, that the defeated powers should be held responsible for the damage.
Yet the treaty, negotiated by the key players in World War I — notably France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States — was deeply flawed and could not fend off the rise of fascism, the Nazi Party, and eventually, World War II.
Versailles’ mixed legacy is even further complicated by a little-known attempt by Japan, one of the emerging players at the table, to move the world forward on the issue of racial equality.
Japan asked for, and nearly got approved, a clause in the treaty that would have affirmed the equality of all nations, regardless of race or nationality.
For all of the history forged, some historians believe the Great Powers missed a pivotal opportunity to fashion a much different 20th century.