Difficult Relations in the 1920s — of Reparations, Debts and ‘Rumo(u)rs of War’

  • Andrew J. Williams
Part of the Studies in Diplomacy and International Relations book series (SID)


The 1920s were a period of huge disappointment in international relations, but also of huge hope. The Great War had shaken faith in the possibility of a liberal international order to its core but also made a whole generation on both sides of the Atlantic determined not to let such a war erupt again. The lessons drawn from the war were diverse and often contradictory. But while we now see the period as the forerunner of the far worse 1930s and the horrors of the Second World War, the thinkers of the then nascent profession of academic IR, ‘the thinkers of the twenty years’ crisis’ and the policy actors of Europe and beyond were far less sure that it would all end in tears.1 This was, after all, a time of great ‘live’ experimentation with new nations (of which there were many), institutions (most notably the League of Nations), and new national relationships in the context of a much changed balance of global power. The ‘liberal internationalism’ promulgated by Woodrow Wilson had taken root in Britain among many of the intellectuals and policy makers of left and right, in such institutions as the League of Nations Union (LONU), founded in 1918, as well as in the rump of the Liberal Party, in the Labour Party and sections of the Conservative Party. However, the focus of these new groups, and the continuing influence of older bodies like the Union of Democratic Control and Round Table was both a reflection of the enduring belief in the need for international cooperation and simultaneously what Michael Pugh sees as ‘a crisis of faith in liberalism as well as of international order’.2


Labour Party Conservative Party Optional Protocol Ally Cooperation Debt Forgiveness 
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Copyright information

© Andrew J. Williams 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew J. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.School of International RelationsUniversity of St AndrewsUK

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