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  • The Unfinished Peace after World War I: America, Britain, and the Stabilisation of Europe, 1919–1932
  • Gordon Martel
The Unfinished Peace after World War I: America, Britain, and the Stabilisation of Europe, 1919–1932. By Partick O. Cohrs . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-521-85353-2. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xiv, 693. $95.00.

According to the author of this massive book, his intention was to explore "the closest approximation of a viable Euro-Atlantic peace order [End Page 1264] after the Great War" (p. 2). In undertaking this exploration he seeks to show that this order was not to be found in the treaty system of Versailles, but was "the result of a fundamental recasting of transatlantic relations . . . which led to the emergence of a qualitatively different system" erected during the half-decade after Versailles on the two main pillars of the London reparations settlement of 1924 and the Locarno security pact of 1925. He credits Charles E. Hughes and Ramsay MacDonald for achieving this new order, which was followed by Anglo-American efforts to foster European stability. Here he credits Austen Chamberlain's "noble work of appeasement" between France and Germany; Frank B. Kellogg's definition of America's role as benign, aloof, arbiter in "the European dispute"; and finally Herbert Hoover's efforts to recast Europe after the model of American Progressivism and by replacing old-style European diplomacy with a rational, "economic" modus operandi. These initiatives, according to Patrick Cohrs, offered the best hope of stabilizing Weimar Germany (and thus Europe) by fostering its integration into the new international system, but in the end they failed to achieve more than a brief respite because they were unable to overcome "various forms of postwar nationalism and reticence towards more forceful international engagements" (p. 11).

The author's claim that he has adopted a new methodological approach—which he defines as interpreting Anglo-American policies "in a new light" and reassessing "the postwar international system" is without foundation. There is nothing new in the methods adopted here. Equally dubious is the "one central premise" upon which the analysis is supposed to rest—that the "area in which to look for the origins of relative stagnation or transformation in any system of international politics is the field of individual outlooks and collective mentalities" (p. 13). Where else is one supposed to look? These rather meaningless rhetorical flourishes pepper the entire book. The claims to newness notwithstanding, the bulk of the book essentially repeats old liberal interpretations of the leading figures of the 1920s: an internationalist Ramsay MacDonald attempting to create a new moral order in Europe; a disinterested Hughes and Kellogg attempting to replace the balance of power with the rule of law in international affairs; the good socialist E´douard Herriot rejecting the narrow nationalism of Raymond Poincaré; a praiseworthy Gustav Stresemann who wishes only to see Germany return to the "comity of nations."

Students of international history may be astonished to discover that the calamities facing Europe can be explained by the fact that the 1920s were a "fulcrum stage in a protracted transition process" between the pre-1914 Pax Britannica and the post-1945 Pax Americana. The antiquated notion that Britain kept the peace of the world before 1914—and the laughable one that America has established one after 1945 is curious enough—but to argue that the difficulties of 1914–45 arose from the absence of an Anglo-American "hegemon" is simply preposterous. And the author certainly fails to prove it. Finally, readers of this journal will perhaps be surprised to discover that in almost 700 pages dealing with the "stabilization" of Europe from Versailles to Hitler, there is barely a mention of military or naval matters, nothing on strategy, no attempt to connect financial affairs to the armed forces on which [End Page 1265] assessments of power and security depended. This book adds little to our understanding of Europe between the wars.

Gordon Martel
University of Northern Brithish Columbia
Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7795
Print ISSN
0899-3718
Pages
pp. 1264-1266
Launched on MUSE
2007-10-23
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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