The event commemorates the centenary of the end of the First World War
The 11th November this year will mark one hundred years since the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War. A year later, in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed and led to the territorial reorganisation of Europe. “This was a decisive period for the subsequent political map of Europe”, explained Josep Sánchez Cervelló, head of the Centre for Studies on Social Conflicts and of the Geopolitical Research Group (CECOS), which organised the event: The end of the First World War and the interwar period on Wednesday 2 May at the Catalunya Campus.
For Sánchez Cervelló, the First World War is important on several levels: the incorporation of women into the workforce to replace the men who had gone to the front and the use of new weaponry, which made the First World War “the first total war” since it affected civilians away from the fighting for the first time. Xavier Moreno, a researcher on contemporary European history at the URV, explained during his speech that it was a war of positions, with static fronts, and a war that caused many victims because the attacks were carried out without any cover or protection.
The event was attended by Jan Klíma, professor at the University of Hradec Králové, who stressed the importance of the fronts in Central and Eastern Europe: “The war began and ended in Central Europe with the exhaustion of all powers”. Indeed, one of the consequences of the First World War was the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of the Czechoslovak Republic. With regards to the new territorial organisation, Klíma highlighted how important the First World War was regarding the change of ownership of the colonies, which would lead to future confrontation, and the Second World War, which would lead to decolonization.
During the interwar period the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations (UN), was founded. At the event, Santiago Castellà, professor of International Law at the URV, discussed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s idea in his talk “The League of Nations: from euphoria to institutional weakness”. “In his speech in Congress and Senate in 1918, Wilson proposed a world designed to function without conflict for many years”, Castellano said. The system operated with a broad focus until it “became more political during the 1930s”. “The hegemonic nations gained more and more power and progressively advanced their annexationist aims.” In fact, Wilson himself ended up losing the vote in Congress and the U.S. Senate regarding his own attempt to get the United States to join the League of Nations with one of the five permanent seats. However, the importance of the League of Nations lay in its permanent, supranational nature and the diversity of topics that it dealt with, characteristics that would lay the foundation for the UN.