King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
From Empire to Nationhood

Versailles 1919

Aerial bombing - 1918Aerial bombing - 1918The War precipitated the break up of several long- standing empires, notably the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman.

These ancient multi-ethnic empires had often suppressed constituent nationalities with bloody results. Indeed, it had been the assassination of the Austrian heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo at the hands of Serbian nationalists that had first sparked the outbreak of war in August 1914.

Allenby at old SiwaAllenby at old SiwaThe Versailles Treaty in 1919 helped fix the new peacetime map with its patchwork of nation states.Nations were resurrected or created anew from the granting of the territory of the vanquished, and included Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Turkey.

These countries often contained sizeable ethnic minorities such as Germans whose alleged persecution Adolf Hitler would later use to justify war.

Mosul bridge, Iraq 1920Mosul bridge, Iraq 1920The new League of Nations was set up after the war to further international cooperation and peace. One of its tasks was to assign to the victors the responsibility for the government of various mandates, notably in the Middle East, where British troops were deployed in Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq.

In the latter, the British soon faced a revolt and demands for independence, which was eventually granted in a treaty in 1930.

Many of the problems subsequently faced by coalition forces in Iraq saw parallels with the early twentieth century, notably the risk of the country disintegrating into its three main religious or ethnic constituents.

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