The Paris Centennial Conference, the first of a pair of conferences co-organized by AUP’s Center for Critical Democracy Studies and the Belfer Center at Harvard Kennedy School, brought together leading and emerging academics in the field of First World War studies with diplomats and public policy experts to discuss the continued importance of the Treaty of Versailles on modern international relations. 

The treaty, signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, was the most important of the peace treaties that ended the First World War. Revisiting historic locations from the Paris peace talks, conference participants reflected on how decisions made in 1919 influenced events throughout the 21st century, drawing on new perspectives to highlight the treaty’s enduring legacy and its impact on the world order of today. 

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For six months in 1919, Paris was the capital of the world. The Peace Conference was the world's most important business, the peacemakers its most powerful people. They met day after day. They argued, debated, quarreled and made it up again. They created new countries and new organizations. They dined together and went to the theater together, and between January and June, Paris was at once the world's government, its court of appeal and its parliament, the focus of its fears and hopes.

Margaret MacMillan Extract from "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World"

Conference Schedule in Brief

Thursday, May 23 | Learning Commons, The American University of Paris | 69, quai d'Orsay 75007
6 pm | Inauguration of The American University of Paris’ Learning Commons and opening reception, Paris Centennial Conference

Located at 69, quai d’Orsay between the Pont des Invalides and Pont de l’Alma, the Learning Commons is a short walk from the site of the headquarters for the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the French Foreign Ministry – better known as “Quai d’Orsay.”

Friday, May 24 | Cercle de l’Union Interalliée | 33, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008

Located on Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré and adjacent to the residences of the British and United States’ ambassadors and the Elysée Palace, this magnificent 18th century hôtel particulier became the home of a new club in 1917 for Allied officers. The club’s second president was Ferdinand Foch, Marshal of France and supreme commander of the Allies in World War I. 

8 – 9 am | Welcome and opening remarks

Celeste M. Schenck (President, The American University of Paris) 

R. Nicholas Burns P ’05 (Ambassador Ret., Harvard Kennedy School) 

Stephen Sawyer (The American University of Paris) 

Albert Wu (The American University of Paris) 

9 – 10:45 am | Central Europe and the Paris Peace Conference

Erik Grimmer-Solem (Wesleyan University) “The Paris Peace and the German Imperial Mindscape.” 

Philip Zelikow (University of Virginia) “The Peace Conference That Never Was: Why Did the German Peace Move of 1916 Fail?” 

Sean Wempe (California State University, Bakersfield) “Fear-mongers of Imperial Decline: Colonial German Responses to ‘Colonial Guilt’ & the League of Nations Mandates System.” 

Ryan Gesme (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) “Solving the Schleswig Question: Danish Agitation and International Reception of the Schleswig Plebiscite.” 

11 am – 12 pm | Keynote Address, Adam Tooze
12 – 2 pm | Lunch for conference participants, Grand Patrons, Patrons and guests

Remarks by Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, German Ambassador to France. He has served in the German foreign ministry since 1987 and his responsibilities have included leading the German negotiations in Vienna on the Treaty of Conventional Forces and serving as spokesperson of the president of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and as chief advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel on European affairs. He was named Ambassador to France in 2015. Ambassador Meyer-Landrut holds a PhD in history.

2 – 3 pm | Versailles in China, May Fourth in the World: Intellectuals, Protests, and Networks

Rachel Leow (Cambridge University) “Weeping Qingdao Tears Abroad: Distorted Echoes of May Fourth in Southeast Asia.” 

Sebastien Veg (EHESS) “Local Networks with Global Reach: Sichuanese Journalists Reporting from the Paris Peace Conference and Their Echoes in Chengdu.”

Peter Zarrow (University of Connecticut) “Hopes Dashed: Chinese Interpretations of the Great War, 1917–1919.”

Jeffrey Wasserstrom (UC Irvine) “The Road to May 4, 1919: Chinese Patriotic Passions During 1918.”

3:45 – 5:15 pm | The Middle East and the Paris Peace Conference

Hans Lukas Kieser (University of Newcastle, NSW) “Where Kemal Atatürk and Talaat Pasha Met: Rejecting the Paris System, Fighting for “Sovereignty.””

John Boonstra (European University Institute) “Imagining Martyrdom, Envisioning Lebanon: Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoyek at the Paris Peace Conference.”

Carolin Liebisch-Gümüs (Kiel University) “Pamphlet Wars for Asia Minor. Ottoman Activists, Ethno-Nationalism, and the Meaning of the Mandate System in Turkey.”

5:30 – 6:30 pm | Keynote Address, Priya Satia (Stanford University) “The Unsettling Settlement: 1919 in the Middle East”
Saturday, May 25 | France-Amériques, 9, Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008

Hôtel le Marois, a 19th-century hôtel particulier near the Grand Palais, has been the home of the private association France-Amériques since 1909.

8:30 am | Welcome

William Fisher (Provost, The American University of Paris)

8:40 – 10:15 am | International Law in the Wake of Versailles

Noah Rosenblum (Columbia University) “The Antiparliamentary Origins of Modern Presidentialism: Losing Faith in Representative Assemblies in the Interwar Atlantic.”

Christopher Casey (New York University School of Law) “Sovereign Commerce.”

Benjamin Brady (United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit) “The Higher Legalism of Woodrow Wilson.”

Katharina Isabel Schmidt (Princeton University) “‘On Illiberal Internationalism and the Rise of Nazi ‘Life’-Law.”

10:30 am – 12 pm | Asia and the Paris Peace Conference

Kevin Pham (UC Riverside) “From Reformer to Vietnamese Revolutionary: the Fruits of Frustration at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.”

Ke Ren (College of the Holy Cross) “Between Beiping and Geneva: The Chinese League of Nations Union and Interwar Internationalism.”

Thomas Burkman (SUNY Buffalo) “The Contest between Regional Order and World Order in Japan’s Interface with the Paris Peace Conference and the Formation of the League of Nations.”

1:30 – 2:30 pm | Central and Eastern Europe and the Paris Peace Conference

Andrea Feldman (University of Zagreb) “The New Woman in the New State: The Feminist Expectations from the Yugoslav Unification.”

Marijana Kardum (Central European University) “‘The Truth Will Prevail’: Little Entente of Women and Women’s Peacemaking in the Interwar Period.”

Patryk I. Labuda (New York University School of Law, International Peace Institute) “From Retaliation to Trial: The Paris Peace Conference and the Rise of International Criminal Justice”

2:45 – 3:45 pm | Keynote Address, Tze-Ki Hon (City University Hong Kong) “The Meanings of the 1919 Moment in China: Sovereignty, Connectivity, and National Awakening”
4:00 – 5:45 pm | French Roundtable

Alain Chatriot (History, Sciences-Po Paris)

Georges-Henri Soutou (Institut de France)

6:00 – 7:00 pm | Keynote Address, Margaret MacMillan (Oxford University/University of Toronto) “Assessing the Paris Peace Conference a Century Later”
7:15 pm | Closing Dinner

Remarks by R. Nicholas Burns P ’05. 

R. Nicholas Burns  is former United States Ambassador to Greece and NATO. He also served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Ambassador Burns is the Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. He is the founder and Faculty Chair of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship. He serves on the Board of Directors of the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. 

Sunday, May 26 | The American University of Paris, 6, rue du Colonel Combes, 75007
9:15 – 10:45 am | Global Governance in the Wake of Versailles

Hagen Schulz-Forberg and Martin Beddeleem (Aarhus University) “From Versailles to the Palais-Royal: A Genealogy of Early Neoliberalism.”

Chris Szabla (Cornell University) “Peace (Re)settlement: The Treaty of Versailles as a Transitional Document for Global Migration Governance.”

Patryk Labuda (New York University School of Law) “The Paris Peace Conference and the Emergence of International Criminal Justice.”

11 am – 12 pm | Iberia, Latin America and the Paris Peace Conference

Georgy Filatov (Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences) “The Paris Peace Conference and the Rise of Catalan Separatism.”

Christy Thornton (Johns Hopkins University) “‘Mexico is our Balkan Peninsula’: The United States Confronts the Mexican Revolution in the League of Nations Debate.”

12:15 – 1:00 pm | Concluding

Speakers of the Paris Centennial Conference


Tze-Ki Hon

Tze-ki Hon is Professor of Chinese and History at the City University of Hong Kong. Before he came to Hong Kong, he taught history and Western humanities in the United States for 25 years, first at Hanover College in Indiana and then at State University of New York at Geneseo. Specializing in classical studies and intellectual history, he wrote four books and co-edited four collections of essays, covering a wide range of topics including the commentaries of the Yijing (Book of Changes), Neo-Confucianism of the Song-Ming period, the social and intellectual history of late Qing and Republican China, the global order after WWI, and the rise of contemporary Confucianism since 1979. During the last two decades, he was appointed Visiting Research Fellow at Leiden University in Holland (2006–2007) and at Erlangen-Nuremburg University in Germany (2013–2014). His current research projects include the paradigm shifts in the Yijing commentaries, the philosophy of divination of Zhu Xi (1130–1200), and the transformation of the Yijng into a global classic since WWI. 

Margaret MacMillan

Margaret MacMillan is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto and the former Warden of St. Antony’s College. Her books include Women of the Raj (1988, 2007); Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (2001) for which she was the first woman to win the Samuel Johnson Prize; Nixon in China: The Week that Changed the World (2006); The Uses and Abuses of History (2008); and Extraordinary Canadians: Stephen Leacock (2009). Her most recent books are The War that Ended Peace: the Road to 1914 (2013) and History’s People: Personalities and the Past (2015). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Senior Fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto; Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, University of Toronto; Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University; and Honorary Fellow of St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University. Professor MacMillan is a Trustee of the Central European University in Budapest, sits on the editorial board of International History and First World War Studies, and is a Companion of Honour (UK). She is also a Trustee of the Rhodes Trust.


Watch Margaret MacMillan's keynote address at the Paris Centennial Conference.
Priya Satia

Priya Satia is the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History at Stanford University where she specializes in the history of modern Britain and the British empire. She is the author of two award-winning books: Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008) and Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (Penguin, 2018). Her work has also appeared in numerous edited volumes and scholarly journals, including The American Historical Review, Annales, History Workshop Journal, Past & Present, Technology & Culture and Humanity. Professor Satia also writes frequently for popular media such as Time, The Nation, The Washington Post,, The New Republic, the Financial Times and other outlets. She is currently completing a book titled Time’s Monster: History, Conscience, and Empire.

Georges-Henri Soutou

Georges-Henri Soutou est membre de l’Académie des Sciences morales et politiques et Professeur émérite à l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris-IV). Il préside l’Institut de Stratégie comparée. Il est conseiller scientifique et pédagogique du Directeur de l’Ecole de Guerre. Il siège au conseil d’orientation de l’IFRI, au conseil d’administration de la Revue de Défense Nationale, et au conseil de rédaction de diverses revues, dont Relations internationales et la Revue historique des Armées ; il est codirecteur de la Revue d’histoire diplomatique. Il travaille sur les Relations internationales au XXème siècle, en particulier sur la Première guerre mondiale, les rapports franco-allemands et les relations Est-Ouest après 1945. Il a publié notamment L’Or et le Sang. Les buts de guerre économiques de la Première guerre mondiale, Fayard, 1989 ; L’Alliance incertaine. Les rapports politico-stratégiques franco-allemands, 1954-1996, Fayard, 1996 ; La Guerre de Cinquante Ans. Les relations Est-Ouest 1943-1990, Paris, Fayard, 2001 (réédité chez Pluriel en 2011 sous le titre La Guerre froide) ; L’Europe de 1815 à nos jours, PUF, 2007. Il a publié en 2011 les souvenirs de son père : Jean-Marie Soutou, Un diplomate engagé. Mémoires 1939-1979, Editions de Fallois. En 2015 La Grande illusion. Quand la France perdait la paix, 1914-1920. En 2018 La Guerre froide de la France 1943-1990, Tallandier.

Adam Tooze

Adam Tooze is the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History and the Director of the European Institute at Columbia University. Before joining Columbia he taught at Yale and the University of Cambridge. Adam Tooze is the author of four prize-winning books, including Statistics and the German State: The Making of Modern Economic Knowledge (2001), Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (2006), and Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of the Global Order (2014). His history of the 2008 financial crisis, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, was published in 2018 and won the 2019 Lionel Gelber Prize. Tooze is a prolific blogger and regular columnist for Foreign Policy magazine. In 2019 he was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 global thinkers.

1919 Paris Peace Conference FAQs

What was the 1919 Paris Peace Conference?

The 1919 Paris Peace Conference was a meeting of the Allied Powers following the First World War to discuss and set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers. The conference resulted in the creation of five peace treaties, the first and most significant of which was the Treaty of Versailles setting the terms of peace for Germany.

How long did the 1919 conference last?

The 1919 conference formally opened on January 18, 1919 at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Initial negotiations took place over a six-month period, culminating in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors at the Château de Versailles. The treaty went into effect on January 10, 1920. Negotiation of the other four peace treaties continued into 1923.

Who were the key figures involved in the 1919 conference?

Though representatives from 32 countries attended the conference, negotiations were dominated by the five major Allied Powers (the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Japan) that were responsible for defeating the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire). The Central Powers were not allowed to attend until the key points of the treaty had been outlined and agreed upon. Russia, though siding with the Allied Powers during the war, was not invited to attend as they had concluded a separate peace treaty with the Central Powers in spring 1918.

Important figures in the negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles included Georges Clemenceau (France), David Lloyd George (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy) and Woodrow Wilson (United States).

What were the results of the 1919 conference?

In addition to the Treaty of Versailles, which set the terms of peace for Germany, four other treaties were negotiated, setting the peace terms for the other Central Powers.


The five major peace treaties prepared at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference were:

  • Treaty of Versailles, June 28, 1919 – Germany
  • Treaty of Saint-Germain, September 10, 1919 – Austria
  • Treaty of Neuilly, November 27, 1919 – Bulgaria
  • Treaty of Trianon, June 4, 1920 – Hungary
  • Treaty of Sèvres, August 10, 1920 (subsequently revised by the Treaty of Lausanne, July 24, 1923) – The Ottoman Empire/Republic of Turkey

The conference also led to the creation of the League of Nations, an intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations following the Second World War. 

What were the terms of the Treaty of Versailles?

The Treaty of Versailles established a blueprint for a postwar Germany and the world. The main terms of the treaty forced Germany to make major cuts to their military forces, to make large territorial concessions, and to pay $5 billion in reparations to the Allied powers – a staggering amount at the time.

One of the most controversial terms of the treaty was the War Guilt clause, which directly blamed Germany for the outbreak of the war.

Why are we talking about the Treaty of Versailles now?

As we approach the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, it is important to reflect on the impact the treaty had on subsequent events in the 20th century, including the Second World War, as well as its continuing effect on the current world order. Leading and emerging scholars are reexamining the implications of the treaty and are developing new perspectives for interpreting these historically significant events. The goal of the Paris Centennial Conference is to be a forum for scholars to discuss and debate these new perspectives, as well as to examine the implications these new insights into the past might have for current public policy.

Can I attend the Paris Centennial Conference?

The conference is not open to the public, but we will be updating this page regularly as it unfolds. We will also be sharing interesting quotes, photographs and videos live from the conference on the official AUP Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Twitter: @AUParis

Instagram: @AUPinstagram

Facebook: @AUP.Main

To follow along and participate in the online discussion, tag your posts with #Paris1919.

Videos of the Conference

The entire conference was captured on video and each welcome address, panel and keynote speech can be viewed on the University's YouTube channel or on the dedicated Paris Centennial Conference videos web page