The long-held notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ heavily influenced the post-First World War international order. Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, it was commonly held that North and Western Europe was ‘civilised,’ while the colonial world in particular was ‘barbaric’ or ‘uncivilised.’ This notion is clearly stated in Argentinian writer Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s famed 1845 text ‘Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism,’ “civilization is identified with northern Europe, North America, cities”… while “barbarism is identified with Latin America, Spain, Asia, the Middle East, the countryside “…[1] However, the barbaric nature of the war, and the severe damage inflicted between ‘civilised nations,’ significantly undermined Europe’s claim as the pinnacle of civilised society. Despite the unparalleled slaughter of the war, the notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ endured, and thus influenced the post-War international order. These ideas are evident during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and subsequent Treaty of Versailles, specifically concerning the notions of self-determination and egalitarianism that were championed by United States President Woodrow Wilson. The entrenched ideas of ‘barbarism’ and ‘civilisation’ also influenced the formation and rulings of the League of Nations, especially regarding the Mandates System and their initial treatment of Germany and Russia. The use of these historical examples will help in the analysis of how the aged ideas of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ influenced the post-war international order.

 

The 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and the Treaty of Versailles that followed, were influenced by the ideals of ‘barbarism’ and ‘civilisation’ to a significant extent. This was despite the validity of these ideas been severely damaged by the Great War. Many contemporary theorists like Sigmund Freud criticised these long-held ideas following the war, “…the civilized world-citizen of whom I spoke before may find himself helpless in a world that has grown strange to him when he sees his great fatherland disintegrated, the possessions common to mankind destroyed, and his fellow citizens divided and debased”.[2] Freud notes an opinion post-war that believed that Europe being the pinnacle of civilised society should not have succumbed to such a barbarically fought conflict”. In addition, liberal philosophies that primarily disagreed with the ideas of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism,’ rose in popularity during and following the First World War. United States President Woodrow Wilson’s was the chief agent of liberalism contextually. His previous emphasis on US isolationism, and anti-imperial stance, also served as a significant challenge to the 19th century ideals of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism.’ Specifically, Wilson’s focus on making the “world…safe for democracy” helped to inspire a liberal reconstruction of the world post-war.[3] Through his ‘Fourteen Points’ address in January 1918, Wilson promoted the concepts of self-determination for all, and universal egalitarianism. Point five of his address specifically refers to an “adjustment” of colonial claims. He stated, “A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims”…[4] Wilson was a strong advocator for self-determination, and anti-imperial nationalism, and in the postwar era that was about to commence, many believed that Wilsonianism would dominate the peace talks. This generated hope for those living under colonial rule, but it also developed significant worry for those who still believed in the notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’. The American Secretary of State, Robert Lancing stated in December 1918, “The more I think about the President’s declaration as to the right of “self-determination,” the more convinced I am of the danger of putting such ideas into the minds of certain races”.[5] Lancing’s concern highlights a common distrust of non-Europeans in regulating their own sovereignty. During the 1920s and 30s, there were various successful ventures into greater self-determination for some states, notably ‘The Statute of Westminster’ of 1931, which granted greater independence to Canada, Australia, the Union of South Africa, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and the Irish Free State. However, these nations were seen as ‘civilised’ as they were Eurocentric demographically and in governance. Other colonial independence movements were not as successful. Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh, (known contemporaneously as ‘Nguyễn Ái Quốc’, or ‘Nguyễn The Patriot’,) inspired by Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points,’ sought to garner support from the anti-colonialist President in removing the French from Indochina, and establishing a new, nationalist government. Citing the language and ethos of the US Declaration of Independence, Ho presented to the Great Powers his ‘Eight Point Program,’ detailing his demands concerning French colonial rule over Vietnam and Indochina.[6] However, Ho was ignored by all powers in the talks, including the United States. This was due to the long-held belief that non-Europeans could not govern themselves, as they were not civilised. Robert Lancing implied this in a statement in December 1918, “races, peoples or communities whose state of barbarism or ignorance, deprives them of the capacity to choose intelligently their political affiliations”.[7] The racial based concepts of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ heavily influenced the post-war ideal of self-determination’. Essentially, self-determination was endorsed, but only for the ethnically homogenous and civilised populations of the world.

 

In addition with self-determination, Woodrow Wilson also championed egalitarianism on a global scale. This was also significantly hindered by the aged concepts as previously stated. At the conclusion of his address to Congress on 8 January 1918, Wilson stated, “An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak”. [8] However, the notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ also influenced this principle during the Paris Peace Conference. The Japanese delegation proposed on 13 February 1919, the inclusion of a “Racial Equality Clause” as an amendment to ‘Article 21’ of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The intention of the act was for the Japanese to secure equality of their nationals, and to stand equally with the other members of the League of Nations.[9] Japan’s proposal was refused, as its implementation would have challenged the established norms of Western domination over the colonial world. Japanese statesman Baron Makino Nobuaki reacted by stating, “…we are too proud to accept a place of admitted inferiority in dealing with one or more of the associated nations. We want nothing but simple justice”.[10] Although Japan campaigned for equal treatment in the international system, it also sought to have the right to overseas colonies like European powers. Similarly to European colonial empires, the notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ also dictated Japan’s colonial policy. As noted in Frank Dikötter’s 1997 anthropological text, “The stark imagery of a primitive Asia, in contrast to a modem, civilised Japan, was used as a catalyst for Japan’s civilising mission.”[11] As illustrated by the motives and reaction to Japan’s proposal of a ‘Racial Equality Clause,’ the long-held ideas of ‘barbarism’ and ‘civilisation’ shaped the post-war international order to a significant extent.

 

The old notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ also influenced the establishment and initial years of the League of Nations. This particularly pertained to the League’s initial treatment of Germany and Russia, and the League of Nations Mandate System. Following the deposition of the Romanovs in Russia in 1917, and the ascension of the Bolsheviks to power, Russia was excluded from joining the League. The spread of Bolshevism was a real point of concern following the Russian Revolution, and a potential danger to ‘civilised society.’[12] Also, as Germany was blamed for starting the war, it too was refused entry into the League of Nations.[13] Sigmund Freud described how the war, and the blame on Germany, altered their perception as a society, “Indeed one of these great civilized nations has become so universally disliked that it is even attempted to cast it out from the civilized community as though it were barbaric, although this very nation has long proved its eligibility through contribution after contribution of brilliant achievements”.[14] The alteration in opinion concerning the German nation highlights the great extent to which the notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ post-war shaped international order. The League of Nations Mandates System was also heavily influenced by the aforementioned ideals. This system was a legal status for territories transferred from the control of one country to another following the First World War. It was published under Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant.[15] They were typically territories that were former colonies of the former German and Ottoman Empires. The Mandate system was heaving influenced by the notions of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism,’ as these former German and Turkish colonies were deemed as ‘incapable’ in determining their own governance. For example, the ‘Class A’ mandates: Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan, and Syria and Lebanon, of which belonged to the Ottoman Empire, were judged as have “reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory”…[16] ‘Class B and C’ mandates were observed as to requiring a higher level of supervision by ‘civilised’ nations. In addition, following their defeat, the Ottoman and German colonial empires were considered as inferior, and the two states regarded as incapable rulers, as Eric Weitz stated in 2008, “Germans and Ottomans unworthy as imperial rulers: they had not did not civilise their colonial subjects, had been barbaric, characterised by extortion…”[17] The League’s Mandate System was heavily influenced by the ideals of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’.

 

The aged ideals of  ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ influenced the post-war international order to a significantly large extent. This was despite the thought that the ‘barbaric’ war had disproven the belief that Europe was the pinnacle of ‘civilised society.’ The 19th century concepts notably shaped the implementation of Wilsonian ideas like self-determination and egalitarianism. This was observed through the examples of Ho Chi Minh’s push for Indochinese recognition, and Japan’s proposal for ‘Racial Equality.’ In addition, the initial exclusion of Germany and Russia from the League of Nations, and the League of Nations Mandate System also demonstrated how influential these ideas were post-First World War. Therefore, these historical examples have assisted in determining the extent to which the long-held ideas of ‘barbarism’ and ‘civilisation’ shaped the post-war international order.

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

Books:

 

Ball, Kimberly. 1999. ‘Moss, Joyce; Valestuk, Lorraine, ‘Latin American Literature and Its Times’. Review of Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism, by Domingo F. Sarmiento. Detroit: Gale Group. 171–180.

 

Burchett, Wilfred 1972. Ho Chi Minh – An Appreciation. Wilfred Burchett Fund, in association with The Guardian. 3-5

 

Burkman, Thomas. W. 2008. Japan and the League of Nations: Empire and World Order, 1914-1938. University of Hawaii Press. 82-83.

 

Grenville, John A.S 2001. The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century: A History and Guide with Texts. Taylor & Francis. Vol 1: 104.

 

Halperin, Sandra 2004. War and Social Change in Modern Europe: The Great Transformation Revisited. Cambridge University Press. 201-203.

 

Heckscher, August 1991. Woodrow Wilson. Easton Press. 440

 

Lauren, Paul. G. 1988. Power And Prejudice: The Politics And Diplomacy Of Racial Discrimination. Westview Press. 90.

 

Weitz, Eric D. 2008. ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions.’ The American Historical Review 113, no. 5. 1339

 

Articles:

 

Freud, Sigmund. 1918 Reflections on War and Death, trans. A.A. Brill and Alfred K. Kuttner. New York: Moffat, Yard & Company. 5.

 

Manela, Erez 2001. ‘The Wilsonian Moment and the Rise of Anti-Colonial Nationalism: The Case of Egypt.’  Diplomacy and Statecraft. 12 (4): 99

 

Weiner, Michael 1997. ‘The Invention of Identity in Pre-war Japan’. In The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan, by Frank Dikötter. Hong Kong University Press, HKU. 114-115.

 

Documents:

 

League of Nations Covenant 1919. Article 22. Accessed 30 August 2014. Available at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp#art20

 

Treaty of Versailles 1919. Article 231: Accessed 30 August 2014. Available at: http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/versailles231-247.htm

 

 

Wilson, Woodrow 1918. Fourteen Points, 8 January 1918. Accessed 30 August 2014. Available at: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=3901

 

[1] Ball, Kimberly. 1999. ‘Moss, Joyce; Valestuk, Lorraine, ‘Latin American Literature and Its Times’. Review of Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism, by Domingo F. Sarmiento. Detroit: Gale Group. 171–180.

[2] Freud, Sigmund. 1918 Reflections on War and Death, trans. A.A. Brill and Alfred K. Kuttner. New York: Moffat, Yard & Company. 5.

 

[3] Heckscher, August 1991. Woodrow Wilson. Easton Press. 440

 

[4] Wilson, Woodrow 1918. Fourteen Points, 8 January 1918. Accessed 29 August 2014. Available at: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=3901

 

[5] Manela, Erez 2001. ‘The Wilsonian Moment and the Rise of Anti-Colonial Nationalism: The Case of Egypt.’  Diplomacy and Statecraft. 12 (4): 99

[6] Burchett, Wilfred 1972. Ho Chi Minh – An Appreciation. Wilfred Burchett Fund, in association with The Guardian. 3-5

 

[7] Manela 2001: 24

 

[8] Wilson, Woodrow 1918. Fourteen Points, 8 January 1918. Accessed 30 August 2014. Available at: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=3901

 

[9] Burkman, Thomas. W. 2008. Japan and the League of Nations: Empire and World Order, 1914-1938. University of Hawaii Press. 82-83.

 

[10] Lauren, Paul. G. 1988. Power And Prejudice: The Politics And Diplomacy Of Racial Discrimination. Westview Press. 90.

 

[11] Weiner, Michael 1997. ‘The Invention of Identity in Pre-war Japan’. In The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan, by Frank Dikötter. Hong Kong University Press, HKU. 114-115.

 

[12] Halperin, Sandra 2004. War and Social Change in Modern Europe: The Great Transformation Revisited. Cambridge University Press. 201-203.

 

[13] Treaty of Versailles 1919. Article 231: “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies”. Accessed 30 August 2014. Available at: http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/versailles231-247.htm

 

[14] Freud 1918: 5

 

[15] League of Nations Covenant 1919. Article 22. Accessed 30 August 2014. Available at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp#art20

 

[16] Grenville, John A.S 2001. The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century: A History and Guide with Texts. Taylor & Francis. Vol 1: 104.

[17] Weitz, Eric D. 2008. ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions.’ The American Historical Review 113, no. 5. 1339

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