League of Nations Debate
To End All Wars: World War I and the League of Nations Debate
In 1917, President Wilson called for a "just and secure peace." His vision for a new world order following World War I was far-reaching and radical at the time. Using readings, simulations, and primary sources, students explore the causes and effects of World War I both domestically and abroad, the Paris Peace Conference, and the debate in the U.S. Senate about whether to join the League of Nations and ratify the treaty. Students recreate this Senate debate in a role play that highlights contrasting visions for U.S. policy.
Background readings prepare students for the major activities of the unit, which involve role plays at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris in 1919, and at the U.S. Senate Chamber in the Capitol building. The readings examine World War I and domestic policies of the time, Wilson's trip to Paris following the armistice, and the outcome of the League of Nations debate.
The Choices Role Play
At the core of the unit students debate the merits of the League of Nations as Senators in the United States Congress. The choices at the time included joining the newly formed League and ratifying the Versailles Treaty as written, making changes to the treaty, or rejecting it altogether.
Songs of World War I
Through investigation of song lyrics of the Great War, students trace the changing nature of the war and public opinion.
Poetry of World War I
Reading the poetry of participants, students gain a sense of growing disillusionment with the war.
The Big Four
Recreating the Paris Peace Conference, students attempt to redraw the map of Europe, taking into consideration Wilson's Fourteen Points, competing national concerns, historical state boundaries, and ethnolinguistic patterns.
Madame Claire's Salon
Students take on the roles of less prominent figures from the time of the Paris Peace Conference who were not invited to negotiate the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. These figures meet to air their concerns.
Role-Playing the Three Options
Working cooperatively to advocate for one of the three options the Senate considered regarding the League of Nations, students draw upon primary sources to recreate this critical moment in history. A fourth group of undecided senators questions and evaluates the option groups.
Students examine excerpts of foreign policy speeches made by different U.S. presidents in order to assess the impact of "Wilsonian" thought on subsequent U.S. foreign policy.