In December 1919 a former British official who had been present in Paris during the long negotiations leading to the Versailles peace treaty published a sixty-thousand-word tract. In just under two hundred pages, he first explained why the European order before the First World War had been fundamentally unstable; he then went on to attack those on the allied side who, in his opinion, had failed so miserably to construct a genuine peace; and finally (and at much greater length) he argued, with a battery of economic facts, that treating Germany generously would be a far wiser course of action than—as in fact happened—treating it like a pariah. Vengeance may have played to the gallery, and keeping Germany down may have made sense to those who had suffered so profoundly as a result of its actions between 1914 and 1918. Yet as John Maynard Keynes pointed out in page after...

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